I wonder if she stood at the foot of the porch, arms crossed over her chest, and said out loud to the chill that stood in the air, “My daughter will be an undertaker.”
I wonder if she debated rallying up the right bunch of words to tell a group of PTA mothers that her daughter was going to spend the rest of her life burying the dead. That she would be the youngest funeral planner this planet has ever laid eyes upon.
These are the very things I will never know if my mother thought as she watched me, stooped over on the sidewalk, poking a dead bluejay with a stick before fleeting into the house to find a perfectly-sized shoebox. Calling up my neighbors in frantic fashion, my tiny figure wrapped carelessly in the cords of the telephone, “I found another dead one! Let’s dig a hole in your backyard! I’ll bring my keyboard for the funeral!”
I do know though, in all my days of diary pages filled with fourth grade crushes & obituaries of dead raccoons pummeled by Toyotas on Belvedere Rd, she never said “no.” Or “stop.” Or “find another love.” Another passion. Another hobby. She just let her daughter go on, poking road kill with sticks before picking it up with kitchen tongs and burying it to an electric keyboard melody in the backyard.
She knew that her daughter Loved This Thing. This funeral thing. This burial thing.
And so she taught her daughter– her daughter with the dirty fingernails & assortment of black dresses in the summertime– that if you are going to love a thing then love it in a way that will make other people wonder if you sit on the Founding Committee for the Definition of Love.
Love the heck out of it. Love it in a manner that will leave others stretching to find the words to say, “I’ve never seen a thing loved quite like that before.” Love a thing truly. Love a thing madly. Love a thing purely. Intentionally. Whole-Heartedly. Don’t you dare go loving a thing if you only plan to love it halfway…. If halfway is your idea, then leave the thing Unloved for another to come along and Love It Beyond Ten Thousand Percent.
I’ve only got 23 years of wisdom within me… some would say that is almost a quarter of a lifetime of “know-how” but I am willing to admit that I have at least a few more nursing homes to sit in, hearing the stories of my elders, before I get to the quarter mark. But I am willing to gamble and lay the whole 23 years worth of wisdom down if it means you will read the next paragraph and take it with you today. Just please, try it on today. Imagine it be a dazzling peacoat with luscious brass buttons. Just at least see how it looks all buttoned up & handsome on you:
Human beings are unreliable. They will always be unreliable ESPECIALLY when you turn to them and ask how to love. There will always be someone who tells you not to love this but to love that or to love him but not her. Always, always, always. Right Now, take your two index fingers. Point them straight out before you and take a good look at them. Don’t–I repeat–DON’T put those fingers of yours in your ears. It’s tempting to plug up against people but don’t do it just yet. Instead, go out and get yourself a little doctor’s kit, take out that plastic stethoscope, and plant those little ear tubes into your ears. Move that chest piece around until you find what Nicki Minaj would call that “Boom Badoom Boom, Boom Badoom Boom Bass.” And when you hear it, just promise me this: That You Won’t Forget It So Quick. That You Won’t Ignore It. That You Won’t Belittle the Beating. Gosh, there is an entire heartbeat dedicated to you, just you. And your passions. And your dreams. And your strengths & talents & visions. Now what will it mean if you never learn to listen to that beat?
If you do ignore it then no worries, you’ll still certainly have the chance to meander down Ten Thousand Different Life Paths…. but will you be ok with never living the life you were destined for all along?
A life that makes you feel full and alive.
A life that will leave someone saying, as they stand before a crowd of crying people dressed in black who wished you didn’t leave so soon, “She lived a breathless life…. A rare kind of breathless life. She loved a thing deeply. I’ve never quite seen a thing loved like that before.”