(Written Monday, June 6th)

Yesterday we went to church with Grandma & Grandpa up on the mountain. I had built it up in my head until it had become this fearful thing that was to be dreaded. And like so many things, I walked away wondering why I had spent so much time & energy worrying about it. We sang the old songs – I’ll fly away, jesus hold my hand – all those hand-clapping songs that had Sadie bobbing her head with her curls bouncing in time to the music. The sermon was a visiting pastor from Poland, & between watching the interchange between the Polish-speaking & his interpretor & juggling Maggie & Sadie through a 2.5-hour service, there was little time to feel harassed or angered. But when I’m completely honest, I know that I probably would have felt violated if someone had been screaming across the pulpit. But that wasn’t the case & for that, I was grateful.

Afterwards, person after person came up & hugged us & talked to us about Mama. They were so genuinely happy to have us there, & I didn’t feel even the slightest wave of judgment from anyone. It was warm & caring & the best experience that we could have imagined.

hand-smocked by my mother

And the highlight: a lady named Freida hugged me & wondered aloud at how coincidental it was that I was there. She asked about Rose & explained that when her daughter was born 32 years ago, that Mama had hand-smocked a christening gown & matching bonnet for her. When Jennifer was pregnant with Maggie, this lady searched for the gown with the intention of giving it to Jennifer, but couldn’t find it. And just last week, she discovered it, boxed & preserved, ready for the next baby. She asked me if I would like it for baby Rose, & I felt the tears coming. I asked if she was sure she didn’t want to keep for her own grandbabies since her daughter had worn it, & with tears in her eyes, she shook her head & said “I’m pretty sure Denise would rather her own grandbaby wear it. I think it’s meant for Rose.” And I sobbed & she cried, & hugged me & told me that I reminded her so of my mother.

And that was worth all the anxiety leading up to the weekend… funny how sometimes things happen just the way they’re supposed to.

My cousin’s graduation party was Saturday, and instead of nerve-wracking people, it was primarily neighbors & friends. A lady named Margaret, Grandma’s next door neighbor, was sitting at one table while I was at the other. I laughed at something that Maggie said & Margaret’s head flew up, startled. She exclaimed “Who was that laughing? That sounded just like Deedee.” Later she came up to me & hugged me, telling me how much I reminded her of Mama, & how much & how often she was missed by so many.

Later than night, Uncle Rocky told Grandma that when he caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye, or heard me laugh, it made him want to cry because it was so much like Denise. Coming from Uncle Rocky, who rarely speaks of Mama (that I know of, at least), I know just how sincere & heartfelt that comment is.

There’s no greater compliment than for someone to tell me that I remind them of my mother.

I’ve cried so much on this trip. I feel a connection with Mama, like she’s reaching out to me through these kind, simple people who loved her so much more than I ever realized.