I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how I want to remember my mom.
Today marks exactly two years since she passed away in our home. As my father put it, there are details from that day that still feel extremely vivid and I don’t think will ever fade away. The day she died was sad and beautiful and intense and I wake up to that moment in my mind every morning. As I roll out of bed, I imagine her face, her smile, her odd calm and then I go brush my teeth. From a fleeting second to the long 20 minutes as I prep my french press, I reflect on the knowledge of her passing at the start of every day.
She’d be unbelievably irritated by this. Despite two years since losing her, I can still hear her voice in my head. Talking to me, yelling at me, soothing me, laughing with me. She reminds me that she never wanted to be immortalized, that she hated the idea of us enshrining her. Yet there’s not much we can do about that fact, that day was important to me. Her life was important to me. The memories I have of her may slowly grow dim in the back of my mind, but they will always exist. She will always exist to me.
The largest remembrance I’ve held of her lately resolves around a piece of paper I keep on my bulletin board. Many years ago, before the cancer had eaten away too much, before the surgeries had reached double digits, she was still struggling with the idea of Cancer. With the big ‘C.’ She had plans and ideas for her future, yet a restless confusion about the effects of her disease on them. For both cathartic and artistic reasons, she wrote a call to action for herself, short bursts that seemed to remind her why she woke up and moved forward with those future plans.
“Cancer will not define me. If I kick it now, it’s been a good life. Pay the bills tonight. I have no regrets. Remember to return those library books. No more, I’ve had enough. Liza is having her first photography show. I’m going no matter what. At least I’m not dead.”
They’re the kind of one-liners we remember from a long period of deep thinking. As you contemplate what you’re supposed to do one afternoon, from paying those bills to talking to your sister about her husband, you pull a few pronouncements from the bunch, scribble them down on a piece of paper to help remember where your brain had wandered. These are just quick statements. They’re honest, mental notes not just about depositing a check and running to the library, but real assessments about life at the moment.
I keep these close to me, always. Just like I think they did for my mom, these words remind me that I have things to do. A life to live. People who need me. Plans for my future. Sure, I’m not dying, but it is so damn easy to forget these simple ideas in the mess of everyday living. My concept for the bigger picture gets eaten away as I drive through traffic to work. As I sludge through bills at home. As I mindlessly type emails. The crucial introspection, the prospects ahead of me, the daily moments of joy get lost in the shuffle.
This paper was pinned by her sewing machine, down in her basement fabric lair. She had it close to her every day up until she passed. I hope it served as a small prompt to wake up and look around her, to remember she was still alive, that she had a family who was always there and despite the obstacles, she had a life she needed to be living.
This sheet of paper is now pinned by my bed, close to me everyday, and reminds me to never get lost.