Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Most Tender Holiday

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother's Day. Though it's been almost four years without you, it still feels as fresh and painful sometimes as a new cut. What I find hardest is how the grief ages—not like a fine wine or a good cheese but like our little maple tree in the back yard that grows and grows and keeps getting bigger and more solid with the passing of time. I want to arrest it, stop the way the sound of your voice ever so slightly fades, how when the phone rings now on Sunday afternoon I know it won't be you, how, no matter how badly I wish for it, you will not know your grandchildren, Hudson and Lily, who are playing a loud and very boisterous game of freeze tag downstairs as I write this. Though they have seen my tears and remember tiny bits about you, they will never know what a big heart you had, what a quick and warm smile, what a cozy grandma you would have to been them all these years.

How would you love them.

Here's Lily. She goes to sleep like this every night with her blankie (aka "ear pillow") wrapped tightly around her face. She sleeps under the beautiful appliqued kitty quilt you'd started for her but never got the chance to finish (thanks to your dear friends, Marcia and Gloria, for doing so).

She really likes to run and just told Mark that she'd like to train for a triathlon when she's old enough. Her 7th birthday is in two weeks and she wants me to try and make a monkey birthday cake for her party. I'm sure you can imagine how good I'll be at that.

And here's Hudson. We made homemade butter a few weeks ago and he was totally into it. Like you, he enjoys complicated projects that require attention to detail. In this photo he had just carved his initials into his little tub of homemade butter. I like to imagine all the things you would do with him—teach him to sew, to make homemade caramels, show him your antique Santa collection, which is now god only knows where.

He does remember you, but I can tell he remembers you mostly through me. We got out to Minnesota so seldom when you were still alive. If only we had another chance, just one more day. I like to think of what we'd do together, just the simplest things really: sit on your front porch and drink iced tea and watch all the cars go by, walk up to Dueber's and shop for fabric and coloring books, cook up some hot dogs and baked beans and eat them at the picnic table. The kids could sit in your lap afterwards while you read them books after warm baths in the big claw foot upstairs. I'd hug you as we said good-bye, see you soon.

Little and big things have happened for me since you've been gone. I ran my first half-marathon last week. 13.1 miles, and when I was done, all I wanted to do was call you and say, "Mom, I did it!" But instead I hugged the kids and Mark and went out to breakfast with friends I love like family. But all day I kept wanting to tell you.

I get migraines now; I have to be careful with stress. Mark and I are planning a trip to Italy next summer for our 20th anniversary. This July we're meeting Amy and her family in Michigan for a week because we now have to find new ways without you. Minnesota just isn't the same without you and Dad.

Also, I'm writing a book about you. It's called Dragonfly Notes: A Memoir of Motherhood and Loss. I'm digging through your old scrapbooks, letters, photos. Sometimes it's so hard I have to leave the house and not come back until I'm able. But also, it brings me closer to you and it makes me understand you in a whole new way. I found an old light blue diary of yours from when you were 12. I found a scrapbook from when you were newly married filled with dream kitchens and matching living room furniture that you one day wished to own but never did. I found a gratitude journal that you kept, and read one entry over and over: "I'm grateful for my two daughters—they make me so happy."

I miss you.




  1. This is beautifully moving, Anne. It's also gorgeously detailed, which makes it all the more heart-rending. Thanks for crafting and posting it here.

  2. I love this, Anne. I admire you for having the courage to express your sadness in the open where we can all see and feel and understand.

  3. i know that there are no words that will help soothe the pain of your loss. please know that i am thinking of you today and holding you, as always, in my heart.

  4. Beautiful, Anne. Your mom loved you very much and was so proud of you. She would love this story too.