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“Do you ever just miss her so much?” my sister asked earlier this week. Surprisingly I do.

Then I come across a photo of her slumped in her chair, and I don’t.

Then I find the photo of her leaning over the deck railing, the sun shining on the halo of her white hair inside the circle of her visor, to watch me working in the garden below, and I do.

Then I think of her complaining about the food and not being able to poop or pooping too much, and I don’t.

Then I think of something I need to ask her, and I do.

Then I remember the sadness of her not remembering, and I don’t.

We decide we want her back like we wished she had been and maybe never was. That ideal of a mother we hold in our heads. Perhaps that is the gift of death to those who remain, the freedom to aggrandize the lost one into all their inherent goodness without the bits that drove us to near madness.

She is with me in everything though. After spending six years trying to escape from her when I was in my garden or out hiking or driving off on some adventure, now I’m looking for her. And she finds me. On each of my hikes I make an inukshuk, or cairn, to show her the way to the beautiful place I’ve found. I find her in a moth that lands on my bear whistle and stays there, a western tanager that sits on the deck rail observing me as I eat my lunch, the mama and child enjoying an evening snack.

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Last week I made a quick trip up the driveway to the garden for tomatoes and strawberries. As I bend down to pull a few weeds from the pathway bricks, the shadow of a large bird crosses the grass. Looking up, I spot a golden eagle circling the meadow. As I stare at the rare (as in never) event, it swoops down over me then flies off over the neighbor’s orchard.

I sink into one of the turquoise plastic Adirondack chairs, willing it to come back. Several minutes later it comes from behind my head and circles above the garden enclosure, around and around, over and over. “Hi, Mama,” I say. “You found me.”

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