“We cannot see her, but she is with us still. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.”  –Temple Bailey

Mama would have been, should have been, 54 years old today.

I’ve grown used to missing her… it’s just become part of who I am, my daily life. But sometimes the missing swells until it’s a physical pain, as real as cutting your arm or falling flat on your back with the air knocked out of you. It’s those times that I wonder how I’m still here, how I’ve been existing, living, even being happy without Mama. She was so much a part of my everyday life… how do you remove an integral part of a structure, & yet the structure still stands 3.5 years later?

I cry still. Deep, gasping, choking sobs that make it difficult to breathe. But not as often. Those times only come every once in a while now, when all the small sadnesses & losses build up until I can’t hold it in anymore. Z4’s presence has introduced me to a new level of missing. I want to call Mama to tell her about my fabulous bargains. I want to talk to her about this little girl’s name. I want to hear her huge, room-filling laugh because she’s just so thrilled that Z4’s a girl… yet another little girl to add to “Denise’s brood.” And I cry because it’s just so damn wretched.

I’ve come to realize that although it’s not the same & it’s never enough, I do still have her. Mama’s simply too big, too alive, too BRIGHT, to be simply extinguished. Her voice is in my head… not like the creepy, stifling voice of The Church, but the insistent, sassy voice of my mother. She has opinions about things, lots of things. I pick up a baby outfit in the store & hear her say “Newborns shouldn’t have elastic around their waists.” And I put the outfit back. Jennifer tells me “Mama’s favorite brand of baby play clothes is Little Me,” & that brand suddenly takes on a newfound appeal. During Gender Dinner, it was suggested that we name Z4 Elisabeth, & Sue, on skype from Charleston, says “it has to be spelled with an “s” because Mama doesn’t like it with the “z”.” And Jennifer & I both nod in agreement while everyone else looks confused.

There are times, though, that the voice in my head, in OUR heads, isn’t enough. I watch a grandmother snuggle her granddaughter & I grieve because my little girl will never have that. She’ll never know the incredible woman that her Grandmama Denise is, & she’ll never feel Mama pull her up into her lap & hug her to pieces. And while we tell Maggie & Sadie stories & try to make Mama a part of their lives, it’s a poor, almost laughable substitute for the real thing.

But it is what it is. I can’t change it. All the tears & temper tantrums in the world can’t change it. If they could, I’m fairly certain that things would be different by now. I’m grateful that I had a mother that I miss so fervently. I’m grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity to pass on her legacy to another little girl. I’ll try so very hard to give my daughter an understanding of the woman her grandmother was. I’m thankful that I had a close, even intertwined, relationship with my Mama while she was here, so close that I can still hear her in my head. And because I make decisions with her input, I feel that she’s a part of things that are happening now, things that she would have undoubtedly insisted on being a part of if given the choice.

“My Mother Is Always With Me”
My mother is always with me.

She’s the whisper of the leaves as I walk down the street.
She’s the smell of certain foods I remember,
of flowers I pick, and of soap that she used.
She’s the cool hand on my brow when I’m not well,
she’s my breath in the air on a cold winter’s day.
She’s the sound of the rain that lulls me to sleep,
the colors of a rainbow and autumn leaves,
she is Christmas morning.

My mother lives inside my laughter,
and she’s crystallized in every tear drop.
My mother shows every emotion –
happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy, love, hate, anger, helplessness, excitement, joy, sorrow –
and all the while, hoping and praying
that I will only know the good feelings in life.
She’s the place I came from,
my first home,
and she’s the map I follow with every step I take.

She’s my first love, my first friend, even my first enemy,
and nothing can separate us.

Not time, not space. Not even death.
I carry her inside of me.

–Temple Bailey