Flowers and Memories: Mom’s Tenth Deathiversary

On the day of Mom’s memorial service in January 2008, most of my five siblings and their partners, our three nieces and I had lunch together, then took fresh flowers down to the end of the Goderich beach Cove. It was a very mild January, which meant the lake was open and we could walk out on the boulder break wall, away from anyone else that might have been visiting the beach on a midweek winter afternoon.

We huddled together in our funeral clothes, said some words and prayers, then we each took a flower or two, stepped closer to the water and tossed them in. Most of us didn’t get the chance to say goodbye, so in a sense we did it as we dropped those flowers into Lake Huron and watched them float away.

In the years that followed, we had a few other such memorial gatherings. including the one I wrote about in a post called First Deathiversary.


Tonight, we gathered again, this time to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Mom’s death.

Our group has grown since that first private memorial. It now includes two new partners, five more kids, and Dad. His presence alone is resounding evidence of the change that a decade has brought our family. Ten years ago, Mom and he had been divorced for a few years, and had a contentious relationship. And I wanted nothing to do with him. But here we are — Mom’s gone and I once again have a relationship with my father.

As we stood in the cold winter dusk on the Menesetung Bridge above the Maitland River facing Lake Huron, we talked about what it was like as young adults to lose our mother and mother-in-law. We were issued a notice to vacate Mom’s low-income rental unit by the end of the month, and we had two weeks to pack up the place that had been home for about 10 years. My second youngest brother, who was still a teenager, was forced to move, and never did finish high school. I had to find an apartment, buy a car, get insurance, and do all that adult stuff for the first time in my life. My sister-in-law Laura recalled someone saying to her at Mom’s funeral that losing a parent is tough at any age, and how she wanted to respond that they were wrong, that losing a parent young has to be tougher.

Losing our youngest brother 18 months later was a sort of bookend on an extended season of grief, undoubtedly the worst season in any of our lives.

A family without a mother is kind of like a rudderless boat. We’re all floating, but some of us still feel a bit lost in the ocean of life without Mom. She was the pillar of our lives, the anchor. We try to take care of each other, but we can’t do it as well as she would have. Without her advice and gentle guidance, we can only hope that we are growing into people she would have been proud of.

As much as we don’t want to get mired in sadness and grief, we also don’t want to forget. We mention her to her grandkids, because we want her legacy to live on. We mourn the fact that they will never know their Nana and she will never know them, but we tell them about her and in doing so bring her memory to life.

We think of all those happy and heartbreaking moments we’ve lived without Mom there to walk beside us. The weddings. The funerals. The babies. The graduations. The moves and renovations. The fights, the reunions.

Being a mother now myself, I can’t imagine missing out on all of those moments. A decade of moments. A lifetime of moments.


Now, back home, as I wind down this evening of memories and get ready to join my husband and baby son in bed, I look forward to what our commemorative gathering will look like ten years from now. More partners, more babies, more flowers: more love!

 

Photo by Peter Koopmans, taken on Menesetung Bridge overlooking the Maitland River as it flows past the Goderich salt mine and into Lake Huron

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Hindsight tattoo

Hindsight Lives On: Happy Birthday, Mama!

Today would have been my mom’s 58th birthday; she died of breast cancer four and a half years ago.

Recently, a new friend asked what it is like: do I miss her every day? What kinds of things do I miss about her? What things do I remember?

I don’t miss her every day, but I do miss her often.

I miss her most when I’m gardening or cooking, because those were two of the things she loved to do most. I plant petunias and impatiens and begonias because she did. I make potato salad her way. I remember her words about how to wash a turkey or not to roast tomatoes in a metal pan.

On our birthdays, Mom would always ask us what we wanted for dinner and what kind of cake we wanted. Yes, she always gave us gifts, too, but the cake and dinner is what I remember and miss the most.

Today it is her birthday. She probably would have wanted coffee-flavoured cake with hazelnut icing. Or just some sour cream glazed donuts from Tim Horton’s, accompanied by coffee, of course.

(Have I mentioned that I started drinking coffee at 16 because my mom did? Little did she know the monster she created…)

Like I said, hindsight lives on.

Hindsight is always 10%

BFF

Celebrations: Birthdays and Best Friends

I know that I’ve been posting “Celebration” posts on Sundays, but sometimes there’s a good reason to switch it up.

BFF
Us a year ago, celebrating Gina's birthday

A best friend is a good reason.

