Smiley Faces

Smiley Faces

When someone close to us passes away, we can feel lost at times. Our loved one was a part of our everyday life. Part of everything that was ordinary as well as everything that was not. We loved them. They loved us back. It’s a forever kind of thing – we will always love them.

When we run into friends for the first time after our loss, they often take the opportunity to tell us how sorry they are. They can say the neatest things that put that lump in our throat and those tears in our eyes. Perhaps it is a time in our life when we are meant to be silent, to just listen to how others felt about the person we lost. If they are speaking fondly of our loved one, it is safe to say it was their loss also.

As time goes by, we realize we may love them more than ever, but we have worked through some of the heartache and pain. The day comes when we can speak about our loved one with fondness and not experience the pain that makes us cry.

We can’t help but notice the big things that change in our lives when we have to start living life without them, and there are so many little things that change.

Those who have lost a child are typically in agreement they love to hear someone say their child’s name and listen to memories of what life was like when their child was with us.  

After my mother passed away, I started writing. I didn’t know why. Others couldn’t help but notice my time was being spent “Just writing.”

I would pick a subject and write. Now I tend to pick up a newspaper clipping and write.

A couple of years ago, I was in the habit of stopping at second-hand stores to see if there were any treasures to discover. I didn’t shop for myself; I shopped for others. I shopped for donations to silent auctions or gifts for little ones. I often browsed but didn’t purchase.

If I found a little whatnot that looked like it belonged to a friend, I would buy it for them.

The day came when I found I was walking out of the stores with little vases I had purchased. My daughters noticed my new collection of cute or unique vases and reminded me that I was accumulating more “stuff.”

No worries – I would have little vases, for little flowers, for my little friends.

My collection of flower vases included the smiley cup vases. I was raised in the 60s and 70s, so possibly that is why I am fond of them.

When Mom and I would go places together, others very often opened the building door for us. It really did make it easier for Mom to watch her step when we knew someone was taking care of that part of getting her into the building. It seems I was noticing how thoughtful other people can be.

Mom passed away in May of 2019, so she did not have to experience the world as it is today.

In the fall of 2019, I was walking from the parking lot of a large building in Fort Wayne to the front door. I noticed a young man waiting for me. I had a good little walk before I would need to open the door for myself. But there he was – waiting for me. He mentioned the beautiful day before I did. He smiled. He made my day.

I so wanted to tell my mother about this young man who held the door open for me. If you are the gentleman who stationed yourself at that door back in the fall of 2019, I am writing about you. Do you remember smiling? Do you remember waiting on me?

Oftentimes, after a loved one passes away, we can recall their final gifts back to us in the days prior to their passing. Friends and families can recount the big things as well as the little things.

For us, we realized Mom had thrown a big party for our brother Steven’s birthday, and the family was together in the days before she passed away.

She wanted to be present while we were setting up the tables in the school gymnasium and readying the place for the party. There she was in her light-weight wheelchair, allowing some very young great-grandchildren to push her around the gym before the party started. She wasn’t being overprotective. It was the rest of us who were noticing the grandchildren were maybe pushing her a tad too fast or maybe coming too close to the ledge of the gym floor. We didn’t want to find Grandma toppled over. Who taught us to worry so much?

Mom’s last earthly task was the baking of a chocolate cake for Steven’s 50th birthday. It was a Tuesday. Don’t they say Tuesdays are known as the most productive day of the week?

Mom always told us that she intended to live life, up on two feet, right up to the day she passed away. We didn’t like to hear her talk about how she would pass, but she proved how our words will determine our path.

It seems somewhat odd telling others she was thinking of us when she experienced a stroke. She waited until Steven had arrived home from bowling and walked in the house with a caregiver. Mom turned around from the kitchen sink and stated she did not feel well, and there she was with the help she needed.

She had spent her last hours on this earth baking the last cake she would bake in the kitchen she had cooked in for over 70 years. We also learned she had spent time that afternoon visiting with her friend Dee Krill.

Dee told me, in hindsight, it turned out to be a good thing she was unable to attend Steven’s party. Instead, she visited with Mom on Steven’s actual birthday and left a card for him. Dee talked to Mom about how the party went and had a great visit.

How wonderful it was for us to know Mom was able to do something all of us love to do – spend time with a dear friend – in the last hours of her life on earth.

My mom was known to say her only complaint about life was how fast it went, and I found she had written those words in one of her notebooks.

When I think of the ways we can help others get through this earthly life, thoughtfulness and politeness are a big deal. I think of the countless sacrifices parents make for their children.

Our family’s 1958 World Book Encyclopedia set was one of the financial investments my parents made for us, and it ended up being a wise purchase.

How thoughtful it is when fathers decide to make toys for their children or teach them how to do things for others. Like many families, our photo albums from our childhood years contain a few black-and-white photos of toy barns and toy horses. The picture of my brother Ed playing his guitar, which was made from a cardboard box, is one of the best.

My mother told me more than once the best years of her life were those in which the kids were home. Her wistful tone told me she didn’t realize it at the time.

When we look at family photo albums, we see a collection of images of the best moments of our lives. It is perhaps a quick reminder that we should live in the here and now.  

It’s a funny thing – today will soon be yesterday. Today will soon be a day that happened many moons ago.

Since we are the creator of our moments, we may choose what kind of photos will be added to our family photo album. Is there any room for dysfunction? For things that simply do not matter? Is there a way to take a picture of disrespect? What about bitterness? Can we capture those times we spent living in negative emotions?  

At the end of our life, we will own a photo album – an album that is unique to each of us. It may not occur to us that others are already looking at our album. In real time.  

It may be safe to say life isn’t about what is given to us; it is about what we create, and what we overcome, and what we may be able to give and do for others.

There are always photos that didn’t turn out so well, and we are free to toss them out. Today is a new day.

My husband and I were at my mom’s bedside as she exited this world that had been so beautiful to her. We held her hands and were present, just as God meant for it to be.

There are a few things we may know for sure: Our hands are meant to let others know we are with them when they need us. Our muscles are meant to lighten the work for someone else. Our voice is there so we may visit and reminisce with others. Our eyes are meant to see the best in people. Our smiles were designed by God.

One last thought – if you find yourself shopping in second-hand stores, and you don’t know why you are in search of smiley face mugs – you are supposed to take the little cup to the local florist and have them fill it with posies for someone who needs posies.

Just hearing the words: “You’ve made my day” – will make your day. 

Elaine, Ed, Marcia, and Jayne in front of Dad’s garden. Grandpa Imm made the horse, and Dad made Ed’s guitar.

May be an image of 4 people and child
Christmas Morning 1955.
 My collection of smiley face vases. Yellow roses are symbolic of joy and happiness that friends bring into our lives, and as such,
the yellow rose is very appropriate to send to friends.

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