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Nine Years

It’s been nine years since my mom died. That number seems so impossible, somehow. Like it was yesterday and forever ago, like time doesn’t matter, because it all bends back in on itself. If you ask me what happened the day she died, I can tell you with perfect clarity. I wish I couldn’t, because some things you want to forget. But the powerful things—good and bad—often stay far beyond what is reasonable. Indelible memories.

But I can also tell you who was there for me in myriad ways. And who has been there since, when things aren’t pretty—and when I am a less-than-perfect version of myself. I can tell you whose voice gave me comfort, who made a point to make time for me, and who called—and who didn’t.

You never forget who didn’t. Add it to the tally of things burned into memory.

People sometimes worry that they’ll say the wrong thing. And to be honest, a lot of people did—from a stranger lecturing me about how to look after my dad to some hollow platitude about god and angels. Things like that made me want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish (with apologies to Anne Lamott). But the thing is, the majority of the people who said and did nothing after she died, they slipped out of my life, drew backward without fanfare. And that’s for the best, really. Because if you only show up for the good things, then go.

Of course, in the intervening years, there are been other departures. And arrivals. And departures. I’ve lost count, but what matters is the feelings. And there are always a lot—infinite as a hurricane and sometimes tremendously inconvenient. They are what they are, always, as feeling are wont to do.

But I learned a lot about love from my mother. I’ve written about that before, but I’ll tell you some new things. Love fights—even when things seem impossible. Even when things are impossible. And I watched that fight for two years, unwavering—even though I don’t think anyone does battle against cancer or that it’s a matter of being strong. Cancer doesn’t care how strong you. You can’t train for it. You just deal with it.

Love never leaves you to question things. Never leaves you to wonder. Things said out loud are difficult, but the best things often are. And failing everything, love shows up—even when it’s hard. Especially then. Because that is when you need it the most, even in small ways, like a funny meme or a thinking of you message or simply presence. Some of the best times in my life haven’t been about a place or anything fancy. Just spending time with someone else, being in the same orbit, talking and laughing. That is a gift. And after all these years, it’s time I treasure most. Because it’s the memories that matter in the end, and the love found within those memories.

You can’t buy that anywhere. But you can appreciate it when you have, and I hope that you do. And take alllll the pictures, even if your hair is a mess. There are people who I wish I had pictures with but don’t. So, think on that. Think about the memories you want to make and go ahead a do that.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Marzie
    August 7, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    This is beautiful advice, especially about people only showing up for good times. People show you who they are when the going is hard and you had better believe them. Because when they can’t push through the awkwardness of not knowing what to say when a piece of you dies, they aren’t there for you in the realest sense. Ever.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, ongoing as losing a mother always is. Those crystalline memories just refuse to fade for me, too- the sounds, the smells, the sight I wish I didn’t remember. Sometimes I wish my brain wouldn’t hang onto things quite so well. But of course, then you worry about forgetting.

    Hugs.

  2. August 7, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    I know I’m states away, but I’m always here if you need me. Hugs, always.

    • August 7, 2021 at 6:03 pm

      Thank you, dear heart! Hugs are always welcome!

  3. Anna Wilson
    August 7, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Ali i feel your pain. People often let me down through my losses. And, unfortunately it hardened me. Try not to let it do that to you. You are too sweet.

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