There is this one show I watched recently called Elizabeth Town.
The lead female character is a flight attendant, and she serves a young man on his way to take care of the funeral arrangements for his recently deceased dad. The storyline set up is pretty clear. She’s the one he’s meant to be with.
She’s a quirky girl. And, like most quirky characters in the movies, initially her mannerisms are a little annoying … But by the end, of course, her quirks have become endearing qualities that make us all love her more.
And for some reason, the movie played a scene that has been haunting me since.
The young man gets off the plane. She doesn’t think she’ll ever see him again. So she does that quirky-endearing thing: she hoists an invisible camera to her face, and snap a photo of the fleeting moment.
At first, it was just weird.
But then it became beautiful.
And now it is haunting.
The drive to capture the uncapturable. Make a moment last forever. Imprint on a brain what will never be experienced again.
I may not be snapping pictures with my invisible camera — but I am telling my mind, heart and soul to capture the uncapturable. To feel that moment so intensely that I could recall the feeling, and the love, and the hope in it years and years down the road.
It is a hopeless task.
When Ryan’s grandpa slowly began fading last year at the ripe age of 101, I remember telling myself “don’t blink.”
We’d all be at dinner, him alive as can be sitting with us, drinking coffee and eating clam chowder, and I would watch him and think, “Soon, he’ll be no more. Soon it will just be a chair. If you blink, he’ll be gone.”
We blinked. And he was gone.
When we learned that Z was returning home, I just look at Z differently. He’s a ghost really. Here now, but not forever. The minutes adding to hours, and the hours adding to days, and the days adding far too quickly to the few weeks left he’s ours.
I see him in his high chair, and I envision trying to have family dinners without him.
I see him buckled in his car seat singing Jingle Bells, and think, he’s just here for a moment. In a few days, his seat will be empty. In a few weeks, we’ll have to store it back in the garage and get store away all things baby.
I do his laundry and envision the day I’ll have to pack it all up in a suitcase.
I put him down to sleep, and I silently count down in my head how many more nights we have.
The visitation supervisor comes for his weekly visit and I hand him off, feeling all too soon the day they will come and take him forever.
Just don’t blink, I tell myself. Take this moment and make it last forever. Remember the feel of his skin, and the way he cuddles you when he’s ready to fall asleep, the way he always gets chatty moments before closing his eyes. Remember the way he yells “mommy” when you come home. Remember his little voice when he tickles you. Remember his sweet spirit, how he loves to help and mimic, and remember how he always fell asleep at the playground in the swing. Remember the hold of his little hand. Remember how he quickly he is to say sorry and hug when he get’s a little ahead of himself and hits one of his sisters. Remember the way he yells “me-maw!” when you’re driving on the road to his grandparents. Remember how he loves his sisters and how they love him. Remember every night he falls asleep on his daddy’s shoulders.
And don’t just remember today, but remember every single moment you have shared together. All the family dinners, all the hikes, all the trips to the park, all the school drop-offs and pick-ups, the therapy appointments, the play group, the doctors appointments, all of it. Even all the yucky diaper changes.
All of it is too precious to forget.
And so my heart insists on storing it all way. “And Mary treasured these things in her heart” rings more true this Christmas season than any other.
Treasure everything, my heart says.
And whatever you do . . . don’t blink. Because as soon as you do . . . he’ll be gone.
And all you’ll have left are memories.