Always Let Them Catch You Laughing

Today’s post is in honor of my Aunt Manette who passed away a year ago at the ripe old age of 88. Over the days and weeks following her death I had the task of going through her belongings one by one. As I opened boxes of old pictures, letters and cards I was struck by how much I didn’t know about her. I thought I knew her story – she was my Aunt, my mother’s sister – but I was only looking at her story from my perspective. Her story was deeper and much more complex than I ever knew. She had an epic love story. She had great joys and deep sorrows. She held everyone’s secrets but didn’t share her own.

The stories that reveal themselves through what we leave behind are left with plot lines unfinished. They give us only a glimpse of who we are and what was important to us. Like many of her generation my Aunt saved everything. Some of it odd – the bottom of pants she had to hem. Some of it priceless – a handwritten letter from my great-grandmother to one of her daughters. Some of it perplexing – newspaper clippings about a murder that took place in New Orleans. (I would love to know the story behind this one.)

Always let them catch you laughing

The most indelible image that comes through all the boxes and pictures however, is of a woman with one simple rule for life – always let them catch you laughing. In today’s world of hyper-posed selfies and the ability to retouch photos to get just the right look, my Aunt’s caught in the moment, developed 6-months later pictures are the most authentic view of who she was. A woman with a ready smile on her lips. A woman with an infectious giggle. A woman with a light in her eyes.

Every picture shows her caught in the middle of a laugh. Not a posed, Victoria Beckham, catch me on the left, no smile image for her. No sir! Hers were the full-on big smile, teeth showing, crinkled eyes, living life in the moment images caught forever on old-fashioned Kodak film. They are great! Each one makes me smile. Each one gives me joy. Each one makes me miss her. Each one inspires me to laugh aloud every day.

The Three Questions

So in honor of my Aunt Manette I share this excerpt from my favorite children’s book "The Three Questions" by Jon J. Muth.

Nikolai felt great peace within himself. He had wonderful friends. And he had saved the Panda and her child. But he also felt disappointment. He still had not found the answers to his three questions;

  • When is the best time to do things?
  • Who is the most important one?
  • What is the right thing to do?

So he asked Leo one more time.

The old turtle looked at the boy. "But your questions have been answered!" he said.

"They have?" asked the boy.

"Yesterday, if you had not stayed to help me dig my garden, you wouldn't have heard the panda's cries for help in the storm. Therefore, the most important time was the time you spent digging in my garden. The most important one at that moment was me, and the most important thing to do was to help me with my garden."

"Later when you found the injured panda, the most important time was the time you spent mending her leg and saving her child. The most important ones where the panda and her baby. The most important thing to do was to take care of them and make them safe."

"Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world."

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What do your pictures say about you?