Listen

When I hear the stories of your mother–her brilliance, sense of humor, activism–I feel that I knew her on some level. After all, I know her daughter, taught well by this woman I never met. A great listener, but also one to share, trade stories, talk it out; throw around ideas like playing catch in the yard, bare-handed, because that’s what friends do. Catching words like a ball, bare-handed, stings a little, but we still do it.

Her death is so recent. My mother’s death was twenty years ago, but I am capable of dredging up the feelings evoked then, the long hospital stay, death watch and hearing her last breath. It was so similar for you that I am thrown back in time. It stings, this tear in my eye, hearing your sorrow, holding your hand while you tell me everything.

We are our mothers, or at least that’s what people say. We turn into them, model after them; but if it means my own daughter has to sit by my bedside for days waiting for me as I have done, I’m not sure I want to be like her. Better to fall asleep and not awaken again. Better to listen while we are still alive than to hear stories of dying.

Julie A. Dickson
Exeter, New Hampshire

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