My mother had a saying that she was fond of whenever my siblings and I asked her for an opinion on clothes to buy or belongings to donate: "If you don't love love love it—" She never finished the sentiment, but it was always briskly implied: "Toss it," "Don't buy it," "Get rid of it," "Let it go."
Which is hilarious, because if you ever met Mary Jean Peters, you know that she love-love-loved everything. She loved the way your hair looked if you asked her. She loved that new bracelet you were wearing. She loved that TV show with Gary Chandler, whom she assured us was cute but not as cute as our dad. Nothing was really so lacking in value that she would throw it away. Regift it, occasionally. Donate it, maybe. This was the woman, after all, who created a dead-on Emperor Palpatine costume for my brother fifteen minutes before we had to leave for the Force Awakens opening out of nothing but a black cape, some eye shadow, and an old zombie mask. Everything could be repurposed, everything could be loved.
My mother felt that way about people, too. Although she had a difficult relationship with her father, she cared for him until his death, making him meals and keeping his medications in order. She loved all of her clients, remembering their names and families regardless of how often they came to her clinic. Any child under the age of five who visited her more than once a year was an honorary grandbaby of hers. She showered everyone she loved with gifts, homemade cookies, hot meals, and advice so good and important that sometimes, yes, she shouted it, a bit.
My mother lived her 79 years the way her faith actually dictated-by loving everyone in real, tangible ways. By always stopping thoughtfully around a mean word and reevaluating it. By always offering the best possible version of another person for consideration. And by giving constant hugs-the world's best hugs-the kind of hugs that made you realize you needed comforting only now that you were being comforted.
Once, when I was in high school, my mother asked me to get rid of two bags of clothing to donate to Goodwill. Once I'd filled the bags, she went through them item by item and protested losing every single one. "Not this top! It looks so good on you with those jeans."
Mom, I love love love you. And I'm not ready to let you go.
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