By Wendy Hodge

Measuring time … it’s something we humans do in a thousand different ways. Days, weeks, and months on calendars, clocks that alarm and beep and remind of us what’s coming up every hour of the day, alarms that chime and ring from our phones and our laptops, and watches that send us our emails and texts and allow us to video chat with each other but still somehow manage to actually tell the time of day. Gods and angels have no need of marking time, for they exist on an “eternal today.” But we humans cling to these measurements, not just as a way to organize our lives, but as a way to remember and celebrate people we know and love. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries as a way to relive the past and to remind ourselves of the bonds we have with each other. And sometimes we honor people we’ve never met by marking a special day.
This week is Irene’s birthday. She would have been 53 this year, had she not fought a nine-year battle with cancer that took her away. I never met Irene, but since her passing I have met (and come to love) her family. She was married to my best friend for many years and together they had three daughters.
Their home is full of photos of Irene… some of her alone, some of her with her girls…. and in all of these her trademark smile shines as bright as a light.
Her oldest daughter has that same smile. Her middle daughter has her mother’s eyes. And the youngest has the same energy and spirit. When you talk to them one-on-one, they are their own individual person and look very different from each other. But, standing side by side, they are remarkably alike, and glow just as brightly as their mom did.
I have been honored to spend time with them all, and through them I have gained some insight into who their mom was. She liked bright colors and “painted everything in the house that stood still.” She loved the movie ‘The Man From Snowy River’ but preferred talking to someone over watching TV. She was an optimist who saw the good in everyone and never met a stranger. Her circle of friends was enormous, and it remains so to this day.
Her girls have made her proud by handling their grief with grace and by loving their dad in such a visible and fierce way. And their dad, my best friend, he has honored her every day she’s been gone by keeping his girls his first priority. He worries, overthinks and stresses, but he smiles, laughs and plays as well. And they know they are loved beyond measure.
It’s not easy for them. In fact, it’s the hardest thing they’ll ever face. But they are facing it together.
And I am aware of the delicate position I am in. I am aware of the privilege it is to witness their days and years. I am aware of the magnitude of the gift of time that I have been given. And I am grateful to Irene who gave her girls buckets of love to carry them through.
Happy birthday, Irene.
Wendy Hodge is an Opelika native, an empty nester and lover of all things Opelika. She previously had a column titled A Word or Ten, which was featured in the Tennessee Star Journal and is currently awaiting release of her first novel with Harper Collins Publishing Company.