83: Picture This

83: Picture This

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Picture This

When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.

~Author Unknown

I told myself not to look but the temptation was too great. The scene was exactly as I feared it would be and my heart sunk under the burden of anger and resentment.

How could they? I watched as teenagers laughed at each other’s jokes, horsed around, or leaned casually against the brick wall of their high school waiting for the first class of their first day back to school. I fought the urge to pull into the parking lot and run to each of those students, grab them and remind them that their fellow classmate, my daughter, had died.

I shook my head as the anger turned to sorrow; I was too consumed by my grief to feel grateful when I finally made it through the congested morning traffic leaving the high school behind. On the drive home a panic began to overtake me. Kyley had been gone for a little over a year and the longing to hear her laugh, to just feel her presence at that moment was overwhelming.

I tore into my driveway and rushed to the front door, fumbling with my keys as I desperately tried to open the door. When I was finally inside I grabbed the stepladder and took it to my closet. I pulled down the two large boxes from the top shelf and settled down on the floor. I stared at the boxes for a few seconds. They contained the thousands of photos I had taken of my children over the years. I hadn’t looked at them since my daughter died. I needed to feel close to her, to be reminded of every freckle and every strand of hair.

I took a deep breath and removed the lid from the first box. I grabbed a handful of about twenty pictures. They weren’t in any particular order and a five-year-old Kyley smiled back at me. I felt like the air had just been knocked out of me. With each picture the tears fell faster until my body shook from my sobbing. I couldn’t look at any more. I went to place the pictures back in the box when the last picture in my small handful fell to the floor. I picked it up and for a brief moment I smiled and was surprised at my own spontaneous laughter as I gazed at the image. I laid the picture gently on top of the others and closed the lid, exhausted.

The next few days were excruciating. Life refused to stand still for me and I made feeble, half-hearted attempts at my daily routine. My inbox was overflowing and as I scanned through my e-mails, I stopped at one from my daughter’s aunt. She lived a few towns over and I hadn’t seen her since the funeral. I opened the e-mail and this is exactly what she wrote:

“Ok, last night I was going to sleep and Kyley came to me, she said to tell you she loves you. I don’t know if I was completely asleep, I felt sorta awake. She also wanted me to tell you something about a freezer? Not sure. I would have played it off, but she kept saying it. Not sure if it was ‘put something in the freezer’ or something about a freezer. She just said tell her, she’ll get it or know. Just thought I would let you know. You may think I’m crazy, but at the end she said, ‘You won’t tell her.’ so I had to tell you. Don’t think I’m nutzo, Ky made me do it. ;-)”

I sat there in disbelief. I read it one more time to be sure I wasn’t imagining it and then, when I felt it was safe and what I was experiencing was real, I began to cry. A happy cry, a cry that released so much of the hurt I had been holding onto.

I went to the closet and brought down the picture box. I lifted the lid and there it was sitting right on top where I had left it just a few days earlier. I smiled as I looked at the photo once again.

Several years ago, I had booked a camping trip for our family right in the middle of August, a blistering hot time of year in Texas. I rented a cabin at the park and figured we could always go indoors to cool down if we needed to. When we arrived I was horrified to discover the cabins were not air conditioned, nor did they contain any type of fan. We were miserably hot and after one sleepless night decided to cut our trip short. Before we left, being the comedian that she was, my daughter opened the freezer door of the refrigerator unit in the cabin, and stuck her head inside in a mock attempt at cooling down. I managed to snap a picture of her posing with her head in the freezer, the very same picture that days before had turned my cries into laughter, the very same picture I was looking at now.

“I love you, too, Kyley,” I whispered with a smile and a newfound lightness in my heart. “I love you, too.”

~Melissa R. Wootan

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