(This is a work of fiction inspired by a close friend)
I examined myself in the full length mirror, my eyes moving like dusk across a fading horizon. My husband had left me earlier that year, and my twin boys were away at college. For the first time in my adult life, I had time alone, and I honestly did not want it-not with that body and that face in front of a mirror of images closing in on me like midnight darkness.
I decided to take a shower and shampoo my hair-a ritual that had always made me feel better. I massaged my thick fro under the hard stream and used the unopened shower gel someone had given me the Christmas before. I got out slowly, determined to give each second new meaning. I brushed my teeth, flossed, gargled, moisturized my skin, and put on a white terrycloth robe. I sat in front of the fireplace, put clear polish on the nails of my fingers and toes, and sat comfortably in front of a burgundy flame. I was really trying not to feel sorry for myself, but it was difficult because I had never felt so lonely. My mind searched anxiously for meaning, switching from one random thought to the next. I couldn’t decide if I should prepare for my husband’s possible return or change the locks and move forward with my life. Then, I thought of my boys. They were going to be home in a few months. Yet, it was only autumn and much too soon to plan a holiday dinner for them or rewash their sheets. Finally, I thought I would call someone, but I had cut my close friends off decades ago. I couldn’t possibly call them now and ask them to pick up where we left off-where I left off. I conjured up feelings of worthlessness and regret, asking myself who I was and by whose standard I should define myself, by myself, alone.
After thirty-five years of marriage and nineteen years of motherhood, I had become my family. I was my husband and my sons. When I looked at them, I saw myself, and when they weren’t there, I saw nothing. Suddenly, I realized I had not completed anything that would have given me a personal sense of accomplishment. I had unused gym memberships, twelve more credits to earn my college degree, a failing courier business, and a collection of items I had planned to put to good use some day. Now, that it was someday, I had lost all motivation. I felt I had grown too old, too unattractive, and too unintelligent to accomplish anything. Yet, in a deep and almost unreachable part of me, I felt there was a purpose that remained unexplored all my life.
Well, that night, in front of the fire, a voice spoke to me with more feeling than sound. It moved through my body like an approaching storm and loved me more than I had ever been loved before. It told me to stand up and reexamine myself. I moved from the fire and stood in front of the full length mirror again, remembering a phrase my grandmother had told me years before: “We all gotta a job to do, and if we don’t know what it is, we better talk to God about it.” My grandmother was never fancy with the way she said things, and she was uneducated and full of southern slang, but she was the most wise and most virtuous woman I had ever known and undeniably the most beautiful-no frills, pure virtue.
I held both sides of the mirror, dropped my head and prayed. I talked to God incessantly in a voice that reminded me of my grandmother’s. When I opened my eyes, I discovered I was so much more than who and what I saw. I was a representation of past, present, and future generations. I was my mother’s laugh and father’s smile. I was my Aunt Betty’s song and dance, my Uncle Ray’s sense of adventure, and my grandfather’s strength and keeper of stories. I was the family stabilizer and teacher who would be a warm lap, soft arms, and wisdom to my grandchildren. As for my grandmother, I was her voice and her Amen.
As a family, we had endured centuries of dysfunction and adversity. Yet, we were all fine miracles of genealogy, wonderfully and divinely made, given specific duties to help others and reflect God’s glory. We did not always reflect His glory, and some of us died before we completed our duties. However, I knew there were still generations to save. With that revelation in mind, I prayed and studied myself for an hour in front of the full length mirror with my reflection like day, breaking before me.