Most of the 'session' looked like this:
Occasionally we captured a rare moment like this:
After about an hour of playing and chasing and singing and cajoling, Coco and I left the gardens hand-in-hand. A sweet woman who had been exercising around the perimeter the entire time stopped us as we passed through the garden gates, "May I take your picture?"
"Oh," I stammered awkwardly, "I don't think, I mean, I didn't really dress..." I had no words to explain how this is day three without washing my hair and I'm in my 'mommy play clothes' and I didn't really shower this morning...
Patiently and kindly she insisted. "It's a memory of mother and daughter. You'll be glad you did one day. Pick any spot in the garden. I'd really like to do this for you."
I smiled and said my warmest thank you, really and truly grateful for a stranger to demonstrate so much thoughtfulness. Coco got into the spirit of things right away and took off scampering to her favorite spot at the back of the garden, "Let's go to the house!" and plopped right down on the bench. She intuitively sensed the importance of this moment, long before I warmed up to the idea.
Following behind, Kathy and I introduced ourselves. She carefully took several pictures for us, making sure I checked them before we got up.
Snap, snap, snap.
Walking back through the garden, I again thanked Kathy for her generosity. She simply replied, "I lost my son four months ago. I know how important these moments are." She shared with strength, deep pain, yet no bitterness.
Fighting tears streaming down my face I said, "I am so very sorry." Then very quietly, "How old was your son?"
"He was 39 years old. A police officer."
We hugged for a long time.
And as our impromptu photo shoot ended as unceremoniously as it had started she told me, "Thank you for letting me do this for you today. It brought me great joy."
I was completely humbled. In the midst of this woman's tremendous loss of a son, a pain no mother should feel, she chose a selfless act of entering into our moment of joy. And not just entering, but celebrating.
Chloetta, in less than a week you turn three. Perhaps I will get a more conventional three-year-old post blogged soon; the one where I get to to share how wonderful you are and all the things you do and how so dearly loved and delighted in and so on and so forth. Yes, that time will come soon. But today, I feel it's more important to quietly ponder the precious moments we've had and, God-willing, will continue to have together. It is a time to reflect on the powerful response of a stranger acting out of love and kindness, even in the midst of suffering and grief. My prayer for you is to love others with such grace in spite of any pain you encounter this side of Heaven.
Coco-belle out of all the pictures we've taken over the years as mommy and daughter; this one might always be my favorite:
Even if you aren't smiling.
I love you,