Yesterday evening, while standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes, my son called out to me from the living room, "Mommy? Pway?"
"In a minute, honey," I replied. "Let me finish these dishes."
"Yes, honey, minute."
My husband and daughter were out on a bike ride and I was trying to finish up those few little chores before bedtime, always multi-tasking, always hoping to do just one more thing. I haven't really been mentally present with my family recently, wrapped up in this book I am writing, and, this week, with more sad news from home. Two wonderful parents were on their way home from their daughter's college graduation, with their daughter and all her stuff in the car, when they were struck by a large truck, which had swerved to avoid a minivan that had, apparently, run a red light. The parents died instantly; their daughter, a beautiful, intelligent, caring and giving 21-year-old, is in critical condition in the hospital. She has endured 6 hours of brain surgery and has multiple broken bones and internal injuries and is currently in a coma.
This is what I was thinking about when I was doing the dishes last night, along with the rest of my to-do list, and how I couldn't wait until the children were in bed. With my hands deep in the warm, soapy water, my son called out to me, again, "Mommy? Minute over?"
I'd been following the story of the crash online and knew that this young woman's mother was a teacher. I remembered her, and her sunny, positive outlook on life. She'd had trouble getting pregnant and had her first child at 33, her second at 37. Warm, funny, energetic, she touched so many lives through her teaching, because she took the time to listen to her students, to bring out the best in them. One assignment she made her 8th graders do every spring was to write a letter to their future selves, stating what they want to be remembered for, who they want to be. Four years later, on their graduation day, she would deliver those letters from their past selves to remind them of what they had hoped for in their lives.
And who do I want to be, I asked myself as my son said, yet again, "Mommy pway?" Do I want to be remembered for being thin (which I am not), for having a good wardrobe, for having a tidy house? For always having my dishes done, nary a weed in my garden, for the things I own?
No. I want to be remembered as a great mom, a caring person, someone who made the world a little better after she left it.
I put my sponge down, dried my hands, and said, "James, what do you want to play?"
None of us is promised a long life. None of us is promised tomorrow.
Who do you want to be?