I stand silently, almost reverently, in the garden where I grew up. A light mist hovers over the grass, waiting patiently for the rising sun to burn it off, to disperse it and herald in a new day, clear, bright and sunny, one of those days you remember from your childhood.
I watch my mother stooped over the flowers she's planting and smile to myself. She always was an early riser, out and about with nature while everyone else still slept. As a young girl, I remember some of my little friends nervously asking me if she was a witch.
My eyes were drawn to her hands as she toils, working loose the root system of the small shrub she's planting. I smile sadly to myself. Every line on her old hands was earned, could tell a story. Each line leads into another, forming a spider's web of her life, a road map showing all her journeys and destinations. If anything, they validate her life.
I find myself wondering how many of those lines are there because of me...because of the work I caused her. I know though, that she doesn't regret a single one. She told me once that they are the lines of life, that they show you've lived.
"Hello, Mom..." My voice is hushed by the still morning air. Her head turns slowly and she smiles up at me. It's the smile only a mother can have for her child, a love and pride there that can only ever show when a mother's eyes rest on her child, no matter what age that child is.
I return her smile, tears forming in my eyes. "I've missed you so much. I'm so sorry I was away for so long."
She doesn't need words as she sits back and gives me her full attention. I gaze at her long and hard, committing every detail to my memory. "Oh Mom, there were so many times out there that I longed for your arms to hold me, so many times I needed to just be hugged by you, to talk to you and ask your advice."
She watches me sadly as I sink to my knees beside her. "I know I achieved so much out there, Mom, but I also lost so much. So many years lost here and I can never get them back." I shake my head, dislodging my tears.
"I missed you so much and I missed everything about you. I missed your scent, your presence, the smell of your baking..." I can't say anything else. My throat closes up. She just sits and gives me the time I need.
"Every moment of my life with you lives within me, Mom. I remember it all. The clothes you wore and the way your hair was..." I shrug. "All those images live within me. It's like I can flip through an album of holo images in my mind. The strength and feel of your hugs and kisses. Your perfume. I remember dressing up in your clothes and trying to walk in your shoes..."
My eyes drop down to her hands, her fingers. I know the feel of those hands and fingers so well. "You spent so many hours brushing out my hair with those hands, Mom, your fingers teasing out the tangles I always came home with." I look up and see her nod her head and smile at me, that special smile reserved only for me and my sister. "You did everything for us. We had so much. You were always working...for all for us...sewing, knitting, cooking, cleaning..." I swallow loudly. "Were you happy with that life, Mom?"
She smiles her answer to me but I already knew the answer. Even in the modern world, all Mom ever wanted to do was be a wife and mother and she was never ashamed of that dream. While her friends took off in exciting careers in science and medicine, Gretchen Janeway lived the life of her girlhood dreams. I know she never regretted a single day. Well, she never wanted to be widowed but she wouldn't have changed anything else.
"You taught me so much, Mom. All the important things, the really important things, I know because you taught them to me. You taught me the meaning of love, about the respect that has to go with it. I watched you with daddy and learned what a real marriage is about. You raised me and Phoebe and taught me all I'll ever need to know about being a mother..." I sniff and lick at my lips.
"You gave me my first book and taught me to read it, read to me before I could do that for myself. You held me when I hurt myself and fixed my cuts and bruises and then later, when the bruises weren't visible, when some stupid boy broke my heart, you held me again and fixed those too..." I smile at the memories.
I manage a smile and draw in a deep breath. "I'm married now, Mom. I married my First Officer, Chakotay." I laugh. "I'm not sure what daddy would have made of that, but somehow I think he'd approve." I drop my head to the side and move my hands to my stomach.
"You're going to be a grandmother again, Mom. I know you have Phoebe's two and now you're going to have another one." I think I see tears in her eyes.
"The wife I am and the mother I pray I'll be is all down to you, Mom. I just wanted you to know that. You made me every good thing that I am..." My throat tightens up and tears pour down my face as I look at her.
I jump as a hand gently settles on my shoulder. "Kathryn..." My name in a whisper of love. I nod slowly and look up into the face of my dear husband. He smiles lovingly and sits down beside me. "Are you all right, honey?"
I nod. It's all I'm capable of. I look over at my wonderful Mom, the mist blurring her image, or is it my tears?
Chakotay slips his arm around me and pulls me to him. "I'm so sorry we didn't get back in time for you to see her before she died."
He tilts my face up to his. The love and understanding there stuns me. "Did you tell her everything you wanted to?" He knows. He understands.
I can't speak. I fight my tears but he shakes his head at me. "Let them fall, Kathryn. Tears for those we love are a sign of how much we love them. Never be ashamed of them. Be proud of them."
That breaks me and I fall into his arms and cry for my mother for the millionth time, always in his arms. He says nothing and just holds me, comforting me in the way that only he can.
When the storm begins to pass, he eases me back from him. He leans in and kisses me softly. "I'll leave you to say your goodbyes. I'll wait at the house for you." Oh God, this man.
I nod and brush a kiss to his lips. "Thank you..."
I turn back to the image of my loving mother, the woman who created me, gave me life in every sense of that word. Her image begins to fade in my eyes now but she's still smiling.
"Thank you for everything you've ever given me, Mom. I hope I made you proud. Wherever you are, I hope I continue to make you proud." I manage to get to my feet and look down at her. I look at her hands again and then at my own. They're her hands, in shape and size, and I pray that my child will someday look at my hands with the same love and memories.
I look back into her dear face one last time and smile, my tears falling freely and unashamedly. "I love you, Mom. It's not goodbye because I know you'll always be with me and that I can talk to you anytime." I see her smile her love and I know. I know everything. This is something where no words are ever needed.
As I stand and watch, her image begins to disappear. It fades from my sight but I feel it fill my heart. The sun rises and the mist leaves. A faint breeze blows and for just a moment, my Mom's scent surrounds me. I look to my right to where her Jasmine is flowering and shake my head. She wore that scent her entire life, just as I do. I could tell myself that the scent which fills my nostrils is from the shrub, but then I know these flowers only spread their scent in the warmth of the evening.