Today, January 30, 2015, would have been my mom's 80th birthday.
As I write that, I'm struck by the words "would have been."
I used to say that kind of thing often. For instance, if Allison and I went to an event like the Music Lovers' House Tour (where you go around and view fancy homes to raise money) or the Miniatures Show (with displays of miniature houses, people, clothing, etc.), I'd say, "Mom would really have loved to do that with us!" The unstated implication, though, was "We'll do that again some day when she can come with us."
Those "would haves" have changed.
Richard and Allison and I go to the Barra MacNeils' Christmas concert and afterward we say "Mom would have loved that!" -- but she won't be going to any concerts with us.
I go to Value Village and pick up a few nice things at ridiculously cheap prices and think, "I would have loved to call Mom and tell her all about my finds" -- but I can't.
I publish a blog post that seems to strike a chord with people, and I think, "Wouldn't Mom have loved to read this?" -- but she won't be reading any more of my posts.
Dad surprises us by picking up the phone and ordering Christmas gifts for his kids from PEI Preserve Company (currently we're enjoying the blueberry-raspberry jam on our toast every morning) and I think, "Mom would have been proud of Dad for doing that on his own" -- but of course he wouldn't be doing it at all if she was still here.
"Would have" is a strange world to navigate. It's a sad place because everywhere you turn there are reminders of what won't be. Yet it's also a joyful place because doing the things that person would have loved make you feel closer to them for just a moment.
Mom, I would have phoned you today to wish you a happy birthday. I'd probably have made some joke like "I hope the next 80 years are just as good as the first 80." But I won't be calling. I still can't quite believe that's true. It's OK, though. I know you are celebrating now, in a place where there is no such thing as a sad "would have been."
"In My Father’s house are many dwelling places;
if it were not so, I would have told you;
for I go to prepare a place for you."