A Letter to my Mother

Dear Mom,

It sits here, framed, on my desk. The photograph of you and me; the selfie we took after our walk one year ago today – January 28, 2018 – snapped at the morning hour I write this.

It was a day much like today, in regards to weather, though it was warmer. The sun shone bright. There was no snow, surprising for a winter day in Syracuse, New York. It was nine days before you would experience a hemorrhagic stroke February 6 which would take your life nine days later on February 15.

I had been visiting you and Dad for several days. We’d had a special time – taking walks, visiting an abolitionist museum, sitting by the fire in the evening looking at photo albums, reading short stories that your grandmother wrote about growing up in Rome, Georgia in the late 1800s and you, Dad and I meeting your granddaughter, Alison, for dinner (1/27/18).


Four weeks before, you’d been here at our home for Christmas.

Standing in the driveway one year ago today after a walk that morning, at 11:37am and 45 seconds to be exact, we took this photo. It is the last walk and photograph the two of us we would take together, on a “normal” day. Afterward, we met for lunch longtime family friends, Sue and Tory Beeching- a mother daughter get together. In the parking lot before Sue and Tory and we went separate ways, I suggested a photo. A man happened to be walking by and offered to take it. Sue laughed, like she always likes to do.

This would be the last photograph taken with her best friend, for the final hemorrhagic stroke you would experience would rob you of your speech, much of your mobility, and ultimately, on February 15, your life. I am therefore especially thankful for this photograph and of that beautiful, now extra special, time we shared together.

When I left that afternoon and drove up the hill, you waved goodbye from the driveway, like you always did. And, like I always did, I rolled down the window, looked back and beeped the horn. You were waving your arms as if you were doing jumping jacks, though your feet were planted on the ground. And you were smiling, sending me on my way with loads of love.

Looking back at this “year of firsts,” Mom, and now today – this “last normal day we spent one year ago” – it hasn’t been easy, to say the least, especially holidays and birthdays.

Valentine’s Day 2018 (the day before you passed)


Mother’s Day

Memorial Day

Father’s Day

Fourth of July

Labor Day

Dad’s birthday

Your Halloween birthday



New Year’s…

But truthfully, every day is difficult and when February 16, 2019 – the first day of the second year without you – arrives, I can’t imagine there will be any day that we will miss you less. That is a testimony to the wonderful person you were; patient, kind, loving, forgiving, selfless, and supportive. Those characteristics are why we and so many others loved you dearly. You were a true “lady.” In every sense “genteel,” full of grace and class. You were special, Mom, and I your lucky daughter.

Nothing could have prepared me for your loss, not even when I knew you were going to die, because up until then you were still with us. But in our hearts, Mom, you have not, nor will you ever, die. You are with me and part of me each day, everywhere I go and in everything I do. I hear your sweet voice and constant encouragement. I imagine you saying, “it will be okay,” and that gives me strength. The love you gave and embodied continues to give me courage and always will.

These next few weeks – this end of “the first year” – will not be easy. I try to keep busy, continuing to write, research, learn, and photograph that which I find interesting, beautiful or important. I remind myself often that you told me you enjoyed looking at my photographs on Facebook.

Nearly 12 months later – one year minus 18 days – your passing still seems unfathomable to me. I will continue to think of and talk to you daily. I ache to hear you speak to and hug me again and it hurts more than words can ever express, knowing that you won’t, but I feel and know that I have your love with me each and every moment. And I believe you are watching over us and that one day we will be together again. Until then, know how much you are loved and so very much missed.

Love, Sarah

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