Thursday, August 16, 2007

Forever Young

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
- Henry David Thoreau

Anyone who knew my mom knew her laugh -- it was the sound of a person who loves life. It filled a room; you knew she was coming before she was there. Once when I was in college, she watched me perform in Foellinger Auditorium -- even from the stage looking out in the darkness at hundreds of people, I knew exactly where she was sitting because something made her laugh. She used to tell me I should be on Saturday Night Live. Let's face one but your mom thinks you're that funny -- but the way she laughed so hard, you started to believe that maybe you actually were that funny. And it wasn't just her laugh. It was in the way she sang in her car with the windows down and the sunroof open to Bonnie Raitt or Alison Krauss or Madonna. In church too -- she belted high notes that were way out of her range, no matter how early it was in the morning. It was in her art - passionate, messy, abstract and beautiful, with paint running off the canvas. It was in the way she lived. Taking chances, and lots of them. She was elegant ("never pluck your eyebrows in front of Rob"), but she never shied away from a power tool. Most of all, my mom's legacy is in all the incredible memories I have of her raising us...her daughters, Mollie, Andrea and me.

Two years ago today, my mom passed away to breast cancer at 52 years old. She was the most courageous person I have ever known. She was also an amazing mother. As a new mother myself, I have an even greater appreciation for her. She loved the friends we brought home and always trusted us. She taught us to trust ourselves. She believed that we could do or be anything. She planned unbelievable birthday parties (imaginary fairy lands, obstacle courses through the mud, elaborate surprises). She always talked about having us paint the piano wild colors - I don't know why we never did. She could be tough, but then she would unexpectedly offer up a note ("Meg has a headache...") if I wasn't ready for a test. Before she knew she was sick, she told me, as a newlywed, that it was time to consult and trust my husband's advice above hers.

I wish so desperately that Madeline could know her. That was my prayer today. Because I know my mom already knows Madeline -- they were probably hanging out before Madeline made her grand entrance. Maybe Madeline will know my mom through through my sisters and me.

I'm going to try to be as great as my mom was. I'm going to help Madeline through her first painful crushes on boys. Maybe I'll learn to sew so I can make her the prom dress of her dreams, like my mom did for me. I'll plan fabulous birthday parties that would put Wolfgang Puck to shame. And we're definitely going to paint the piano.
My mom requested we play Rod Stewart's Forever Young at her funeral -- to make it a celebration of her life. Here are the words:

May the good lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
Surround you when you're far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you'd have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you'll always stay
Forever young, forever young

May good fortune be with you
May your guiding light be strong
Build a stairway to heaven
With a prince or a vagabond

And may you never love in vain
And in my heart you will remain
Forever young, forever young

And when you finally fly away
Ill be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I'm right behind you, win or lose
Forever young, forever young

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