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The comments, emails, Facebook messages, cards, & voice mails that I’ve received have been incredibly thoughtful. Thank you all so, so much. Although writing is my therapy, it’s amazing to read your comments and realize that my words may have managed to give a few more people a glimpse of the beautiful lady my mother was. That thought is comforting on this first anniversary… a very small assurance that although she’s gone, I can still bring back little pieces of her.

I watched the clock all day today… 10:00 am. 1:04 pm. 4:47 pm. 7:15 pm. Marking the events of the funeral, the burial, the stillness after everyone left and Jennifer, Sue, Daddy and I were left staring at each other. And then there were four.

And now it’s 12:40 am, and Sept 20th has been over for 40 minutes. It’s over for another year – Sept 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. We made it. I made it. I’m overwhelmed with the a sense of relief that’s coupled with a tinge of guilt – I want to remember Mama, but the level of remembering that’s been happening this week is too much, too vivid, crippling. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to function when I’m up to my eyeballs in muck.

In retrospect, although the week has only been over for 40 or so minutes, I can already see that mental strides were made. Watching the home videos. Looking at the pictures from the funeral. Reading the letters and obituary and funeral program. Reliving the visitation and funeral. I was more honest with myself, and allowed myself more grieving latitude, than I have in a while.

And on Thursday, I visited Mama’s grave… and for the first time, there was no overly intense emotion. I think maybe I had drained the well dry during the days preceding? The cemetery was beautiful and peaceful, as always, with several other flower arrangements surrounding Mama’s headstone. There were apparently quite a few visitors on this first anniversary. One had the Willow Tree Angel of Hope tucked down into the blooms, and a note addressed to “Denise” in a sealed zip-lock bag to protect it from the rain. I read the note… figured Mama wouldn’t mind. It was a little bit heartbreaking.

And although the grave has never been an easy place for me – I don’t think it will ever get easier to see Mama’s name carved into that slab of granite – there was no sense of Mama’s presence at all. I tried and tried, but she wasn’t there. Can’t say that I blame her. If you could choose to be anywhere at all, why would you choose to hang out in the cemetery? I even stood on her grave (which, as a child, she taught me was very disrespectful) and tried to evoke a response, saying aloud “Hey Mama, do you feel like someone’s walking over your grave?” And then I laughed. Out loud. Luckily I was by myself – I do believe that the laughing, talking girl in the graveyard would have been cause for concern. There was no answering laughter from Mama, but I feel quite sure that she thought I was funny.

And then, on Friday, the mental purge continued. It’s a very long, complicated tale that I actually haven’t completely thought through… so I’m leaving it until later. But I know that Mama was happy with my decision. I sensed her very clearly, smiling at me, nodding, and saying “good girl.” Truthfully, Friday evening was the only time I really, completely sensed her during this entire week.

Through this blog (I hope she won’t mind me writing this), I’ve met a girl named Shannon who’s my age and who lost her mother, whose name was also Denise, in February. In a perfectly-written email, she mentioned the possibility of her mom and my mom meeting and getting along fabulously…. when I read it, I smiled. And I’ve smiled every time I’ve thought of it since. My mother LOVED meeting new people. And really, who would have more in common right now than the two Denise’s who prematurely left their 30-ish-year-old daughters in the lurch? I hope they have a cup of tea and compare notes. :)