We genuinely had fun that day and the pictures we took are among the best we’ve ever taken. We used most of them in the collage of family pictures my son and daughter set to music for Emma’s funeral. The framed pictures I took to London are put away. I can’t bear to look at them yet, but it brings me comfort to know that they’re there, that they are a permanent record of a joyous, fun-loving family that no longer exists in the way it did that day.
At first, I was glad I hated summer. Imagine if it was my favorite season and right there, in the middle of it, July 8 loomed large and loud and ugly. It would be one more blow I wouldn’t be able to bear, added to all the unbearable others – the phone call containing the worst possible thing… the viewing… the funeral… the first day of school with no one to help get ready for it….
Over time, memories of summer have found their way back in. In my effort to hold on to all things Emma, I recall filling the baby pool on the back porch and the delighted way she would splash around in it for hours. I recall that she, the only one of all my children, loved the shore as much as I did and found the same endless fascination with collecting shells and capturing sand crabs. I recall the bouquet of dandelions she never tired of picking and presenting to me for dinner’s centerpiece. I recall that she didn’t mind going to day care, either; she actually loved it. Always the social butterfly, Emma chattered contentedly each evening about all the cool things she and her friends did that day. I recall the first time she went to Ocean City, “alone” with two friends (and my sister to supervise). Oh how she loved that week, an almost grown-up enjoying the shore in a new way that only teenagers without their moms can. My sister? Not so much. The girls found boys within minutes of arrival and, though it’s a dry town and Emma was only 16, a six-pack of beer materialized regularly. I recall how beautiful she was in her summer wear – tan in her bikini, blonde hair streaming, the latest and greatest glittery flip-flops adorning her feet.
On the Fourth of July this year, I went with Rod to see fireworks for the first time in four years. The next night we had a cookout. Last night, we walked to a favorite ice cream place. All glorious summer things. Tomorrow, we will celebrate you, Emma. We will take a walk around Peck Farm, enjoying the billowy clouds in the blue summer sky. We will eagerly await pictures and texts from friends and family about what they did to honor you. We will hope that Facebook gets Emma-tized with lots of people changing their pictures to ones of you, if only for a day. We will try every minute to do more than just get by. We will try to enjoy summer the way you did for 19 years. It will never be my favorite season, but I will no longer close my eyes and wish my way through it. I will lean into it and remember that each day is special. I will work to embrace it, as you did, and live as you lived, loving each and every day.