More times than I can count in the past 20 years, I’ve used the expression “we lost mom in 1998.” Of course, I mean that’s the year she passed away. My father died in 1987. Matt’s dad and mom, who were our next door neighbors and best friends, died in 2002 and 2010, respectively.
In the past couple of years, many people close to us have lost parents or other people very important to them. We tend to use that expression, “lost,” when we talk about them. It’s true, they are lost to us in the physical sense, but last weekend I had a revelation of sorts.
I was in a cooking mood, so I was making a lot of different dishes. Some were for the Ohio State game tailgate, some were for dinner, and some were for a party we were attending. I pulled out my mom’s old cookbook — the one with her special recipes — to make a Reuben dip in the crockpot. As I was shredding the cheese, a chill ran up my spine.
I could feel her behind me, peeking over my shoulder and hearing her say, “That looks good, honey.” I could feel her soft hand on my back, urging me to put a little more pickle in the homemade Thousand Island dressing. Two decades later, my mom is a real presence in my life, especially when I cook.
I love to play the piano. I play with gusto and with many mistakes. When I play certain songs, I swear I smell the iron and ironing board. That’s because when I was growing up, mom liked to iron when I was practicing. It’s a distinctive smell and there are times when I feel I could turn around and she’d be right there, ironing the sheets.
It happens with my dad, too. I hear his voice whenever we’re building or repairing something. He still guides me through applying wood putty to the window frame, or sanding a board, or cutting (after measuring twice!). When I make a mistake, I can feel his eyes staring a hole in my back, over his glasses, with bushy eyebrows raised. When crises have occurred in my life, his voice is a calming note in my head.
Matt’s mom is present for me, too. She is the voice in my ear when I sing harmony during church hymns. She’s present during occasions I order dessert, so that I can enjoy her saying, “That’s as rich as Croesus!” Every time we change something at the house — a paint color, or rearrange furniture — I feel her behind me, nodding approval.
Matt’s dad is here every mowing and when we cut wood. He’s present in every euchre game and at every tailgate, exclaiming; “Now we’re having fun!”
Sometimes, their presence is so real that’s it’s…well, real. They may be gone from this world, but they are not lost.
For Clark, Bill, Brian, and Carla – remember they are not lost. They are with us, always. Email me at email@example.com.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.