Sometimes I see her.
Other times I see him.
And most times I see them both.
I see her, standing a few feet in front of me in her favorite old red dress, curled hair set with hairspray and a light, happy smile brightening her face.
I see the pride beaming from her. And I instinctively know that she hears my songs in her head–the songs I’ve written while sitting at a piano. Songs I’ve written just because, and songs I’ve written because too deep feelings threatened breaking the tightly held surface of my soul.
I see those melodies and harmonies dance in the light of her eyes. See her sweet smile widen as she says, “I am proud of you, my baby’s baby.”
I see him, standing tall and proud.
Stubbornness lines his face, his chiseled features. But kindness lies in his softened eyes. Eyes that look into mine, a love there that I can’t describe. A love I won’t see for a while.
I see a memory that could’ve been. Of me as a little girl, my small frame snuggled up against his strong one as we lay on the floor in the living room. His head rests against the hard stone of the fireplace and his arm wraps around me, my golden brown hair spread across it.
I feel the peaceful joy radiating from him, the joy of holding close his youngest granddaughter. Of being able to simply be in that moment, cherishing one of his beautiful little ones.
I see them both.
Standing in front of me. No one else sees them but me. Their joyful smiles, their love-filled eyes. They stand close together, and I can see the love they have for each other as much as I see the love they have for me. For my brother.
For my entire family.
Tears fill my own eyes, even though the joy in my smile echoes their own.
I can describe them the way I seem them now, but I will never be able to tell you what color their eyes were, and if there were ever specks of different colors in them.
I will never be able to tell you what they smelled like.
How rich their laugh was.
How many laugh lines were around their eyes and mouths.
How my name on their lips sounds, how “I love you, Kaylee” sounds.
What things they liked and didn’t like.
I can never describe to you how her homemade food tasted. How his voice carried across both a silent and a loud room.
I can never describe to you how it felt to be loved by them. To go to their house–a house I have visited oh so many times during my childhood–and smell fresh-baked cookies and feel their arms wrap around me in a big hug.
I will never know what that is like . . . how it feels.
I can only describe to you what I see when I remember them, when I hear someone tell me how proud they would’ve been of my brother and me.
How Lynn Campbell would’ve been thrilled to pieces to hear me play piano and write my own songs. How Marvin Campbell would’ve loved to see my brother playing golf, the game he loves with such a ferocious passion it amazes me.
It would’ve amazed them too.
Would’ve made them beam with that pride that only grandparents can have toward their grandchildren.
I can only describe to you how I see them when I hear their names, when someone tells me one more tidbit about them that I try to fit into my incomplete puzzle of their picture.
A 2D puzzle of their image will never be able to compare to a 3D puzzle of their personality, though.
But until that day arrives when I will see them up in heaven, for now I will have to trust that God took them before I was born for a reason.
Maybe I had to learn that worse than the pain of having and losing love . . .
. . . is losing love before you ever had it, only to hear how great it was and how sad it is that you will never be able to have it.
Not for as long as you live.