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MO & CKO 1956When your mother dies, it’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you open your eyes in the morning.

When your mother dies, you look in the bathroom mirror and see her nose, and your father’s eyes, and a sense of not understanding and understanding all too well.

When your mother dies, your kitchen cupboard is a minefield of her mother’s dishes, gifts you didn’t want, souvenirs from her travels and treasured items from girlhood, all tied to her.

When your mother dies, your mind jumps to the things you must do for her today, talk to her aides or make her meal plan or call the insurance company or order supplies, and then realize, again, that it is no longer necessary.

When your mother dies, your daily tasks get done with a sense of distraction, whole meals prepared and eaten without remembering, errands run with head down, mail left unopened, magazines unread, stacks of cards to answer.

When your mother dies, you avoid the telephone and the condolences of kind friends, because it is so exhausting to again tell the story and again say goodbye.

When your mother dies, you cannot trust yourself in public, for here you ate lunch together and there you found her a blouse she liked, and everywhere there are incendiary memories.

When your mother dies, the first week there are tears all the time, and then as time passes they come at five minute intervals, and then ten. You wonder if they will at some point cease and you don’t want them to cease because they connect you to her.

When your mother dies, every houseplant in your place has some connection to her, cuttings she started for you, pots she gave you, care lessons that came from her, plant stands she found at a flea market.

When your mother dies, a dozen times a day you think of something to tell her, and then with a jolt remember that she isn’t there to hear, and there is nothing but impenetrable silence.

When your mother dies, all the indifferent photo albums covering 60 years of life are suddenly precious, holding surprising treasures, adventures forgotten, laughter shared.

When your mother dies, music is a dangerous trigger, and the same Strauss waltzes that made her sigh, and the Nutcracker she took you to see as a girl, and the Messiah she came to hear you sing all now hold visceral links to her.

When your mother dies, you find yourself remembering all the fights, the buttons she installed and regularly pushed, a marvel of efficiency at antagonizing, and wish that you had the wisdom then to step back and not respond.

When your mother dies, it is revealed in a flash how much of the positive in your own life came from her example, kindness and warmth towards others, creativity and curiosity, a sense of adventure, a love of the beautiful, and your gratitude leavens the grief.

When your mother dies, you repeat and repeat in your mind the last weeks, what you said, what she said, wondering if you helped, did the right thing, eased her suffering, caused her to worry, understood her loneliness.

When your mother dies, you question your lifelong agnosticism and hope that perhaps there is something more or better that she might have found, once she passed, a place where she was healthy again, lively and whole, and that her indomitable spirit did not just suddenly end.

When your mother dies, you come to a place where, even if surrounded by loving spouse and friends and family, you know that you will always be a little alone, an orphan, with a depth of sorrow in a private and now empty place in your heart.

©Melody S. Owens, Poets Sinews, 2017. Reuse with permission.