Happy b’day, Ma!

Happy b’day, Ma!
The three faces of Jane. You look so mysterious in the first photo. I want to know what you were thinking. Did you know I used to see you everywhere after you died? I’d see your face in others’ faces. It was as if you’d flown into their bodies, flown into their skulls, and were inhabiting them with your wild Irishy spirit, your mischievousness peering out. Like that clay incense burner you had, the one shaped like a grinning imp, where the incense burned and

smoke curled out of the sides of his mouth and nostrils and eyes. I can’t believe how much I miss you. How much I still grieve you. Celebrate you. How much you inspire me to do you proud. To go on when I don’t feel like going on. The middle one, you look…uncomfortable. Did you know how beautiful you were? Did you ever know? I want to tell you, I’m working on the deepest layers of self worth, self value now. That’s why I’m late posting this b’day love letter to you, Ma. Because I’m working a lot. I’ve been working all day. I’m committed to growing, changing, asking the hard questions. I’ve learned I can laugh, love, that the sadness, it can stay there at the same time. Ebbing, flowing. Sometimes almost disappearing. Then flaring up, like now, when I write you. When I engage you in the conversation that’s never finished. Even though my face is wet, and I’m doing this in public — am I mad? — I want to tell you, that I’m grateful you shaped me, gave birth to me, that the loss of you has carved deep grooves in my heart, my soul and made me who I am. What about that last photo, Ma? Why so tentative? Funny, yes, you were. Your laugh — it still rings through my bones. I can feel it. Did I tell you I’ve been learning? To love myself. To nurture myself. Now, to dig into the deepest wells of self worth. I want you to know how much I value you. The gifts you had, the love of art, the delicate Easter eggs we pierced with needles and blew out, and painted, and held so lightweight in our hands. A robin’s egg blue, streaked with purple, and then the golden painted stars. I will always love you, Ma. And miss you, in an elemental way. Happy birthday. Drink in my love.
Your daughter,
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