LETTER TO MARY

It has to be around here somewhere, hidden among stacks of papers,  photos and slides that tell the story of your life.

You must have been in your early twenties when those beach pictures were taken.  You were so young and beautiful, smiling in your shorts and tied up shirt. Flipping through them, I can almost feel the summer sun and sand on my skin.

There are black and white snapshots of you and Dad in the early days of your marriage, beginning with your wedding day and then holding your babies.  Dad had hair that seemed to get thinner as more of us came along.

And your own hair, all thick and wavy… I certainly didn’t inherit that!

You loved TV shopping and had mountains of things stashed away that you planned on gifting to us, your seven kids.  Now we’re left to distribute them on our own.  You would be happy to know how much we appreciate your thoughtfulness.

God only knows how you did it, but you were always there for us, in the background, cooking and keeping the house up.  I used to watch, mesmerized, by the way you cut vegetables for your potato salad,  always with that old paring knife and always sliced tiny and paper thin.

Mine are chunky and not so uniform in size.  Impatience, I guess.  Or poor knife skills.

Between you and Dad, you kept a fairly tight rein on us but still allowed ample space so we could make mistakes.

And make them we did!

In high school, I remember skipping class a time or two, thinking I’d get away with it.  You knew all along and let me think my ploy had worked until there was no wiggling out of it.

Checkmate!

Valuable lesson learned.

You taught us to be honest, responsible and conscientious and to work hard while following our passions.

In that vein, I see you’ve carefully organized financial documents, bills and receipts.  We have access to almost everything we need to settle your estate and all we need to give you your final resting place.

So where is the item I most need to find?

Where is the note?

Surely you wrote one.  Surely you wanted us to know why you chose not to seek treatment.  To let cancer take its course and your life.

Didn’t you think we would want to understand?

Things like this were never discussed, but I desperately want to know why.

Why did you deny being sick when we all sensed something was wrong?  You were growing weaker as the months passed, yet you refused to see a doctor.

When we were talking about our mammograms, you said “It’s good that you girls keep up on those.”

You had to know.

Was it just too late?  Would treatments have been a painful waste of time and life?

Why didn’t you let us help you through it?  Did you think you’d be a burden?

Why didn’t you give us a chance?

Would it have been too hard to deal with goodbyes?

You insisted that we come say goodbye to Dad when he passed, before the coroner took his body from the house.  You said that you were sorry you never got to say goodbye to your dad when he died.

Did you want to spare us the pain?

It still hurts.

Losing you without warning still hurts.

You used to write the nicest notes in birthday cards and even a random letter now and then.

This note was an important one. Where did you hide it?

It’s not in any of those boxes, not stashed in your jewelry drawer, not under your pillow.

Your blood-soaked bedding tells the story of your suffering, but offers no explanation as to why you chose to die this way, eaten away from the inside out.

The choice was yours to make, and ours only to accept, though we will never know or understand your reasons.

In my heart I believe you thought it would be better for us this way.

We didn’t have the chance to tell you, but I pray that you somehow know we will always love and miss you.

You were a beautiful, self-sacrificing and stubborn, stubborn woman.

Too stubborn to leave a note….

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