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Dear Mama,

It’s been 33 months since I last talked to you. I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs about how much I miss you, & all the things that I’ve needed to tell you & ask you. But you know all those things already. Today, I need to tell you something else… that lately, I’ve been frustrated & a little angry with you. I feel guilty even admitting this because, well, you’re dead & there’s just something intrinsically disrespectful about being angry with a dead person. But I need to come clean. So here goes…

I wish that you had died more gracefully. I wish that you had admitted that you were dying. I wish that you had admitted it to yourself & to me. I wish that we had talked about it realistically — that you had talked to us about how to survive without you. I wish that you had just confessed your own mortality instead of covering it with a thick layer of faith. I wish that you had been at peace with dying, & that you had shared some of that peace with me. I wish that your death hadn’t taken us all by surprise. Mama, there’s a difference between faith & denial. You crossed that line & you took us with you. We didn’t have a chance to prepare or even consider what life without you would be… you took that chance away from us with your insistence that you would be healed. I don’t believe in miracles, Mama. Your death taught me that.

Instead of saying “If things don’t turn out the way we want them to,” I wish you had said “When I die.” It would have hurt & it would have made me angry. But you’re the parent. You’re my  mother. It was YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to prepare me & protect me from the devastation that followed September 17th, 2007. I went crazy, Mama. I lost it. I screamed at Grandma, your mother, & I told Uncle Rocky, your brother, that he was no longer my family. I threw away people who loved me because I was insane with grief & shock. I never thought you would die, & you encouraged me in my denial. Why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you put me first? Why didn’t you tell me how to live after you died?

I wish that you had told me more stories about your childhood & my childhood. Did you know that those stories are lost now? I’ve lost giant chunks of who I am because you couldn’t face your cancer. I wish that you had written down your memories, your wishes for each of us, your favorites parts of our childhoods. Instead, we have to piece it together like a puzzle with an unknown number of missing parts. We don’t know where things came from, or the stories behind them. We don’t know so many things, things that you could so easily have shared with us.

I know you were doing what you thought was best. But Mama, it wasn’t. Perhaps it was easier for YOU because you got to leave… but for your girls, it was hell. You allowed us to be thrown into the middle of a ocean without teaching us to swim. You spent your entire life protecting us, & even the denial was a protection. But what you didn’t realize is that recognition & acknowledgment would have protected us far more than denial & talk of “believing.”

Your unshakable, unswerving, “bulldog” faith taught me the value of realism & honesty. When it’s my turn, I hope to face it head-on. If I have children, I will tell them that I’m dying & we’ll talk about it freely. I will guide them into the grieving process before I leave, & give them as many things to hold onto as I can. I will write & record & capture my thoughts & wishes for them & memories & moments so that large chunks of their lives & history will already be quilted together. And I’ll do this because of you — because while your life teaches me endless, intricately woven lessons, your death is teaching me as well.

Every day, every minute, every time something happy or sad or insignificantly in-between happens, I miss you.

I love you, sweet Mama.