Thank you so much for all your advice on this layout. I have been stuck on it since Christmas. I took almost no photos at Thanksgiving this year, and it was a sad, off-kilter, weird kind of disoriented holiday.


Thanksgiving 2013 was the first major holiday we had together after my mom died. She died in August and the summer and fall were very difficult. Her birthday came quickly, the following October, and then Thanksgiving was upon us.

My mom was particular about holidays. She set such a pretty table, and wanted all the food and condiments in nice bowls and dishes. We used china on Thanksgiving and at Christmas, and her fancy silver. We would share the responsibilities; she would always do the turkey, my sister would make the cranberry apple, and I would help with the side dishes and dessert.

This year my whole family drove up to Maryland to have Thanksgiving together. My mom loved that I loved to cook; she would play with the kids and keep them busy while I fixed dinner. It was a great arrangement that I appreciated, too, because it gave me some down time to myself, and she had a chance to play with the kids. Because her kitchen was organized differently from mine, several times during a meal preparation I would walk into the living room and ask her, “Hey, Mom, where do you keep the . . . ?” or “Do you have any?” Still, today, almost a year later, I find myself getting halfway to the living room before I remember she’s not there, and I’m left to find the elusive spice, herb, or dish on my own. It is both frustrating and mind-numbingly sad. It’s the little things that take my breath away.

This Thanksgiving I am convinced she would be laughing so hard if she saw how disorganized everything was. Jen went through everything in the months following my mom’s death and yet it seemed there were things we remembered Mom had that we couldn’t find. We looked everywhere for the ornaments for the Advent calendar, and I finally found them in a tiny jewelry bag in the dresser by her bed.

I didn’t have the emotional strength to take pictures while we were there. It was a subdued visit, punctuated with laughter when we remembered something Mom would do or say. The grief was still too new to be tempered with humor, though, and the sadness was palpable.

My mom wanted to be cremated and my dad keeps her urn in the dining room. My mom was the life of the party, and my sister wanted to carry on that tradition by decorating the urn. I think my mom would have laughed ‘till she cried to see her urn decorated with pink feathers, a huge pink flamingo, sunglasses, and party hat. I find it a little uncomfortable, but it comforts my sister, so why not go with it?

My mom was the glue that held everything together. She was the peacekeeper, mediator, laid-back, easy-to-get-along with one in the family. She filled in the rough spots in our relationships, and always had the plan. If she didn’t have a Plan A, Plan B was, “Hey. Let’s go have some fun.” She was always doing something fun, and she loved all her grandkids so much.

The first Thanksgiving and Christmas were so hard without her. We miss her so much and a year later, things aren’t that much easier. It’s still the little things that make me cry; every day something reminds me of her. I hope someday soon things will be easier.


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