Today, my bestie has a birthday. I’d tell you how old she’s turning, but it’s impolite to discuss a lady’s age.

I met Gina when we were 19. I won’t tell you how long ago that was…. but it wasn’t recently.

We were bunk mates in a fifth-floor room of a concrete building in Monterrey Mexico, participants in a missions training course with YWAM. Unfortunately for Gina, I was on the top bunk. I had a penchant for snacking late at night, and putting hard objects (books and picture frames) under my pillow. Gina would wake up to find crumbs and my boyfriend’s face on her pillow. Sorry, G!

The following year, we found ourselves roommates in a nearby apartment. That was probably where our friendship was forged, over taxi rides and grocery-shopping and quesadilla-making. We took those quesadillas with us when we left Mexico. I introduced them to my family, and then my boyfriend, and then his family. Sometime after my strict no-grains, no-cheese, no-beans diet, I hope to introduce them to my boyfriend’s friends, too. My siblings ask for them for their birthday dinners sometimes. Mmmm, melted cheddar and refried beans with salsa in a toasted tortilla!

(Side note: I just had to add “quesadilla” to my WordPress dictionary. Shame.)

We were in Mexico together for about four and a half years, one or two of those years of which she was my boss. And my best friend. Not the easiest relationship, but we made it through. We experienced a lot of life together: traveling through Mexico and the USA several times, gained and lost love, soul-searching, uncertainty, victory. We translated, drove vans, hiked through mud, did skits in the rain, played with kids, cooked, cleaned, sang, and so much more.

Friends
One of our birthday gatherings last year

Then, I moved home and then to Hawaii to work on a different project with the same organization, and then home again. She stayed in Mexico for a while, then moved to Maryland.

Every year, we try to get together at least once. Last year we were lucky enough to see each other three times! Each time, it’s as if no time has passed. We spend hours talking about our days in Mexico, reminiscing and catching up on the latest gossip about our former co-workers.

This time last year, another friend and I surprised her by showing up at a work lunch in Maryland. I wish I could be there this today, but G, you’ll just have to accept this blog as a birthday gift instead.

Happy birthday, Gina! Here’s to many more years of happiness and friendship. I love you!

Recipes and Memories: Mom’s Cream of Broccoli Soup

My mother used to make the most amazing cream of broccoli soup. Everyone loved it. Except those that didn’t like broccoli soup, I suppose. But a nice bowl of thick creamy broccoli soup, topped with cheese and salt and pepper… mmm!

I have wanted to try to make mom’s broccoli soup for years, but have never gotten around to it – until today.

As with most of her best recipes, this one was typed and printed back in the nineties, on our family’s first computer, a good old MS-DOS version with a crude word processing program.

Broccoli Soup Recipe

Of course, 4 servings was never enough for my family, so this recipe was always quadrupled.

First step: Broccoli.

broccoli bunch

Rinse. And chop:

chopped broccoli

I don’t think it needed to be chopped so fine… but live and learn.

The recipe calls for 2 cups, so naturally I chopped 8.

measured broccoli

I didn’t intend to quadruple it… but I did. I have always done better at cooking for several rather than one or two.

Put in a big pot with hot water, chicken bouillon (I used packets instead of cubes), a bay leaf, and chopped onion.

bay leaves

Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

broccoli soup stock

Meanwhile, start the white sauce that will make the soup creamy. Melt butter in a saucepan:

melting butter

Add milk or cream to the butter. I only had skim milk, which I wouldn’t recommend. Or, if I were to use it again, I would use less than it calls for, so the white sauce is thicker.

milk

Then, stir in some flour. I only had whole wheat flour, which, again, is less than ideal for a soup like this, but I feel better knowing it’s at least healthier.

flour

When the broccoli stock is tender, puree it in a blender, then add the stock to the white sauce and reheat.

soup cooking

All that remains is to serve and enjoy!

bowl of soup

I ate mine with grated sharp cheddar, and salt and pepper.

Mmm.

Here’s the recipe so you can enjoy it yourself:

recipe

 

 

Who’s the Dirty Birdy?

I love the chance to snoop without repercussions. Don’t you?

Today, you get to snoop in my medicine cabinet. Heck, I’ll even give you a tour.

Behold, the medicine cabinet of a girl living alone:

Medicine Cabinet

Yes, this cabinet is not the prettiest one you’ve ever seen. It needs some new paint, and, well, it needs to be cleaned. There you go – some dirt on me!

