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Our mother repeatedly gave us blank books throughout the years – some lined, some not – and asked us to keep journals. We never really did… until now. It is my sincere hope that Jennifer, Sue, and I will be able to look back on this journal/blog/type-thing and see just how far we’ve come – that even on the bad days, we’ve still made progress.

It’s been two weeks and two hours since Mama left. On September 17, 2007 at 10:55pm, she left us and finally got that healing that she’d been telling all those doctors about. Jennifer and I stayed with Mama for the longest time after she left, while Susanna, our fiery redhead, went shrieking into the yard. It was truly, truly, the most horrible night of my life.

This just isn’t how we thought it would be. Our family – our little happy-most-of-the-time, normal (well, sort of) family has always been what it is… My daddy, who has given his life to Michelin to support his girls, my mama, who stayed at home while I was young and made our little brick house a home, and, of course, my sisters. We didn’t grow up close to grandparents, or any other family network, which made us very reliant on each other – fiercely protective, and incredibly tight-knit in a way that I’ve rarely, if ever, encountered anywhere else. Our little house has been bursting at the seams from the day we moved in – Mama always hated that house, and Daddy promised that he’d buy her a new one… but as my sister and I got older, that was the only home we’d ever known and we railed against the mere mention of selling it.

When we’d bring friends, then boyfriends over, there was always the shellshock – complete sensory overload, as we yelled over each other, interrupted madly, and laughed at the tops of our lungs at jokes that only we thought were funny. Some were able to stick it out and grew to love us dearly – here’s to David, Brad, Justin, Bobby (son-in-law #1), and Tom (son-in-law #2) – while others ran for the hills.

And Mama was the center of it all. She would adopt our boyfriends and keep them long after the relationship had ended. She was the second mother of our entire church youth group, and every Sunday, tons of teenagers would descend on our house for “Mama D’s” wonderful southern cooking. Her laugh could be heard a mile away – seriously, the neighbors would often wonder what was going on as the gales of hilarity rang out into the wee hours of the night. She made and kept friends easily – her slightly warped and irreverant sense of humor made her very popular with both men and women of all backgrounds and ages (outside of chicken farmer circles, that is).

And her signature smile – it could light up a room, it was the life of every party, it beams out of photographs and warmed even the saddest heart. It can never be replicated, although I treasure the few comments that I “got my mama’s smile.”

So now, post-September 17th:
We’re just trying to figure out how to continue. There are no words to describe the gaping hole that now resides in our lives, inside us. The word “shattered” keeps coming to mind – the kind of irreparable damage that can never be undone. I don’t know how to function… I’m just floating from hour to hour and day to day. Sometimes I try to understand what has occurred – what has really, truly happened to our wonderful, little family, and to my beautiful Mama. But most of the time, I don’t try. It hurts too much, and I feel myself sliding downward into a deep, black hole where there’s no light, no hope, no future, no Mama.

So I make myself think about other things… and when that doesn’t work, I try Ativan, a bottle of wine, and Advil PM. Um, yes, I’m aware that developing a substance abuse problem at this stage would be very detrimental to my already crapped-upon life.

And posts like this make me know that keeping this journal/blog private is the right decision… If my coworkers read this, I’d be joining the ranks of the unemployed.

I know we’re going to make it through this. I know it because there’s really no other option – although I admit that there has been talk of white sneakers and Kool-Aid. Somehow, I just don’t think that Mama would approve of that plan, so I guess we’ll just stick to the daily trudging for now…

Come on, Jennifer; Sue… it’s your turn!