These pictures have more meaning to me that they might typically. This past week I attended the funeral of a friend. She was 37 years old and the mother of two beautiful little girls. She died suddenly of pregnancy complications and her death has hit me in a profound way. Although Heather and I were not the closest of friends, her five year old daughter, Sara, is a playmate of my daughter, Alayna. Sara has spent countless hours in our home and Alayna in hers. Her funeral was on Monday and as my husband and I arrived at the chapel we were seated in an overflow area. From where we sat we could see little Sara wrapped around the neck of a young man, presumably a cousin. Just looking at her was almost more than I could bear. As I listened to the pastor and the family and friends speak of Heather’s life I couldn’t help but think of what I would leave behind should I prematurely leave my children. What would they remember? What would they cling to? I imagine that Sara and her sister, Emily will remember baking cookies with their mommy, being pushed on the swings. They will remember how their mom took piano lessons right along with them so they could all learn together. They will remember the things we think of as mundane; brushing their hair, tying their shoes, making peanut butter sandwiches. Those things are momma. Those things are safe and familiar.
As Brian and I made our way through the crowd to the the display of photographs, my heart was warmed to see countless images of Heather and her girls. Smiling faces with entwined bodies. Those images will be there for Sara and Emily to help them remember the momma they lost. As I hugged Heather’s fiancé I felt a rush of someone small pass me by. Sara had seen Brian’s face in the crowd; a safe and familiar face from a life that had just been shattered. A heaving sob I had been holding back burst forth as I saw her throw her little arms around Brian’s neck, clinging desperately as she sobbed into his shoulder. I will never, in all my days, forget that heart-wrenching moment.
As we walked away from the service, both still reeling from the emotions we were feeling, my heart felt so painfully heavy. But I was happy, too. Because Heather had been a good mother. She loved those girls more than anything in this world. She surely made mistakes; perhaps she yelled at them or forgot to have them brush their teeth. But at the heart of it, she was their mommy. She loved and treasured them and they KNOW that. They will take that with them as they move forward and live their lives. And that is the legacy I wish to leave my children; whether I leave them in this tragic sort of way, or they bury me when they, themselves, are parents and grandparents. So these photos of a little girl being swung by her mommy hold something more profound for me today. They are a piece of the legacy that a momma is creating for her children. No matter when she leaves them, they will remember moments like these and a thousand more, that make up the legacy of a mommy.