Top shelf, left to right:

  • Stub of a candlestick (faintly visible white thing). I have no idea why anyone would keep the stub of a candlestick. Perhaps in the event that the power goes out and I forget entirely how to get back to the rest of my apartment?
  • Sink plug which I only ever use if I need to soak something in the sink. What things I might soak in the sink I don’t want to say.
  • Vapo-Rub, or, should I say, Rexall’s Vapourizing Chest Rub. Yes, there are still people that have this product. No, I don’t use it. Hardly ever, anyway. But I do have some very comforting memories of my mom heating flannel cloths in the oven on cold winter nights, rubbing our chests with Vick’s Vapo-Rub, and then tucking a warm cloth between the mentholated goop and our pj’s. Ahhh.
  • Matches. To light the candle stub, of course. Ahem.
  • Two cheap-o plastic containers that contain a bunch of junk I never use and practically never look at, including white nail polish, tongue studs from way back when, dental floss (don’t tell my dentist), and old cheap earrings. Oh, and nail clippers, which I do tend to use regularly.

Middle shelf:

  • The tiny white package on the very left is a sample from Sephora that I haven’t opened yet. I may never open it.
  • Thus begins the gamut of my skin care regimen by Aloette (which I really enjoy and would definitely recommend): the night cleanser (Essential Cleansing Oil), which does a bang-up job of taking off make-up, too.
  • Toner is next. I am so fascinated with how the cotton pad can come off that particular shade of scuzzy grey, even after I have just washed and rinsed my face.
  • That lovely light pink stuff is actually body lotion, called Hand and Body Silk. It’s pretty fantastic: smells refreshing, rather than perfume-y, and is especially nice if you use it as a shaving lotion on your legs, though I’ll warn you that it will clog your razor.
  • Crammed in next to each other there are lotions, one for day and one for night. I use the lotion for day, because otherwise my face gets too oily. The creme is for night – it’s thicker. Yes, I do think it’s worthwhile to have two creams, especially during the winter, when skin tends to get a bit scaly. A thick night cream helps prevent that flaky skin that I tend to get around my nose when I have a cold.
  • Tucked in behind the lotions is Moroccan Oil, the newest addition to my beauty arsenal. It’s a very popular hair product that many swear by, though I’m not convinced it’s for me. Shame, because it cost me about $40.
  • The tiny tube is eye cream. I’m guilty of not using it every day, even though my mother said I should. It’s just one extra step that I keep thinking isn’t really necessary… yet. When I get crow’s feet, I will wish I had been putting it on every day since turning 5.
  • The small bottle with a pump is called Time Repair Serum. I think it’s to prevent my skin from aging, but in the meantime, I feel like it helps keep my skin nice and smooth. Or maybe that’s the same thing.
  • Behind the Time Repair is Visible Aid, a first-aid cream that really does a great job at helping heal cuts and scrapes and burns.
  • Thus ends the Aloette parade. Next in line is a character that needs no introduction, other than: “nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea,” the latter of which, of course, a lady never gets.
  • Last and certainly least used seeing as how it’s redundant, another toner, this time by Aveeno. From when I used to use an Aveeno cleansing regimen. I presume it won’t go bad…

Bottom shelf:

  • Avon “moisture effective” eye makeup remover lotion: a staple practically since I started wearing makeup. It’s cheap and effective, so why switch it up? In case you’re interested, I found out yesterday that it’s on sale for $0.99 right now! Time to call your Avon lady…
  • Hidden in the back left corner is a shine product for my hair which I obviously never use. But should, no doubt.
  • Next is something that could be slightly embarrassing because it’s not something most people would buy: a crystal deodorant stick. I got it from a health food store, then stopped using it because, well, I like Degree antiperspirant a lot, and had always used it. But, a couple of VIPs in my life reminded me that it’s worth it to not smell “shower clean” in exchange for using something that hasn’t been linked with breast cancer (antiperspirant, FYI). So, I made the switch, and only use antiperspirant if I have forgotten deodorant somehow. It’s different, sure, and has no smell, but it really works, and I feel much better about the whole scenario. Worth a try, both for men and women!
  • After that whole diatribe about MY deodorant, here’s a spare stick for my boyfriend. Sometimes, you just need an extra dab or two.
  • Clearly, my cotton supplies are low. Typically, those three jars contain, from left to right, cotton pads, Q-tips, and cotton balls. I need a trip to the drugstore.
  • The bottle in the corner with the pink on it is an ear-care product that has gotten me through several infections. Available at Claire’s, I believe.
  • And front right, a generic cream to help heal scars. Exotic, right?

