It was a year ago today that my mom passed away. She's been on my mind quite a bit lately. Last year it was right around this time that the robins came back for Spring. In fact, I saw the first one in my yard the day after she died. He landed on my window sill outside, and I just lost it.

My mom always loved birds, especially red birds. She always covered her Christmas tree with cardinals and silver tinsel, and topped it with a birdhouse. Since we don't have cardinals in Alaska, a robin is the next best thing. So all last Spring and Summer, whenever I'd see a robin, I'd think of my mom.

The first picture is my Aunt Roxie, Uncle Gene, Mom and Uncle Roger.

This one, I'm not sure of her age. I'm guessing maybe 13 or so.

And this one, she is about 16 or 17...around the time she graduated from high school. She was an outstanding student, and was able to graduate early.
And I think she's in her early twenties here. The year before she died, I visited her in Oregon and we went through boxes of these pictures together, making notes with dates and ages and names. She knew she was dying and I wanted to make sure none of these details were forgotten. Since then, the notes have gotten lost, but I still have the pictures. One of these days, I'll make a scrapbook of them, but for now, I can't sit down and do it without crying.
She truly was an amazing person. She wasn't easy to love, that's for sure. She had a hard, hard life, and in a lot of ways was very calloused, but still so vulnerable. I don't think she ever did find the love she was looking for so desperately, or if she did, she didn't know it. But through all the turmoil in her life, she held up her head and kept a stiff upper lip, as she'd often say to me. She was so creative, artistic, a gifted writer. And funny. When she was happy, people were drawn to her. She left an impression wherever she went. She had piercing icy blue eyes, gorgeous auburn hair that in time turned snow white, and a deep, husky voice that wasn't easy to forget. When I was young, I would look at her and think she could have been a movie star. Someone like Lucille Ball or Phyllis Diller. Funny, sarcastic and brilliant.
If she taught me anything, it was to recognize love when you have it. That when things get tough, you can't run away from your problems. Cherish the happiness you have. She lived her life constantly searching for her happiness, and the only way I can look at that and be OK with it is to learn from her mistakes and thank her for them. She had much bigger shoulders than I do. Thanks, Mom, for taking the hard road so that I can cherish my wonderful life.

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