There’s a most specific moment in a recurring dream I have, a flash of an instant just before waking, where if I could I would rise from sleep and run to the kitchen and find my mom there smiling. In the dream, she is present but always just out of my line of sight. I can hear her voice, sense her presence, even sometimes smell the deep South delights that were her hallmark on days when troubled souls just needed pinto beans and cornbread or some fried sweet potato pies. I can’t help but think Heaven has put on a few pounds since she moved in the neighborhood 19 years ago, at the far too young age of 62. I know her laughter is welcomed there, her stories never grow old there.
Her laughter was raucous, filling the space she was in to the full. As a child, it was a homing device. As a teen, it was cause for eye-rolling embarrassment. As an adult, I didn’t consider it much at all. I think about it often now. Recently, I was in Guatemala with a group of folks—some who have known me for years, and others who became new family on the journey. We had all gone our separate ways late one afternoon for a bit of shopping at a local Mercado. “It was easy to find you,” one of the teammates said to me as she rounded the corner of one of the shops. “I heard your laughter.” There it was. Mom’s DNA living out its legacy in me.
And she loved to tell stories—she loved to reminisce about first steps and mishaps and the things she just knew and the things she would have never expected. Her stories were colorful and detailed and always connected to other stories of other lives that came before, and they went on just a bit longer than the subject of them ever found comfortable. I wondered in my younger days why the stories were so important to her, and thought often that she would do well to keep them to herself. I was particularly uncomfortable with the stories she shared that wove me into the storyline, even though the smile on her face as she spoke was a gift. Now, I see those stories as bits of stained glass taking shape to craft a bigger story of shattered things becoming glorious when they are moved by God into position to catch the light. Maybe that’s why I love to listen to stories now. Maybe that’s why I love to tell them.
Legacy lives in us, even when we don’t notice its presence.
You’d think I’d have more pictures of us together, but right now a faded slide from a special Christmas morning will do. My mom, Mousetrap, a giant purple poodle that ended up occupying most of my bed, and me with a bad perm would certainly be the stuff of stories.
Why am I writing this? Perhaps it’s because I dreamt the dream again, and the fragrance of those fried sweet potato pies is still lingering. Perhaps it’s because I long to hear her laughter one more time and roll my eyes as she talks about what a mess I used to be in the kitchen or how she used to hear my voice call her name long after I had moved into my own place. Perhaps it’s because I’d love to know what stories she’d share with all the people she never got to meet—her grandson’s beautiful bride and her precious great-grandkids and the friends who have wrapped around her daughter and given her courage to pursue big dreams no matter the outcome.
What wonderful new stories would then be told.
Or perhaps, this moment exists simply to remind you and me to embrace the embarrassment of someone who loves us, someone who laughs too loud or tells the stories or does any manner of clumsily tender things in ways we would love to change or adapt or simply discard. Let those who love you gush about you and make moments awkward and loudly show their affection. You just might find yourself one day being known by your big laughter and the stories you tell.
Yes, legacy lives in all of us, even when we don’t notice its presence. We’re in this together, you know.