To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.
~ Thomas Campbell
I wanted to thank everyone for your kind comments on my last post. The last several weeks have been such an emotionally difficult time for my husbands family, first as we watched and waited helplessly as Na’s life just slowly faded away, and then after her passing as we dealt all of the necessary arrangements while coping with our grief.
I met Na eight years ago, within a few months of meeting my husband. She was petite, so very tiny, with a soft voice and a smile that was quick to reach her eyes. Her hands, gnarled from arthritis, were always reaching out to hug, to pat you on the arm, to take your hand in a brief, loving squeeze as multiple silver bangle bracelets jingled musically on her wrists. She was sweet, surprisingly funny, and such a vibrant woman, even in her advanced age. I can only imagine what she must have been like even a decade ago. The stories shared by her family and friends over the past week have been eye-opening and amazing, and I wish desperately to have heard many of these same stories in her own words while she was still with us.
The things I’ve learned about Na since she’s passed have left me in awe. Over the course of her life, she worked as a governess, a telephone operator, and a newspaper reporter, owned and operated a poultry farm with her husband, and later owned an antique shop that is, to this day, a local treasure.
At the wake, I heard story after story. There were stories about what a remarkable swimmer she was. Growing up in a former ship-building town, she practically lived in a swim suit during the summer months as a child, and was known to jump off the bridge in the center of town, swimming with such grace and ease in the river the winds through our community.
There were stories about how she was a rabid Red Sox fan, and remained optimistic that she’d see them win a World Series again in her life time. They won when she was three…and then it was years, eighty six in fact, before they won again. But they did, twice, and she was as ecstatic as Boston fans a quarter of her age.
There were stories from her friends about what a card shark Na was during their weekly card games, a Sunday tradition after Mass.
There were stories about the extensive traveling she and her husband were able to do after raising their family. They traveled the world, then purchased an RV they called “The Good Life” and explored the country together.
There were stories about her sense of humor. Her appreciation and extensive knowledge of antiques. Her pride in her community. Her deep love for her husband, and her family. Her strong, unwavering faith.
I had one of my own stories to share, and I offered it up again and again as my gift to Na and to those who were collecting and cherishing these memories of a woman we all loved. I remember, long before my husband and I were even engaged, when I expressed a brief interest in learning to knit. Na sat with me, so patient, as she tried to teach me. Her arthritic fingers deftly manipulated my over-sized plastic knitting needles and fuzzy fur yarn, magically creating something tangible, something wonderful, out of nothing more than frizzy red yarn…while my own attempts were embarrassingly awkward. It’s seven years later, and I still have my half-finished scarf, complete with dropped stitches and gaping holes, tucked away in my closet. I wish I had finished it.
During the past week I shared my stories, my memories of Na, and eagerly listened to those shared with me. Her legacy, her memory, will live on in so many hearts.
When someone you love becomes a memory,
the memory becomes a treasure.