I was driving to an afternoon meeting, the heater blasting my feet with hot air and Chris Tomlin's song Love, from his CD, Hello Love , blasting my ears with hot music. The moment triggered a strong memory of Mum's presence in the car seat beside me when she was last in Canada in 2003.
I was on my way "somewhere," and she was with me; utterly content. My CD player in that moment was blasting out a new rocky arrangement of Amazing Grace and I was enjoying the music; and having Mum by my side.
Mum's 32 years of transatlantic visits came to an end with a stroke in 2003, days after returning to England from Canada, but I have so many memories to treasure. They are concentrated essence of pure joy.
The anticipation of each visit was part of the joy as the countdown began about six weeks before her planned arrival. By the time I went to the airport, I would barely be able to contain my excitement. I would imagine that dearly loved soul being deposited somewhere in the vastness of Lester B. Pearson airport. Somehow that thought; that she was somewhere in there, so close, but as yet undiscovered, was all part of the delicious suspense.
Watching the arrivals gate for her familiar small figure, being wheeled out in a wheelchair on her last couple of trips; well, I would be at bursting point by then.
We had some funny airport moments. I waited for a great length of time outside the Ladies Room for her once, and when she finally emerged I said, "Mum, you were gone a long time."
She confided that the plane journey had given her a large amount of flatulence, which she was loathe to release until someone flushed in the adjoining cubicle, to camoflauge the sound effects. We roared with laughter at the fact that she had patiently waited for the others to flush and not thought of doing so herself.
But the last laugh was on me, for when we emerged from the elevator in the parking garage, I had forgotten where I had left the car, so rather than have Mum follow me all over the garage looking, I promised to return when I found it. I did return triumphantly, telling Mum, "I found it, it's just a few rows over."
Mum asked in dismay, "But darling, why didn't you bring it with you?" At which we both dissolved into laughter.
Instead of wanting an early night the first night, after such a long journey and with the time difference being five hours, she would astound me every time with her ability to stay up with me until I went to bed, steadfastly refusing to acknowledge tiredness. She was determined to enjoy every minute possible and not waste one of them sleeping if she could help it.
Our happiness was found in just being together. I am a restless soul, on the move a lot of the time and she was content to just be with me whether that was: shopping, worship practice, writers group, a prayer meeting or church. Like other visiting friends, she often spent time in my kitchen with me peeling and chopping quantities of apples or onions and laughter sprinkles every memory of those times, for we found something to snort with giggles at in almost everything we did.
Since the stroke, and now 82 years old, the journey would be too exhausting and she rarely even leaves her tiny flat, quite content in her much smaller world. But she is lovingly cared for by my brother Rob and a fleet of Helping Hands ladies, and I still have her; I can still go and be with her.
I wish I did as good a job of "just being" with her as she did of just being with me.
My Auntie Mies gave me a Poesie Album in the summer of 1962. This small book, bound in silver gray, with a sticker on the front of a white vase, embossed with gold and overflowing with pink roses, captured the summer that I turned 12.
It is an autograph book, in which aunts, uncles and other relatives, as well as friends, wrote little poems, some of them original. Little decorative stickers were added to the pages, and I also cut out photographs of the person if I had one, and glued it on their page.
There are poems in Dutch, German and English and one of them by Friedrich Wilhelm Kaulisch, part of which was copied out by my German aunt, Tante Hannelore, says:
Wenn Du noch eine Mutter hast,
so danke Gott und sei zufrieden.
Nicht allen auf dem Erdenrund
ist dieses hohe Glück beschieden.
How often we don't treasure the moments we have sufficiently. Sadly it is often when we lose something or someone that we realize what we had.
Do all the loving you can, to all the people you can, today.