The Legacy of Those I’ve Lost

Five days ago we celebrated the life of my dear friend Tiffni. For hours I remained in the same spot I occupied during the memorial service, getting reacquainted with folks I had not seen in years. The room was filled with the playful cries and laughs of my late friends’ two little boys.  They are only one and two years old. The sight of their animated play brings bittersweet thoughts. I smile at the sight of their animated play and tear up again, knowing that they are carefree now because age prevents them from comprehending what has happened.

The two year old boy stumbles a bit as he tries to make his way past our row to chase the older children. I lean over, extending my right hand to help him regain his balance.  When I look down at him and our eyes meet I freeze. It isn’t just that his eyes are the same shade as his mama’s, orthat they are framed by the same velvety thick black lashes. The look on his face was one his mama gave me countless times, an imitation so flawless that it felt like she was the one gazing at me.

Later I reflect on the experience and remember a conversation I had with my father in the years after my mothers’ death. We were catching up and when I laughed at one of his jokes he started crying. Baffled, I asked him what happened.

“It’s your laugh”, he said, “It reminds me of your mom. You sound exactly like her…”

That wouldn’t be the last time someone pointed out traits of a deceased love one to me. “You have Grandma’s hands”, a cousin commented when I posted a picture of my freshly manicured nails on FB a few years ago. All three incidents unite to remind me of an element of the recent loss that I overlooked in my grief: our loved ones do not disappear when they stop breathing. Aspects of them continue on in the forms of those who are left behind.

My Grandma has been gone for eleven years now but I can still see her when I spread my hands and admire the way they curve in, just like hers. My mama left a decade ago yet I see her in the smile of myself and my siblings. And Tiffni…it hasn’t even been a month yet. So it still hurts deeply. It still burns. It still confuses me. But I have to tell myself that the day will come when I can live with this, when I can take solace in her legacy as well. I hope the day will come when I can hold and talk to her children and go over all the ways that their incredible mother lives on in them.

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