“Life’s precious, irreplaceable moments,” column for April 10, 2012

The grass is mowed, the porch is swept. The trees and shrubs are green with spring. All is exactly as I remember it. I have climbed these steps countless times, but it’s been a long time, some 30 years, since I climbed them with a baby.
Today I am carrying Henry, my daughter’s beautiful, dark-haired 7-month-old, who slept (thanks be to God) for most of the nearly three hours it took us to get here. He will probably be awake all night.
His mama is on our heels, dragging a diaper bag and other baby paraphernalia, plus two desserts (fruit tart and Boston Cream Pie, my favorite) to contribute to lunch, and a potted Easter lily to brighten the day for the woman she calls “Grandma Elsie.”
Within minutes, a second car will arrive, bearing my younger son, his sweet wife and Randy, their beautiful red-haired 20-month-old, who also slept most of the way, and will probably be awake all night, too.
This is Randy’s second visit to see “Grandma Elsie.” His mom and dad brought him to meet her soon after he was born. But for Henry, it’s a first. It’s been quite a while for me, too _ too long _ since I’ve taken the time, made the trip to see her.
Elsie was my first husband’s stepmother, and “grandma” to my children. She married my father-in-law the year before I married his son. They died, father and son, a year apart. Elsie and I were brides about the same time and 30 years later, we were widows. Suffice it to say we’ve shared some good talks and a lot of knowing looks.
This day will be something of a family reunion, a gathering of “in-laws,” people who spent years celebrating holidays and weddings and graduations together until life _ and death _ took us in different directions. We are connected, not by blood, but by history and affection.
Henry and I are greeted at the door by my sister-in-law Cindy, who not only has prepared lunch for all of us, but cannot wait to get her hands on Henry. I hand him over and start hugging my way through the house to find Elsie.
She is seated in the family room like a queen on a throne, wearing a crown of freshly coiffed snow-white hair. At 98, she looks much the same as she did 40 years ago, when she was still teaching third grade.
When she sees me, she smiles and her eyes well up. “Oh!” she says, “it’s so good to see you!” Then she adds, “You’ve cut your hair! You always wore it long!”
I am quickly upstaged by Henry’s appearance. Followed by Randy’s. She forgets me entirely to devote full attention to them. Not that I blame her.
For the next few hours, we will talk and laugh and eat the way families always do, reminiscing and telling stories, catching up on each other’s lives.
Then Elsie and the babies will begin to tire, and we will start packing up to go. Before I leave, I will take Elsie’s hands in mine and smile into her eyes and try to say what’s in my heart: That I’m glad for the years we were a family. That I’m grateful for her being “grandma” to my children. That I think of her every time I stuff a turkey (just the way she taught me) and wish that I could visit her more often.
We say goodbye knowing full well that it could be the last time we’ll see each other in this world. But we learned that lesson, Elsie and I, a long time ago. Life makes no guarantees. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.
All we have is this day, this hour, this moment, this one precious, irreplaceable time.
We shared it as a family.
And it was good.


  1. Rhonda Kutlich says

    Thank you so much for sharing this lovely story (April 10). I love all of your columns, but this one especially. Reading your stories makes my world a better place.

  2. As always, your article touched my heart!!! (April 10) Your insight into life and death is so moving. You and Elsie knowing that it may well be the last time you are together on this earth really rang true for me as I deal with those same feelings as I visit my Mother each day. She has severe alzheimers and I try as you say to embrace each day, each moment as if it could be the last with her. Thank you so much for your wonderful writings!!!

  3. Alice Anderson says

    Oh, Sharon thanks for taking me with you to Elsie’s . Whether it was an Easter visit or Elsie visit, it was so enjoyable. Our little celebration was here in ” our ” sixty year old house my late husband and I built with our young and strong hands for our three children. Two of them were here plus one guest. I was able and privileged to set a lovely table with our good china and and the old egg plate, as old as the Easter Bunny with COLORED, deviled eggs. The complete dinner, magically appeared with the arrival of my children, Fredrika, Miles, and Miles’ lovely Linda each bringing their own prepared specialty . There are nieces and nephews,cousins only an hour’s drive away but they are “busy people” who were probably too busy to remember their late father has two living sisters and others who continue to remember them as we celebrate.
    Whether yours was an Easter visit or an Elsie visit, thank you for including all the rest of us.

  4. Alice Anderson says

    Oh, Sharon what a beautiful reunion! I enjoyed it with you. Sorry to say our family is NOT growing. This Easter we were only 4, but I’m fortunate. Some tally ‘O.’ Some nieces and nephews are just too busy with so many ‘busies’ that they probably can’t remember that their Father also had 2 sisters (mine and me) still living only 50 miles, a phone call away. My sister and I are old enough to remember to e-mail. This season I did not e-mail out of town kin folk. I didn’t want to bother any busy relatives. My Sis and I e-mail (Texas-CA) several times per week or talk on the phone. I was not asked to do it but I did set a pretty table with my good china and beautiful colored Easter deviled eggs on the egg plate that is as old as the Easter Bunny. The day was lovely, alive with all the promises of the first Easter. Bless Elsie and her precious kin! Alice

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