There you have it: a sneak peek inside my medicine cabinet. Nothing crazy. And now you don’t have to worry about being caught in the act someday when I throw a dinner party and put marbles inside the medicine cabinet to embarrass the snooper. YOU’RE the “dirty birdy”, not me (thanks, Clinton Kelly, for that fabulous idea).

Four years later…

Every January 13, for the last four years, I set aside time to remember.

I buy flowers, one for each of my immediate family members, look for open water in or leading into Lake Huron, then I trek out to somewhere cold and snowy to toss the flowers into the water, just like my siblings and I did the day of our mother’s memorial service in January 2008.

On this date 4 years ago, my mom died after breast cancer had wreaked havoc on her body for about two years.

She was the strong tower of my life in many ways, and my life has never been the same since.

So, on this day every year, I write Mom a letter, telling her about what is happening with me and why I miss her. And I remember.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mama,

It’s a cold night in Goderich tonight. It’s been a very weird winter: yesterday I wore sneakers to school and today there is snow blowing everywhere. It was cold enough that I didn’t want to linger, or make Johnathan linger with me, out on the pier in the bitter wind, after we tossed your flowers into the rough water.

A freighter is being loaded with salt at the beach, even though it’s getting late into the evening. That’s one of the things that is the same about Goderich, though many things are different.

Perhaps you watched from above, but in case you missed it, shortly before your 58th birthday, on an otherwise beautiful Sunday afternoon, an F3 tornado hit our beautiful town. It came up from the beach, damaging parts of the salt mine and killing the man operating the equipment that carries the salt to the boats.

It then flew up over the hill, knocked down most of the trees in Harbour Park, then razed the houses on West and St. Andrew’s streets. It went through the Square, severely damaging many historic buildings and uprooting more trees, then sped along Park and St. Patrick streets.

John & I got to walk around town shortly after it happened, mouths agape, appalled at what had become of our beloved town: it looked like a bomb had gone off. Or a few. Hydro lines were down everywhere, roofs gone, cars crushed, trees were in the streets and branches were inside of houses. Windows were smashed.

There was a tree in the Timmy’s drive-through. People were walking all over town, because they could not drive. Emergency crews came from towns such as Walkerton and Hanover. Hundreds of people were hurt. Cops had blocked the Square off and were preventing people from going into town. The Knights of Columbus Center was set up as an emergency shelter for those who suddenly found themselves homeless and without food.

It took two to three weeks before all of the hydro was restored, trees and stumps cut up and removed, roofs covered with tarps, and people moved out of condemned buildings. Hundreds of people came from miles around, volunteering themselves to serve meals for workers and needy, help people pack their belongings, cut down trees, and so much more. Not everyone was honest and community-minded in this, but many were, and we were all encouraged and humbled. Everyone drew together to do what they could to help.

Five months later, Goderich does not look the same as you knew it. There are holes where there used to be houses. The skyline is strangely lacking trees, so that you can see the salt evaporating plant clear across town, and so that the grain elevators are fully visible from any point on top of the hill, where they used to be mostly hidden behind walls of tall trees. The Coffee Culture building is completely gone. The gazebo on the Square is gone. There were a handful of trees left in the square: none of them big ones. The Burger Bar was “killed” in the tornado and was subsequently torn down. Just yesterday, the buildings that housed Carman’s Cameras, Wing Hongs, and Bailey’s were demolished. It goes on and on.

But Goderich is re-building, and will rise again. Someday.

As for me, I just started my sixth semester of university, which means I’m almost 3/4 done! A year from now I will be starting my last term. I can hardly believe how quickly it has gone by. Still, a lot of sweat and tears have gone into getting me this far, and I’m not done yet. I have learned so much. I wish I could tell you all about how my perspective has changed and my worldview enlarged, and how much I’ve realized about myself and our culture.

I still live in the apartment that I got after you left us and I had to grow up in a hurry. It’s a fairly convenient spot when you consider that I drive to London, to Bayfield, and to Goderich a lot. Every year I think that I will move to London, but it hasn’t worked out yet, and I still have so many ties to Huron County that I haven’t gotten to the point where I am completely ready to leave yet. Remember all those years ago when you thought I’d never live in Canada again? Surprise! 5 and a half years later…!

