Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of my beloved mom’s death. I can feel it in my bones, this passing of time. When her death date rolls around, I get heavy, reflective. I exist in a realm that is sacred. I laugh loudly and cry too easily. I sit in silence, my thoughts as quiet and still as a stone.

Yesterday, I made an appointment with a new therapist. I need instructions on what to do with the depth of the oceans I carry inside me.

Mom’s final days in hospice care were ethereal, a dream world—not one in which pink, fluffy clouds and unicorns existed, but one in which the passage of time and my body’s insistence on going along with it felt beyond the ordinary, felt like some kind of betrayal. I drew breath unfailingly in that liminal space between knowing what was happening, not wanting to accept it, and understanding its necessity.

I had not been in a hospice situation before. I did not fully grasp that what we were doing was watching Mom die slowly. With all of her lifesaving medication stopped, her body could not save itself.

“But what if we’re making the wrong decision?” I sobbed in the hallway to my sister. “Aren’t we killing her? How do we know for sure?”

“It’s time, Trina,” Carrie had said to me, calmly and assuredly.

A kind nurse pulled me aside and said this to me: “Honey, your mom has been ready to go for a while now. She told me she was staying for Bob, for you and your sister, for her grand and great-grandchildren, for her beloved family and friends. But she doesn’t want to stay. She’s tired, Sweetie. She told me she was tired. She’s tired of being in pain. She’s tired of living in a body that’s failing. She’s tired of being dependent on everyone else for all of her needs. She knows this is the end of her life, and she has accepted it. The best gift you can give her now is to accept it, too, and to let her go.”

When I sat with her in those final days, I checked her feet to see if they were turning gray. I listened to her breathing to hear all the irregularities. These were end-of-life signs we’d been educated about.

And because it was the only thing I had left to give her—and the one thing she always asked for more of—I sang to her. I sang quietly with my head next to hers. Sweet Caroline, Loves Me Like a Rock, Tapestry, I Am Woman, Close To You, You and Me Against the World. Her eyes, closed and still. Her breath, shallow.

When she left this world, the nursing home brought us a rolling cart of snacks. There were oatmeal cream pies and Oreos. There was iced tea and water. The funeral home came to take her away on a wheeled gurney. The hallway was quiet and somber.

I don’t know how to grieve her. I didn’t then, and I still haven’t figured it out. I don’t know how to grieve Carrie, either. She left just a little over a year after Mom, and it still seems surreal that I’m the only one that remains of our little original trio.

My body gets still and sad when I think of them in my quietest moments. Perhaps that’s a part of grieving. I don’t know. I just know that I miss them. I’m still trying to figure out a life without them. I still don’t know if I can go back to Greenfield, the place that made me, and not be overtaken by crushing waves of loss.

I don’t know anything, really.

Only that they’re gone. Only that they’re not coming back. Only that they are missed and loved beyond comprehension, beyond the limits of this physical world.

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