The last item on my Montana agenda was to go through old photos and slides. There is something about photos that moves me in ways I can’t describe, especially old photos – photos I didn’t take and don’t know all the details to. I love the ability photos have of telling a story. They capture a moment in time and preserve it.

I went through boxes and boxes of slides from when my mom was young, slides I had never seen. She had a life before I knew her and it emerged from hundreds of slides. It was like Christmas for me. I looked through albums of my grandma when she was a child. Through those pictures, I can now visualize her young; her hairstyle, her body, her clothing, her home and siblings. Pieced together through several photos a mural started to emerge in my mind and I truly felt as though I came to know her better because of it.

I went through nearly 70 years of memories. And although a lot has changed in that period of time, many things were the same. My grandma is a very simple woman. She has never had a lot, and yet wants for nothing. As I hear her talk of “the best view in the whole entire world” from her bedroom window I am reminded of the simple nature of her pleasures. She loves to watch the hummingbird and chipmunk outside her kitchen window. If I didn’t better I would think that it’s just because she’s old. But I know her better than that, and I know that she’s always found pleasure in that. I saw picture after picture of her paddling in a canoe with her signature grin. Yes, it was primarily my grandpa’s passion, but she looked as though she enjoyed being in nature just as much. She’s had plenty of years to enjoy all that nature and life had to offer. I attribute her long life to such a simple and pleasing life.

I sat across from her the morning I left while she sipped her breakfast hot chocolate and admiration spilled over in my heart. She is a good woman. And although I’ve spent years going to her house and seeing her, I don’t think I truly ever “saw” her until this weekend. My desire to truly know her has come late in the game but I’m fortunate that time has been on my side. I am in a different position than I ever was visiting her in the past and it made all the difference. Her simple life is but a far-reaching destination for most, including myself. But there is such beauty in the simple life – I think this quote describes it best:

I sat with my smartphone at the table, checking my email, and flight status as her eyes wandered outside and she started telling me about the delicious fruit that grows on the tree that caught her eye. She described the flavor in detail with a smile across her face. I was slightly envious at her pleasure in such a small detail. Details that are often lost on me. I’m always pushing for the next bigger thing that I miss those quiet details. Right then, I decided to practice her acknowledgment of details and I started tell her about all the orange trees in our yard. I described them in detail the best I could. The blossoms, the smell, the taste…and she hung on every word. Clearly I didn’t give enough details, because she wanted to know more. What color are the blossoms? How long do they smell? How big are they? Are the oranges juicy? Do we eat all the oranges? I could see the picture that she was painting in her head with all the details and it was grand. She repeated over and over again how wonderful it must be, how delicious that is, and lucky we are. The details made a world of difference as she visualized it. To me they were orange trees, nothing more, nothing less. But the more I described them to her, the more grand they were in my mind as well.

I think she’s been so happy with very little because when you add up all the intricate details as she does it’s really so much more. I smiled across the table at her as this realization came to me. And again I thought, this lady is awesome. She has no clue what she has passed on to me but I could fill journals with all the thoughts and feelings that came to me while I was there.

As we prepared to leave I got butterflies – I gave her a hug with tears streaming down my face and whispered in her ear that I would come and visit next year and with all my heart I hope it’s true. I then sat and watched my mom say her goodbyes with tears running down her face – which was harder than my own goodbye. I could see the love pouring out between the two of them and it was tender. Nothing can replace the love and bond you have with your mother and it was evident between them. I could’ve hugged her another hundred times if there was time, but instead I walked out the door and looked back at her sitting in her chair at the kitchen table with a grin across her face and her arm waving.

I hope she’s in the same chair working on a crossword puzzle the next time I go to visit.