I’m in North Carolina.
I woke up
Surrounded by family,
Drank coffee with my Mema,
Did some more unpacking.

I live here now.

Marks five years since mommah died.
The words are harder to come by
As time passes.

It’s been almost a year
Since I left my ex,
Since I was on my own
For the first time.

Since then
I’ve focused on my sobriety,
Gained and lost jobs,
Moved three times,
Got a new car,
Learned what love really means,
And seen the world.

I carry her with me
Everywhere I go.

She was at the Grand Canyon with me,
Watching the sunset.
She saw Ireland and England for the first time
Out of an airplane window.
She ate tacos from a food truck in London,
Rode the Metro,
Saw a play.

Her ring is always on my finger
And her love is always in my heart.

I want to be strong,
I want to make her proud.
I want to make the right choices.

But as I’ve grown,
It’s come to matter less to me
That people approve of my decisions,
What they say mom would think.
Because she’d want me
To be happy with myself.
She’d want me to live for me.

It’s all I can do to hold back the tears.
I know all that I’m missing out on
By not knowing her
In my adult life.

Still, forgetting,
Thinking I can run by her house
Until I remember
She isn’t there.
Wanting to tell her
About my adventures
Wanting to ask her for advice
When I second-guess myself.
Wanting to hold her hand.

I see her in pictures,
Stop-motion memories
Of years long past,
And hone in on her smile,
The way she looks over her shoulder,
And wonder what she must be thinking,
The same way I wonder now.

I have conversations with her
And make up her side,
I smile down at her ring,
The one I’ve worn for years,
And grin when something reminds me of her,
As if she’s still here
To share the joke with me.

But also I cry.
I punch pillows
And throw things
Because she should still be here.
Because this isn’t fair.

Because I don’t want to wonder.
I don’t want to make eye contact
With jewelry
Instead of her.
I don’t want to be relentlessly positive
And strong
And all the things I have to be
Just to make it to the next right thing.

She understood me
Better than anyone.

She knew the dark parts of me
As well as the good,
And she saw me at my worst
And wanted only to help,
Rendered powerless
By her disease.

And I was powerless, too,
Wanting to pick her up from that bed,
To run away,
Somewhere different,
Like the distant future
Or not so distant past,
So we could have warned ourselves,
Latched onto every second.

But it wouldn’t have mattered.

All I can do
Is my best
To find out who I am,
Outside of her memory.

When you’re compared with a beautiful martyr,
You’re only going to lose.

But I am better than yesterday’s cici.
And I am more than a memory,
No matter how cherished.
And I am here today,
When others are not.

Five years ago I was 19
And I was lost.

I find myself again,
Uncertain, floating,
But not without direction.
And not without means.

Because once,
I complained about walking a long way,
And my mother,
From her wheelchair,
Told me that she wished she could.

So I will walk the long distances,
And traverse the difficult roads,
And make my own rules,

Both for my mother,
Who cannot,
But mostly for myself.

I must look toward the future now,
And pave my own way,
Just like she’d have wanted.