This is the day, one year ago, that everything changed.

As a little girl I yearned for a photographic memory– it never developed– but I remember every detail of April 27th, 2009: the warmth of the air, the intoxicating scent of cherry blossoms, the angle of the sun as it danced between branches and clouds, my mother’s voice trembling through the phone, ““I have the best, most treatable form of liver cancer. But I have liver cancer.” The words she said next, the words that transformed my life are here— but I won’t repeat them today.

None of us knew that day that we were perched on the edge of a steep incline, and that the next forty days would send us hurtling to my mom’s death. Because people get cancer all the time- don’t they?– and they go through treatments and surgeries and remissions. And yes, cancer kills, but I assumed we had years if not decades left (my mother’s mother is in her mid-nineties and living in fairly good health).

But I do have the blessing, the divine mercy, of reflecting on those forty days with almost no regrets. I spoke to my parents every day, I visited as often as possible and I held my mother’s hand as we talked and laughed and she drifted into slumber.

And she died perfectly, as few people do: fully prepared to meet her maker, beloved by her family and reconciled to her shortened life. Those are rare gifts. And still, I was grateful to see her fight so fiercely at the end, because she didn’t want to leave us, she didn’t want to go.

Even as we went through the burial arrangements and the funeral, I knew that this was the good sort of grief. Friends buoyed us with meals, flowers and hugs; and my mother’s death, though too soon, was sweet and pure, unmarred by shame. So many times in life we walk through our private sorrows alone. I’ve been through some of those. And a public grief– though still incomprehensible to many– is something you can talk about and write about and seek counsel wide and far.

My dad has never lost a parent. His mother turned 90 in February and his dad will reach that milestone on July 4th. It’s strange to walk a path that he’s so unfamiliar with.

Silently, I compare my mom’s age with every older woman I meet– and I envy their days and years.

The death of my mother is not the hardest thing I’ve dealt with this year (and please don’t think I say that lightly), but it has been the most pervasive. Losing her has colored a portion of every day, but in recent weeks I’ve begun to notice her presence more than her absence. She is in the garden and the kitchen with me, admiring Mary’s cartwheels and giggling at Hansie’s unique sense of humor.

I look forward with absolute certainty to the glorious day when we meet again face to face– and that knowledge, that surety, is the greatest gift I’ve known.

April 29, 2010



  1. Alyson (New England Living)

    April 28, 2010

    Beautiful, Michelle! My heart and love goes out to you on this difficult anniversary. xx

  2. Sue

    April 28, 2010

    Oh, Michelle. I can just hear the healing happening.



  3. Jennk

    April 28, 2010

    Thinking of you, Michelle.

  4. Cath

    April 28, 2010

    No doubt she is with you. One of the apostles spoke at my Grandmother’s funeral last week and gave the promise that she would be privy to our dealings, both significant and ordinary. “That is a privilege given to the faithful” he said. “If they request it.”

    Lately those two worlds, theirs and ours, feel more entwined, like they overlap. Your writings attest to the love you share with your Mother. What a sweet relationship – that is still alive! I love thinking of her watching Mary turn cartwheels. Thanks for this beautiful post Michelle.

  5. Tasha

    April 28, 2010

    Absolutely beautiful. I love how you said that you see her presence more than her absence now. I hope that happens for me when I lose my parents. What a tender mercy.

    “So by my woes to be
    Nearer, my God, to Thee.”

  6. Kerri

    April 28, 2010

    Michelle, I just went back through April, May and June’s posts from last year and re-reading them was so poignant. I’ll be thinking about you for the next 40 days. Such a hard and hallowed time.

  7. Travelin'Oma

    April 28, 2010

    You express extraordinary tenderness and wisdom. She must be so proud.

  8. Selwyn

    April 28, 2010

    Love you.

  9. Michelle

    April 28, 2010

    Wow. A year. And what a year it has been.

    It hurts me to hear that this wasn’t the hardest thing, though.

    What a journey this life is.

  10. Tracy

    April 28, 2010

    Love you. Dearly. Thinking about you.

  11. Christie

    April 28, 2010

    Can’t believe it’s been a year. Hugs, my friend.

  12. jendoop

    April 28, 2010

    Oh, how your post struck me to the core today. Yesterday I got a call from my younger sister about my Dad. He’s been coughing up blood for a year and refuses to see a doctor, it’s getting worse and he’s not eating, losing weight. His mother died of cancer and he watched her suffer. Now he thinks he can fight it by not fighting it, letting it take him quickly. Easily, he thinks. Its all very complicated of course, there are deep issues hidden there.

    I’m preparing myself now in a similar way to your preparations a year ago. Not being very close to my Dad I’m stunned at how this has shaken me. There’s something about that immediate family bond that holds us fast.

  13. Tifani says...

    April 28, 2010

    I am praying that whatever the hardest thing is/was that it will pass.

  14. Rachelle

    April 29, 2010

    Thank you for sharing your heart and soul on this blog. I know it is helping others in their healing process. You are a wonderful writer, so please do not stop sharing. Blessings on you and your family as you travel through this difficult anniversary. You are loved.

  15. Darlene Young

    April 30, 2010

    I sure hear you about comparing her to every older woman you see. I find myself so drawn to women who are about my mother’s age, what she would be now. The hardest thing is seeing mothers and grown daughters out to lunch together. Hits me in the gut every time.

  16. Jan Russell

    May 2, 2010

    Have you heard this song by Third Day – makes me think of you http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/third_day/cry_out_to_jesus.html and this new journey you walk…hugs to you!

    Love this picture of Mary!

Comments are closed.