A woman stares through two large bay windows. Her grandchildren litter a magnificent lawn with their infectious energy and youthful spirit. She smiles.
The timeline moves backward to when she was a child. She sits at a table daydreaming, her hair knotted from hours of outdoor play. She moves to the kitchen, where she sees faces long forgotten. Faces that made up a large part of her youth. Some she remembers fondly, others with less enthusiasm. Yet, she watches them just the same. Her favorite uncle, long since passed, hands her a cookie. He winks and sticks out his tongue. “You are the best,” he says as he always did. She hasn’t heard his voice in years. A tear drops from her eyes as she watches her young self tend to the garden with her uncle.
She moves forward to a time and place where her beauty is at its pinnacle. But she didn’t know it. She laughs as she watches her younger self worry over things that will never come to pass. She wants to tell her it will all turn out fine, but she knows she cannot. She is simply passing through life already lived. And so she watches as her younger self daydreams of a life not yet lived but longed for in a way only the young and foolish can.
She observes herself chasing her dreams with a fiery passion that’s intoxicating. More faces appear as she moves further down the timeline. Faces that made her both laugh and cry. She remembers to savor each moment. They are fleeting, designed to pass quickly before carrying on to the next destination. She watches her younger self dancing on stage with no pain in her body and no idea she will ever have it. Her eyes widen with pride as she bows to a standing ovation. She’s forgotten how much she’s accomplished.
The timeline continues forward, and she sees HIM. The man she fell in love with. The prince among toads. He stands on the stage where they first met. Her heart flutters at the sight of him. It’s the same feeling she had decades ago. She takes his hand. Their fingers intertwine, and she watches herself fall in love again. Tears flow from her weary eyes as she feels the passion, the joy, the pain, and the sorrow flip through the story of their love. It’s raining now, as it was that first day. They dance in the rain on Cornelia street before kissing in front of an obscure little restaurant relegated to memory. She smiles.
The timeline moves forward again. She is on a beach, her round pregnant belly ready to pop. She gazes at the sky, wondering if she will be a good mom. Her son is born. She hugs his baby body again, something she has dreamed about many times in his long life. He cries loudly. She puts his tiny hand in hers and whispers, “It’s okay, baby. I’m right here. And I will love you till the end of time.” He is silent. She takes in his smell. The feel of his soft skin. She kisses his head and thanks him for choosing her as his mom.
Time moves forward, and she takes her son to school for the first time. He clutches her leg and cries. “I don’t want to leave you.” She tells him he will be okay. “I just love you, mommy,” he says. She cherishes those words, remembering them often when overcome with a longing for the past. Her heart breaks, but she encourages him to go. Life is waiting for him. Forward they go, his little hand in hers. They talk about dinosaurs and monsters. They cuddle and play. His hand grows. He plays sports and hangs out with friends. He is taller than both of his parents. Time passes some more. He is no longer a child but a young man. He is getting married to the love of his life. She releases his hand to his bride.
The timeline moves forward again. Her mother waits for her under the maple tree in the town park. A place they often met. She sees her mother’s weathered face clearly, and she weeps. It’s been so long since she’s seen her, had the comfort of her voice, or felt the touch of her hand. She watches her middle-aged self walk with her mother in the early morning hour. She follows them, quietly taking in the moment, finally able to appreciate their talks, especially since it’s been years since they had one. Her mother wraps her arms around her and tells her how much she loves her.
A quick flash forward brings her into a vintage car with her father. A relationship that was strained for most of her life. She doesn’t recall the pain. Instead, she watches the car navigate a popular beach town. They go for coffee and shop for clothes. They try desserts from two restaurants before getting in the car again. They drive to the beach. Her father takes her hand in his. “You know how much I love you?” He asks. She didn’t before, but she does now. She pats his hand.
Her father fades with a wave of his hand, her mother with the blow of a kiss. Her husband holds his hand to his heart, reminding her not to be afraid. They fade into memory. She knew they weren’t gone. They were there the whole time; she’d only just forgotten. But she remembers now.
She is in the present moment. Her grandchildren litter the foot of her bed. Their faces are troubled. She wishes they wouldn’t cry. She winks at them. It will all be okay. A strong hand takes hers. She looks up. Her son is middle-aged and even more handsome than ever. He possesses a quiet strength, just like his father. He squeezes her hand. She knows this day will be hard for him. A tear rolls down her face as she stares into his eyes. She has done well. He is kind and just as beautiful inside as he is out. She wants him to know that we live many lives in our short time here on earth. That the days are long, but the years are short. She cannot speak, but her eyes tell him all he needs to know. She hopes he remembers. He brings her frail hand to his face. He kisses it.
A bright light shines through the bay windows. It isn’t the sun, so she doesn’t squint. The ghosts of her past gather around her bed. Some hold roses in their hands; others clap for her. She thanks each one for the blessings they brought to her life. Her mother holds her hand out. Her husband beckons her to come. She wants to reach out, but she can’t let go. Her son squeezes her hand once more. He whispers, “It’s okay, mom. I’m right here. And I will love you till the end of time.” She sighs. She lets go. She rises from her bed. She thinks about where she came from and where she might be going. She doesn’t know, but she isn’t afraid.
Surrounded by love, she floats away. Bright light envelops her. Her guardians meet her in the space between. They ask her what she learned from this precious gift of life. And, she smiles.
Only Love is Real.