You are Beautiful on the Inside and Out. I am Proud of You. I Love You."

My intention for this evening was to attend the OSMS Spring Pageant. To do the Youth Pastor thing and support my lil chicas as they paraded across the stage. To cheer them on, hug the anxious mamas, and soak in the beauty of the moment. To snap pictures with each one and whisper in their ear, "You are beautiful on the inside and out. I am proud of you. I love you."

However a blanket of sadness wrapped so tightly around me that eventually all I could do was pull the covers over my head, curl up in the safety of my bed, and attempt to sleep it off.

The pageant weekend will forever mark the final hours I would keep company with my Mom. She had come down to stay with me and help ready Chloe girl to walk out on that stage one last time. If I had only known...Famous last words.

It's hard to conjure up much from those final moments. She had a long and busy week at the office. She raced into town Saturday afternoon just in time. Road over to Long Beach with us so my cousin, Suzie, could doll up Chloe's hair. I can't remember much of the drive. I remember her wanting a Diet Sprite. I left the salon and drove over to the Dollar General and got her one. I do recall her wanting to take the beach on the way back. So we did. She was ever so fond of the coast. Often talked about moving back home. Buying a house by the water. Spending more time with her grands.

I recall she hovered around the vanity as I went to work on Chloe's make up. Making suggestions: "More mascara. More blush. Brighter lipstick." I remember we could barely get Chloe's dress zipped. It took both of us to squeeze her tiny little body into a tiny little dress with a great big cupcake bottom that had been taken up a tiny bit too much.

Of course Mom was the one that remembered flowers. As I left with Chloe and  her dress stuffed into the back seat of my SUV, she ran to Winn Dixie and returned with a beautiful bouquet of love to communicate to our little darling: "You are beautiful on the inside and out. We are proud of you. And we love you so very much." That was Mom's signature line: "I love you so very much." I've heard it a thousand times and would give the world and every thing in it just to hear those words one last time.

We were overwhelmed with love and pride watching Chloe glide across the stage. She had an angelic glow and we giggled with pure joy at how beautiful she looked. People sitting around us unaware that she was ours, kept saying: "That little one in white is going to win it!" We would just look at each other and laugh.

As the "winners" were crowned I held Mom's hand. 4th Runner up. 3rd Runner up. 2nd Runner up. And finally! "Number 12. Chloe Kirby, 1st Runner Up!" We jumped up and clapped wildly. Then came the flood of pictures.  Congratulatory hugs and kisses. And managing to get her out of the white dressed while stuffed in a tiny restroom backstage.

We then shared our final meal together. The Last Supper. Chips and salsa, "white dip" as Bre calls it, and my Mom got something "different" than she normally gets. I can't recall what it was, a chicken dish, but she barely ate any of it. Mom was antsy. It was late. She was ready to leave right when we sat down. Little did I know what was really going on: Mom was just ready to go home.

And that was the cold, steely reality that pierced through my heart and pinned me to my bed this evening.  I miss her desperately, and my only solace is she is finally home.

I really do wish I could have been there to congratulate Lizzy, Bailey, Alexis, Jenna, Jane Alice, Maura Kay and the entire parade of beauties that graced the stage. I would have told you: "You are beautiful on the inside and out. I am proud of you. I love you."


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