This I Believe

Catharine - Kirkland, Washington
Entered on May 16, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

“This I Believe” essay submission

National Public Radio

Today Is All I Have

This I believe: Today is all I have.

Today, I order red geraniums mixed with white petunias for my dead mother’s grave half a country away. Today, I hear from my friend Trixi that her sixty-something father-in-law Bob is dead, after only one day home with Hospice. Today I stand in the kitchen over dirty plates and cups, nervously ripping open my mammogram results. Negative, this time.

Today, I pick up my 4- and 5-year-old from preschool early and hug them extra tight. They can’t hold back on giving me my Mother’s Day gifts: “handmade with love” stationery, delicately decorated with bright tempera paints and a crinkly rainbow of tissue paper. Plus, two almost-blooming flowers they planted just for me.

All in just one day.

These days are fleeting. My mother died of breast cancer at 46, and this year I turn 40. Twenty-three years ago this summer, I struggled to carry her, like a fragile, wounded bird, to the bathtub, much like I carefully lift my children in and out now. She missed the end of my high school days, my college years, my wedding, my babies – and…well…me.

So I try to focus on today. Not long ago, on my mother’s birthday, my daughter asked, “Mom, are there birthday cakes in heaven?”

“Yes there are,” I say after a pause, even hoping myself that this is true.

Then, on an uncharacteristically sunny Seattle Mother’s Day, my son said, “Mom, I know why it’s such a beautiful day…because it’s Mother’s Day. I think God probably knows that.”

My children teach me to slow down. To pause. Reflect. And, like little flowers in tiny green planters, to grow into something even better than I ever could have been without them. They beg me to notice a slow, glistening Banana Slug slime his way across the sidewalk. They think dead Dandelions are beautiful. They ask me questions like “Why do horses run so fast?” and “How do birds sing?” And they inform me that the Easter Bunny is nocturnal, which is why he never gets caught. Most importantly, they remind me that today won’t be like tomorrow. Today is simply today. Special. Only once. And fleeting.

I know that souls fly away from this Earth every day with the flutter of a butterfly kiss. “Catch them,” I tell myself, “while you can.”

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