How do you measure the life of a woman?

Disclaimer: This post is different from the other ones. This blog is not meant to be a diary (nor will it ever be). It’s a collection of my lived stories and stream of consciousness. This was on my mind and I felt the need to write it down. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled awkwardness in the next post. Thank you!

In 1989, a brilliant, young composer began collaborating on a project that would later become the smash hit Broadway musical, “Rent”. In my opinion, the greatness of “Rent” is the raw vulnerability of the characters, in addition to the beautiful music. During the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Larsen gave voice to characters who were “living, not dying from disease.” He exposed their hopes, fears, dreams, stubbornness, ugliness and beauty.

The second act begins with the famous song “Seasons of love“. The beauty of the song isn’t in the beginning piano ostinato nor that beautifully sung high C. Rather, the beauty of the song lies in the poetry and humanity of the lyrics. The lyrics tap into the universal experience of trying to give meaning to a life. After we’re gone, what metric will people use to determine that we lived a good life? How will our loved ones convey the beauty of our flawed human experience through a few sentences? Will we leave an indelible imprint on this earth or will the mound of dirt under which our bodies will rest, be the only indication of our presence here? 

A few weeks ago, my loved ones and I had that same dilemma. How could we accurately describe and measure an incredible woman’s life? A woman who had been a person, daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend and most importantly a faithful child of God. How could we justly pay homage to her journey on this earth while staying within a designated word limit?  

The answer is we couldn’t. There is no way to describe a woman whose eyes could narrate a novel with just one glance. No words to describe the icy terror that her glare could convey when you were misbehaving. No adjectives worthy of capturing the complexity and beauty of her mind. No adverb to define how she loved and no word limit to encompass the breath of her accomplishments. Her face held too much life, light, joy and love for mortal words to do it justice. There was something immeasurably beautiful and haunting about the way she stared at you (especially while you ate). It was as if her heart swelled with so much love and pride when she looked at you that she was afraid it might be burst. Those eyes that you never wanted to see express disappointment or pain, yet reflected those very emotions during your most selfish days. Even as I try to grasp at memories and pictures, I know that these descriptors are insignificant. We couldn’t find the words then and I won’t attempt to find them now.

But as the days go by and her absence becomes more and more real, I find myself remembering her hands. Hands snapping peas, peeling garlic, holding rosary beads, yielding a tool of discipline, combing hair (sometimes not so gently), turning the wheel of a car, writing a check or finding their home in her best friend’s hands. Her hands expressed thoughts that she never voiced. She would move them in a certain way, as if she was counting, whenever she was thinking. I also think of the things those hands will never do. They will no longer cajole her beloved grandson (or future grandchildren), or hold a diploma as she beams with pride, or cook up a giant pot of rice. Those hands that I imagined guiding me through life as I enter adulthood are now resting peacefully. 

And on the days when the sadness brought on by the absence of her hands becomes so great that it takes my breath away, I let the memory of her laugh and warmth console me. I replay one of her many hilarious sayings (she was funny, even when she wasn’t trying to be) in my head, or voice mail and I hold on to the faith that she nurtured by example. 

Tatie/Manmy/Manman/Doune/Emeline/Yves etc…, we miss you terribly. 

How do you measure the life of a woman? You don’t!

Because this woman’s life was immeasurably full and grand! At least to us who knew her best!

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