I call it my “awake dreams.”
They’re just memories really, but I can be whimsical like that. These awake dreams rise to the surface at the most inopportune times and often leave me breathless from the sheer joy they bring. Sometimes they create an ache so deep in my chest, it renders me useless.
I try and squeeze my eyes shut to help preserve the moment.
See, I’m dying. Doctors say I won’t make it the year out, and I have a 24 year old daughter named Rose. She’s my only and all I’ve got since my husband passed away three years ago. Honestly, most of the time I can’t even be sad with this news because the urgency of making moments count is so prominent. My days overflow with gratitude for every second I’m given.
Just the other day, Rose was sitting on the couch beside me, her legs wrapped up in a blanket, coffee cup in hand, sharing her time with me. She spoke easily about her job and the upcoming work she had with new training in diabetes education. As I watched her enthusiasm spill over in conversation, one of the memories just swept over me.
Hit me so hard, it felt like a knee in my chest.
I looked in her eyes as she talked, but I immediately saw her at seven. In my mind she sat curled up on the couch, scrawny legs still under a blanket, with a snack on the coffee table and an elementary school book in her hand. She was so cute with a swirling left-sided cowlick from the blunt bangs I’d just cut. She sat deeply engrossed in her book as it rained outside our old farm house, and I had come around the corner to ask her a question.
Those same blue eyes, full of wonder and depth, adventure and longing, peered up at me. “Yes, Mama?”
Seven year old Rose had stolen my heart countless times before, but today the memory rushed over me like a wave in a storm. Adult Rose continued to talk about her work, and all I could do was stare at her, living in the moment, soaking in the memory tightly as I could.
I’ve often wondered the things I should say to her, or if I should tell her about these moments. But the other day, I realized this is my story, my memories, and even if I shared them, I’m still the only one who could feel them.
What a reminder to make every moment count.
What a reminder of the gifts we’ve been given; the gifts we never deserved.
Every time I have such a flashback, I breathe a quick prayer of thanks to God. Because this is what I know: I know I am going to a place where all wrongs will be righted, where I won’t have any pain in this old, dying body, and I will be made new in so many ways. It took me 55 years to see that we have many slivers of heaven on this earth that God gives us to “taste and see.” We are given the ability to enjoy a piece of that same love and happiness I’ll soon feel in heaven for eternity.
There won’t be a heaven on earth until Jesus comes back, but I wish I had realized years ago how our life continues. I wish I had realized how this earth is just a piece of what it will be one day, while I hold tightly to all these beautiful, raw special moments created just for me.
No one could say I should’ve held on tighter or that I took anything for granted because I have sincerely enjoyed my life. As I aged, I knew everything I had was a gift and time would only fly faster and faster until all I had were memories.
I soaked it in, enjoyed every minute.
I lived for the times I could experience that feeling in my heart- the one I’d never be able to describe to someone else.
But it’s not enough. I still long for more. There’s never enough time, I’ve discovered. Yes, sometimes I feel like it’s a shame I’m 55 and dying “too soon.” But God knew my days before I was ever born, so I’m not going too soon or out of step with what my life was supposed to be like. It’s sad and I wish I had more time, yes, but I have started to live for heaven, when I’ll never have this longing again.
Because I wasn’t created for here. I was created for eternity.
Ultimately, it makes me thankful for all the hard emotions that have come with this illness and my leftover time here. It makes me see the beauty in so many ordinary things. It causes memories to spring up like a well in my soul; all the beautiful heartfelt, silly, and angry moments that make up this earthly life.
I value these contrasting emotions- this longing to stay and the longing to go.
It’s what makes up our unique design. I see that God created me this way. I see my life isn’t going to waste, but will continue, and will be glorified one day.
None of these feelings are for naught. They are so hard, but purposeful in every way: I lived well. I loved well and I have something desperately difficult to show for that.
A beautiful family that brought more blessings than I ever deserved.
I can only rest at His feet as He shows me these things. As He gives me these “awake dreams,” the glimpses of beauty from my past into my days, fused together as one.
Breaking my thoughts, Rose glances back over at me, legs stretched out on the couch. “Mama, are you listening?”
Admiring my grown daughter for all that she’s become, I nod, a lump in my throat. I am not able to tell her, but of course I am listening. I’m all-in and fully present in this moment.
It’s hard to say until you’re faced with it, how you will feel about being towards the end of your life.
Did I live to the fullest? Serve God with all my heart? Do the right thing for my family?
My advice? Think about the type of life you want to leave behind as a legacy and make it happen. Live your life with a greater picture in mind. Live to the brim of fullness, and enjoy the blessings He gives you to taste and see. I’m surely grateful for every second I have left to do that.
Photo by Simon Rae and Caroline Hernandez