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things I remember: the beginning

The week my mother began to actively die, I started keeping a list of observations about grief. My grief, my family's grief. Grief I saw in others. My mother had Alzheimer's for years. I had written essays about this journey for a long time. After she died, I thought I had one more piece in me. About grief. 

When my mother was first diagnosed, I told myself, "You will only be here once. Whatever you must do for the next several years to take care of the woman who raised you and sent you into the world, give it all you've got. Hold nothing back. Write, photograph and talk about it because you never know who else it might help. Remember: you will only be here once."

After she died, my writing brain stalled. I haven't been able to write. Not about this. Maybe that's just the nature of grief--its grip can be paralyzing. Or maybe it's just that grief is too expansive for me to tackle in big chunks, whether it's chunks of time spent crying, or chunks of time spent putting it into words. 

But something in my writing brain is stirring. I keep thinking back to the list I started on my iPhone notes app, sometimes just a line on a virtual page I hastily titled, "Things I remember." Even now, a memory or a dream will make me pause, turn to that page in the app, and write another line or two.

I've realized grief doesn't have a finish line. There's no visible end you can count on, no marker at which you finally stop and say, "This is where my grief journey ends." Similarly, I have no final piece in me about grief, summed up tidily, beginning to end. Grief is two steps forward and a hundred back. It is waking up filled with joy, then shopping at Target and thinking, "Mom could use a new pair of pants," only to remember that, no, she can't. I've stumbled through the darkest of it and along the way, I've found that I'm coping. 

But, no, there's no real end. Just the realization that love doesn't die. So, while I have no final piece to write about grief, I do have many small, observations about it that I'll offer occasionally here, on the altar of love. Because people leave us, but love never dies.





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