The Light

“I’ll give you everything I have, I’ll teach you everything I know…”

They are growing, right in front of my eyes. Changing. Learning. Reaching closer to the sky with each passing day.

I get to watch them, sometimes while the skin of their fingers touches my palm as we walk together, sometimes from afar as I sit back, hold my breathe, and observe. I get to be their mother.

Tonight I got to drive for an hour alone. Music, of course, filled my speakers at my van’s highest volume as we – these songs and me – drove into the horizon towards home. I got to thinking, as I often do best when alone, and these words hit my ears. The brilliance of a song like this, and how this band in particular has somehow channeled my very own thoughts, dreams, and hurts into music – “Light”, by Sleeping at Last, played on repeat for maybe half of the first leg of my journey.

Tomorrow, we go to where I was once a child. We go to drive the streets I roamed when I was young. Where my father lives, his home the one place I’ve returned to since leaving my hometown – I will listen to music in his garage and laugh with him at jokes only we think are funny. Where my brothers live, when I get to see into their lives and learn about the men they have become, and tell them I am proud of them all. Where my sisters are, though not by blood I adore them as I did when they too were just little girls. Where my dad’s wife, my dear friend, prepares food, and sweeps floors, and busies herself for the arrival of a house full of Geddes family as we gather to celebrate life together.

My girls get to spend time with their cousins, and sweet Aunties, and my dad gets to Grandfather his eleven grandchildren all at the same time, in the same house (I honestly can’t wait for this – let’s see how long he can take the madness!)

Again I will observe my daughters. Layla learning to play with her cousins, Bella and Ruby, as Jemma swings high on Uncle Brian’s dangerous swing. Auntie Danya holding baby Delaney, and talking of her chickens and how the garden did this year. Uncle Bucky handing me his new baby daughter, as my girls gather around to meet their Washington family’s newest member…

“I promise, I’ll do better…”

The song played on as I drove, and it sparked from me this writing, because the simple elegance of these lyrics, and their truth, feels exactly like how I love my children. I began to imagine the next few days, of my girls with me where I was little girl, and all the beautiful memories we will make.

And then, out of nowhere, I thought of her.

“I will always hold you close, but I will learn to let you go…”

My hometown is where I knew her. It was where I loved her. It was where I lost her.

I’ve tried very hard to hide that I think of her – especially since I have so many positive experiences awaiting us there that I hate to cloud that with any kind of pain – I have felt as though speaking up that I think of her, or even that I miss her, may give the impression that I am not grateful for what is to come (I don’t want anyone to think I’m dwelling in the past is what it amounts to…) The thing is, I can’t go back there and not think of her. Miss her.

The woman who gave me life.

I watch my children lately, and I think of her. I think of what she is missing, and of all she has missed. I try and reconcile my wants with the truth of God’s will; she’s gone, it was meant to be that way or it would not have happened. Still, the stillness in my watching – my children – it lingers back to when I was a child, and it was my mother who watched me from afar.

I thought about how great it would have been to have an opportunity to parent my children in front of my mother. To show her that I stop and pay attention. I watch them, as they grow, and I am this – for them: Attentive. Patient. Interested. Caring. Loyal. Slow to anger. God-fearing. I would show her what it looks like to be the kind of mother she didn’t know she could be as we got older. I would show her that she was this mother, when we were young, and that doesn’t have to be the best of her days. I would show her what inherent worth she had as my mother, as the one who taught me how to bake chicken, and apply lipstick, and shave my legs, and … I would show her the immense gratefulness I feel that she taught me about God, and that she never lost that even in the end.

“I will soften every edge; I’ll hold the world to its best…”

My daughters will never know her. Much the same, I never got to meet my maternal Grandmother. They don’t know the pain I felt for having had to let her go, and it is my life’s greatest mission not to show them that hurt – but instead I hope to meet Jesus when I am an old woman. Because this pain is my own, and these thoughts only linger in my pondering mind, why must I speak it aloud when I return to my hometown with my family?

Because it matters. This is the narrative of things, the journey God set me upon, and feeling through this – learning from it – helps me be a better mother. I have missed her, and in all these years since last I saw her face I have given it a great deal of thought.

I wish she could have been present. I wish she could have known the best moments of her life were right where she left them. I wish she didn’t feel like searching outside of the home she had made. I wish she knew how much she was loved, and wanted, and needed.

I would wrap my hands around her face, look her in the eyes, and tell her thank you. For even in her darkness and pain, and how it ended, she was loved. She didn’t believe it. And that makes me saddest of all. I know what that feels like.

“With every heartbeat I have left, I will defend your every breathe…”

My children, my husband, and fifty-seven suitcases will board a plane tomorrow.

In Washington, I will watch them. I will be still, quietly holding my breathe, and observe as life comes full circle right before my eyes. And in those moments, when I am just being present, I will sigh and remember her. I will miss her. I may even cry, but nobody will need to know that…

“I promise, I’ll do better.”

This song. Her memory. Washington. My family.

I drove into the night and thanked God for all of it. The beautiful parts. The painful parts. And for the music that accompanies these simple, eloquent moments. Because of her, I am a better mother. For them, I’ll give my best. And I’ll do better.

Sleeping at Last, “Lights” lyrics:

May these words be the first
To find your ears.
The world is brighter than the sun
Now that you’re here.
Though your eyes will need some time to adjust
To the overwhelming light surrounding us,

I’ll give you everything I have.
I’ll teach you everything I know.
I promise I’ll do better.
I will always hold you close,
But I will learn to let you go.
I promise I’ll do better.
I will soften every edge,
I’ll hold the world to its best,
And I’ll do better.
With every heartbeat I have left
I will defend your every breath,
And I’ll do better.

’Сause you are loved.
You are loved more than you know.
I hereby pledge all of my days
To prove it so.
Though your heart is far too young to realize
The unimaginable light you hold inside,

I’ll give you everything I have.
I’ll teach you everything I know.
I promise I’ll do better.
I will always hold you close,
But I will learn to let you go.
I promise I’ll do better.
I will rearrange the stars,
Pull ‘em down to where you are.
I promise, I’ll do better.
With every heartbeat I have left,
I’ll defend your every breath.
I promise I’ll do better.
I will soften every edge,
Hold the world to its best.
I promise I’ll do better.
With every heartbeat I have left,
I’ll defend your every breath,
(I’ll do better.)

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