If I am fortunate enough to be conscious and peaceful in my final minutes of life, there are certain moments that I will reach for. In the stillness when I am honest with myself and forced to answer the question,
"Have a lived a life worth living?"
these are the memories that I want to take with me.
1. There was a moment immediately following our wedding. Kevin and I had walked down the aisle and out the double doors at the back of the church. We were completely alone (save the photographer who had followed us backwards all the way down the aisle). Away from the teary eyes of our friends and relatives, Kevin pulled me to him. His body was wracked with sobs. This was joy personified. I have just married my soul mate and the most important people in our lives are waiting on the other side of that door to celebrate with us. This was terror personified. We are 21 and 23 years old. What have we done? Will this last? Do we have enough will to make this work? His soul was stripped bare and it was the most honest moment of our lives. The photographer happened to pick that moment to snap a picture. I'm not sure she knew exactly what she was capturing, but I am eternally thankful. I pull the photo out of our album now and again to remind me. I am so grateful for this man who has a heart the size of a continent and is honest enough to face even the darkest of emotions with grace.
2. Somersaults in the swimming pool. I went swimming a few weeks ago in San Ramon, CA at the hotel pool. I hadn't been swimming in a long time. Pushing off the deep end and turning a somersault is one of life's greatest highs. Your stomach is in your mouth and then in your feet. It takes a moment for the ice cream-like headache to subside and the world to right itself even after your feet are firmly planted. I always imagine that this is the high that addicts keep trying to find their way back to. The difference is that I can shut it off. One somersault or ten...I decide. That was always my fear of drugs. I might love it or I might hate it, but I can't make it stop until it wears off. No thanks. I'll take my somersaults any day.
3. My little boy's laugh. The first time I made Alex laugh he was lying on his changing table (his favorite place in the world - especially if he can be naked lounging there like a chubby Botticelli woman waiting for me to drop grapes in his mouth.) I leaned down and kissed his little upside-down smiley face belly button. He sucked in a gallon of air, squealed and ended with a sound close to a cough that more closely resembled the "huh" that you make when you're trying to make someone feel good about the not even remotely funny joke they just told. It wasn't a belly laugh, but it was his first. I never knew my heart could actually leap.
4. Sunset in The Maze, Canyonlands National Park. My body is exhausted. I've pushed myself to the limits. The air is cool. We are most literally the only two people around for miles. The world is so quiet, I can hear the buzz of silence in my ears. I'm sitting on the ground staring out at the vast canyons as they turn purple. This is what it means to be whole.
5. After I was pregnant, Kevin and I rented Love Actually one night. This movie never fails to make me laugh and make me sob. And it has all those incredibly funny Brits. You can't get much better. There's a memorial scene after Liam Neeson's wife dies. He's showing a slideshow and talking about how she will say her own goodbyes with the help of the Bay City Rollers. Out of the blue tears start streaming down Kevin's face. (Contrary to what this entry might lead you to believe, my husband is not a big cryer. I guess that's why these moments were so poignant.) In that second I realized that we had created a life. (Granted I'd been pregnant for 18 weeks at this point, so there was no question about the whole creating a life thing.) But we realized we were no longer alone. Our decisions for the rest of our lives would affect someone else. Kevin was mourning the loss of a partner, but more importantly, he was mourning the loss of a mother to his child. It was the fear of having to do it alone. Kevin needed me in a way he had never experienced. No one can put it better than Peter Gabriel, "I need to be needed. I love to be loved."
6. The closeness of a kiss. Whenever Alex gets cranky I can get him calmed by holding him close and gently placing my lips on his cheek. I sink into the soft fleshiness of his face, he exhales and I can feel his body go slack. The longer I hold it, the quieter he becomes. I don't have to sing a song or say a word. The intimacy of this closeness makes my baby feel calm and safe. I don't know how long this trick will work. Maybe a couple more years, or maybe only a couple more weeks. Regardless, I'm savoring it while I can.