These days, I’m not singing much: my band kinda broke up in the summer, just before I turned 30 (!!), and I haven’t really found my groove with anyone else since. Maybe when I move to London…

I am trying to write more, though I don’t make it over to this page often enough. I do, however, look for opportunities to write at school. I’m a regular contributor to my faculty’s student publication, the mitZine. I struggle between having ideas and feeling like I don’t really have the time to spare to write them. Yes, I need help in that department.

On the work front, I am no longer mostly a server. I have done some serving every year, most recently with what I think is the best restaurant around, the ArtSee Cafe and Bistro in Bayfield, but I’ve branched out into jobs that are more along the lines of my desired career path. I can add a couple of “firsts” to my life list. One is that I got fired for the first time in July! It really was a much-needed parting of the ways, but the brass tacks are that I was let go before I could anticipate it. It turns out that I have a fairly strong personality (!!) and cannot allow myself to pander to just anyone’s way of doing things. In this case, I had a really hard time seeing eye to eye with my boss, so I wasn’t able to do a good job. Not a good scenario for anyone involved.

Currently, I am employed short-term with the county as a data-entry clerk, helping to build a new culture and heritage database. I am also (I’m proud of this one) an On-Call Branch Office Administrator, or BOA, at the local Edward Jones branch, which moved to Bayfield from Goderich after the tornado. The best part about that is that my boss is a big-ideas lady who wants me to help her flesh out some pretty fantastic plans!

My love life remains pretty great. I often regret that you never got to meet Johnathan. You would be amazed at how good he is to me and all the ways he surprises me. For my 30th birthday, he gave me a ’52 Chevy pick-up! And then he proceeded to restore it, so that it went from a pile of rusty parts to on the road in about two months. It’s beautiful! You would love going for a ride in her. We call her Flo. 🙂 Again, I can hardly believe that Johnathan and I have been together for more than two years now. Wow.

I should stop rambling on and on, but just a few more things. I have just recently discovered a great way to encourage the curly in my hair, and so I am embracing it’s wildness and bigness! I thought that would make you smile.

Your grandbabies are amazing. Yes, I am biased, but they are four of my very favourite people. I can’t get enough of them. They are smart, funny, and adorable! I wish you could see them grow up.

Another anecdote: lately I hear your voice in mine more and more often. Not only in my saying something you might, but actually sounding as you might sound. It’s trippy. And I love it.

With much love and until the next time I think of you,

Sarah

“LOVE YOUR MAMA”

The A&W sign was referring to the Mama Burger, of course, but I thought it appropriate that I would see this message in lights today, January 13th, the day when I remember just how much I still (and always will) love my Mama.

Three years ago this morning, my amazing mother left this world for a better one. At least, that’s what I believe. Mom would never have expected me to stand outside in the middle of winter to take a moment of silence in her memory, but it has become a little ritual I treasure.

It was a not-so-snowy day in January, 2008, that my siblings and I trekked out to the end of the rock breakwater at the Cove in Goderich to have a private memorial together before the funeral. We each held a flower, which we took turns tossing into the open lake. It was beautiful and nostalgic. We read some meaningful prayers and poems, and took lots of pictures. For me, it was the beginning of an annual tradition.

One year later, on the coldest day of the year, my siblings and I gathered for dinner, then trekked out to the Maitland Bridge, under which flowed the only open water we could find. What a difference a year makes! Once again, we spoke a little, then dropped cut flowers into the river, where they would be carried into the lake.

Last year, only a few of us managed to get together. This time, we wrote little notes to Mom, put them inside plastic containers, and attempted to break the ice to get them into the lake, but wound up mostly just shattering our containers and scattering our notes. Still, we remembered our mama, who left us too young. There were flowers then, too.

Today, I’m the only sibling “in” Goderich, and I didn’t make any plans ahead of time that I could invite my siblings to, so it was only my boyfriend Johnathan and I. We walked out on the pier, my hand holding tightly to 6 stems of yellow mums, and Johnathan’s hand holding tight to mine.

We broke the think layer of ice with a nearby rock, and then stood back to ponder. And cry. And sob. Then I dropped the 6 stems one by one, imagining that they represented each of my mother’s children, and Johnathan held me and we cried some more.

It’s amazing to have a partner that loves you so much he will stand with you on a freezing winter day out in the cold and hold you as you sob, and even cry with you, for a person he never met.

I don’t think my mother ever had that kind of love on earth, and I ache to think that she didn’t get to meet Johnathan or see how well I am loved.

