Spending Memorial Day with the living, avoiding the dying

I suppose I should have spent

Memorial Day

With my mother,

If Memorial Day is for


Those who are

No longer with us.

Then, she would’ve been the

Appropriate one.

If you think of a person as a

Sum of three parts,

As I do:




Then at least

One-third of

My mother–

The part centered in her

Atrophied brain–

Is gone forever.


So I should’ve gone over there.

Paid homage to the

Memory of her mind,

And helped my father maintain her

Body and


But I didn’t.

I spent Memorial Day with the

Vividly alive:

My husband,

Our children,

And friends.


And lounging around on plastic lawn chairs

In the sun,

The finally hot sun.

I typically make it a point to

Think of the dead

On Memorial Day:

All my grandparents,

An uncle who died at 10 years old,

An aunt and cousin killed in a car accident,

A cousin who drank himself to death.

Some of them I’ve never met.

But this year of all years,

With one of the


Still available,

I avoided her.

The crispy bones in her back and shoulders

When I pat her in greeting;

The jaw ticking

Ceaselessly back and forth;

The milky eyes watching my nose,

Then my hair,

Then looking past me as I

Talk and smile.

I never want to be there,

With her,

But I’m usually willing to go.


I wasn’t even willing.

This Memorial Day,

I chose the living.


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