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A letter to my mother on the anniversary of her death

Katie Zapfel

I used to have this thing where I was too embarrassed to mention you for fear of making people feel uncomfortable. I mean, death is awkward and depressing.

But I’m over that now.

When it comes to lives, you certainly lived a wonderful one. When it comes to kindness, selflessness, intelligence and humor, I can’t think of many better. Never will I be embarrassed again.

It’s been 16 years. We’re looking at old photo albums, and I’m realizing just how long ago that was. There are no digital photos of you, no shaky smartphone videos, no abandoned email address. You never knew what 9/11 would come to mean. Babies that were born on the day you died are now old enough to drive.

And the day is nearing that I will have lived longer without you than with you.

I’m worried that I’m forgetting the look of your face, the sound of your voice or the cackle in your laugh. And maybe someday the memories will fade.

But no matter how many years go by, sweet Mama, I will never forget the way you made me feel. So safe, so comfortable, so happy, so loved.

I see twinkles of you in my giggling little boys’ eyes. I listen to the memories recounted by dear childhood friends. I hear a song. I smell the lilacs you so loved. And instead of pain bringing me to my knees, my heart skips a happy beat at the sound of your name.

How lucky we all were to know you —and most of all for me to call you mom.

Sometimes I can’t believe I’m still not ‘over’ you. But why should I ever be? I have loved you every second of every day. And I am not ashamed to say that, like the Willie Nelson song you used to sing along to while I plunked along on piano, you are always, always on my mind.

I love you, I miss you, I am so proud that you were mine.

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