Still, I learned today that she was satisfied with her life when she came to the end of it, at peace with how she was leaving her family and her friends.

I also learned today that she accepted the otherworldly task of embracing and taking care of a friend’s baby who had died at birth, once they were in “the great beyond” together. I know she has plenty of babies to embrace in Heaven, and now also her father and brother Dean.

I wish she could hug me, though…

First Deathiversary

Dear Mom,

I can hardly believe it’s been an entire year since I saw you last! True, so much has happened over the last 365 days, but they have sped by in a blur, it seems.

Shortly after your funeral, we went through everything in your house (a daunting task), decided what to keep, what to toss, what to give away, and eventually, within a few weeks, cleaned it all out. Saying good-bye to the last place I saw you alive was tough, especially since I did it alone one snowy afternoon.

I finally got my chance to nest, though finding myself so alone in the prospect made it a bittersweet experience. I am grateful to have inherited much of your household, including furniture, linens, plants, dishes, and even cleaning supplies – thanks!

Thanks to being the co-executor of your estate, I’ve learned a lot more about finances and “the system”. I’ve also assumed your role as Mark’s spokesperson, and I feel fully capable of doing “The Irate Sister” routine if I need to. He will hopefully finally have a home sometime this year, thanks to your tireless work, and the help of some other gems I don’t have to mention.

I’ve done lots of singing, with the help of the Noted! project and Cactus Jam, and now I have prospects with a new band, Fourth Avenue. Singing is definitely one of the things I was meant to do, as I’m sure you knew.

I’m also now the Dining Room Manager at the pub and the owner jokes (?) about selling it to me someday. Hmm.

Another thing that causes me to shake my head is the fact that I’ve been in the HC now for two and a half years! Me! Remember when I said I didn’t think I’d live in Canada ever again? Here I am eating my words. And as much as I think I’d enjoy living in a city where people are more style- and culture-conscious and it’s cool to be 27 and single, I am also enjoying getting to know my home county in a different way, and I’m not hoping to leave anytime soon.

Holidays are weird without you, Mom, though I have to say I enjoy having the option of using my own kitchen, my own house, to entertain my family. This Christmas, I couldn’t bear the thought that we might not have new books, so I used money that has been returned to you from taxes, etc. to buy new books for everyone. I was sure you wouldn’t mind. 🙂

Most recently, I did something you likely wouldn’t approve of, and, ironically, I did it in your memory! I got a tattoo on my left forearm:

I wanted to be able to see it every day, to see your initials, to remember your wisdom. I love that it’s got my handwriting and yours – it’s a precious possession, and I wear it with pride.

I have to end this letter, Mama, because three of my siblings, a very pregnant sister-in-law, and three neices and I are meeting for dinner tonight to remember you. We’re hoping to find at least a little bit of open water, whether on the lake or the river, to toss some fresh flowers in your memory, just as we did on the day of your funeral.

First, though, I want to share two poems I’ve been thinking a lot about today. First, in sadness for the days gone by and in recognition of the many times tears have sprung upon me suddenly:

Tears, Idle Tears

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

(Lord Alfred Tennyson)

And secondly, what I feel is my theme for this coming year, hope:

Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

(Emily Dickinson)

I love you forever, Mommy.

Sarah

P.S. I Love You

She’s all around me. Everywhere I look in my apartment, I see something that reminds me of her. The curtains she made hang on my big dining room window, the matching throw pillows on the couch that was hers, which sits behind the coffee table I bought her at Ikea, on which rests one of the sea grass baskets we bought together. She read most of the books on the shelf, I made the ottoman for her, the vase with lilacs on the coffee table was hers. Even the fact that I love flowers came from her.

I was shocked when she died because I wasn’t ready. Now I’m stunned that it’s been almost six months. Where could all that time have possibly gone? Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we were in her hospital room, shaking her body, hoping it was all a terrible mistake? How could time have simply carried on as usual when we have been left motherless?

Mostly I’m appalled at the thought that I didn’t love her well, not nearly well enough. That’s a fact, don’t try to comfort me out of it. I didn’t. You thought I’d have regrets, and I do. I don’t think I could’ve done anything about them, then, even knowing it might come to this. I didn’t value her enough, didn’t see enough of who she really was, who others saw, the ones who tell me over and over again what an amazing woman she was. Even strangers do that, when they find out I’m the oldest of that family.

I’m six months too late, Mom, and I’m sorry.

P.S. I Love You.