It was a few years ago now. I gathered with my siblings in Kansas City to celebrate the life of our mother, Oma. She had died and we gathered from around the continent to give thanks for her life. Siblings, grandkids, friends. We were there sharing our connection with this one woman.
And we talked. We talked, remembered, laughed and cried. We told stories of our mother. We shared our experiences, each with different stories of gifts and discipline, of confrontation and affection. Each story was a brush stroke on the canvas of our memories--a stroke bold and dark, delicate and light, soft and gentle, edged and tough. With each story more texture and dimension was added to the memory's portrait of my mother's soul.
When we tell the stories of the moments of our lives we create a portrait of our souls. The moments of our lives remembered are placed on a canvas of memory and we try to understand what it means to be us. With each story we shared at our mother's memorial service, we added to the meaning we were making of our mother's life with us. As we heard friends talk and tell of her acts of kindness and her commitment to the "least of these" we filled in with color the sometimes faint images that childhood memories have.
It is in the human heart to seek meaning. We siblings each shared stories, painting fresh and complicated strokes on each other's canvases. As one spoke, the meaning of mother's life to the rest of us was shaded with more depth and character. When the story-telling and the memorial service was over, we all returned to our own homes with a portrait of our mother's soul more imprinted on our hearts. We each have our own understanding of our mother's meaning for our lives, and by sharing the stories of our lives with her, we enriched each other's portrait.