When someone you love has a terminal illness, life necessarily revolves around their needs. When clothing gets lost in the nursing home laundry, new clothing must be purchased. Who’s visiting today? Do we need to change the hearing aid batteries? What little thing can we do to provide comfort or give her a glimpse of joy?
My mother took great pride in her grandchildren. She used to love going to concerts and plays, and when her health declined we began recording parts of performances to share with her. Last night our youngest son’s high school choir put on a performance of Carmina Burana. I took my seat and scanned the program and saw that my son, Matt, had a solo that he had neglected to tell me about.
As Matt made his way from his spot on the risers to his designated spot at the front of the stage, I started to grab for my phone to switch into video cam mode. I thought for a moment and stopped. There was no need for recording. Mom isn’t here now to share this moment later.
I was reminded of a trip to Disney World many years ago. We had purchased a new video camera, and I watched Fantasmic! through a 1.5 inch viewer screen. Instead of witnessing the Disney magic live and in person, I watched it on a tiny screen. I thought then that I would want to watch it again or to share it with my parents who were back home, but I never did. I missed out on the depth of that experience because I was trying to capture it for later – for someone else. It took me another 18 years to learn the lesson that life is for living right here, right now.
Last year my husband and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon. As I saw it for the first time, I looked at my husband and said, “I can’t photograph this. You have to see it to understand.” I lived that moment in full color, letting the canyon overwhelm my senses with the sheer magnitude of nature.
Last night at the concert, tears ran down my face as Matt sang the role of a dying swan lamenting that he was being roasted. There were tears of pride at the fine young man that he has become along with tears of sadness that I won’t be playing back his solo on my iPad in a few days and watching to see a smile on Mom’s face. Along with my tears, there was the realization that I was watching my son and his friends sing – not through a lens or on a screen. For the first time in years, my focus was on the performers and not on capturing the moment for someone else.
I didn’t record Matt’s performance last night. It exists only in my memory. What a gift.