59, Edgewater, editor, WP Magazine
It took days for Mother to die after the doctors said it was imminent and I made the middle-of-the-night call to summon my brother to her bedside. And when her last agonized breath had been drawn, when the counted-on relief at the end of her long struggle didn’t come, when I thought I could not bear her leaving, I took a lock of her hair to hold onto forever. For until that moment I believed in forever.
Eight years later, sometimes when I’m dusting, I steal a glimpse inside the tiny jar and go back. It’s always the same: first, to the last years. I’m washing her hair, her gray head bent over the kitchen sink, my fingers working, sometimes with love, too many times with impatience. I ache with guilt, with sorrow, with longing.
Then it’s earlier, and I hear her laugh, that girlish giggle, hand over mouth, even in her 60s. I see her hazel eyes glisten. I smell her skin. When our lives pass before our eyes in death, is the last memory the scent of our mothers’ skin?
Then it’s even earlier. I hear her in the distance calling my name from the back door. I am lying in a field of Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrod and alfalfa, looking up at the blue sky, naming clouds and dreaming of all the love before me.
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