Dear Mom,

It’s been a little more than two years since you died, and sometimes I still have no idea what to make of it. I had no choice but to continue living on this planet, but frankly it’s sometimes unrecognizable without you on it. So much has changed, in cataclysmic heart-wrenching ways, that most days I can hardly remember what it was to have you alive. I stumble through a world I didn’t ask for and can’t control. The dissonance and lack are too much for my mind to comprehend.

Part of me was dreading Mother’s Day, angry that I even had to think about it. Last night I sobbed my eyes out in a way I haven’t in months — the kind of sobbing where I can’t have anyone near me and the sadness goes beyond sense or cognition.

As it turns out, today is a spectacular day. I woke up early and sat in the living room which in spring feels like a treehouse, surrounded by a thousand emerald green leaves newly unfurled. I thought about how many things I do are because of you. When I gather friends for a dinner party what I’m really trying to gather is your spirit. When I think about creating a home with my partner, what I’m hoping for is a home that is filled with all your sensibilities that I admire. When I take a walk, write in my journal, tidy up my bedroom or even sweat my way through an ass-kicking yoga class, I am so clearly living in the ways you taught me. Sometimes I am hard on myself, and sometimes I am judgmental, and sometimes I’m full of rage. During those times, also, I am living as you taught me. Mostly the ways you taught me were really, really good.

In your two years with pancreatic cancer, you showed me how to grieve, too. But that’s a lesson that’s harder to look back on. It’s still raw for me to think about the terrible way you died, and heartbreaking to remember how bravely you grieved your own life. We lost you, but you lost everything. When I think about this, I feel my grief is a drop in the ocean of what yours must have been.

In my angry Mother’s Day anticipation I swore I would not even set foot near a brunch place. I thought all the living mothers would send me over the edge with grief. But as it turned out, today’s yoga class was one of the hardest we’ve ever taken and Susan was starving afterwards. We crossed the street and within minutes I found myself on a heavenly sunlit patio under a white flowering tree, surrounded by children and families and a man playing the guitar. The waiters brought us amazing food and Susan talked to me and drank her favorite Cuban lemonade. It could not be more obvious today that you left me in a beautiful world, overflowing with love in the most unexpected places. I know that no matter how hard I try, it will be impossible to create a replica of you in my mind, to remember everything that you were. Instead, I will try to let in the obvious truth: that I don’t have to hold onto you so tight, because you are everywhere.

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