Two years ago, my mother passed away. She was strong, resilient, and despite what she faced, eternally positive.

While subsequently going through her things, I found that she had kept many pieces of clothing from her younger years that I had never seen, and that had a surprisingly (she never did quite think of herself as fashionable) amazing aesthetic. Driven by her unwavering support of my creative pursuits, I was inspired to capture what I had found in a way that would hopefully honor her and capture her essence. This was shot by two dear and talented souls, Tim Prestoza & Michelle Magnoli. Thank you both for helping take my vision to fruition.

Each look represents a season of her journey, put to words pulled from my reflections during this time. While losing anyone is far from easy, I continue to choose joy, and relish in the fonder and finer memories. That said, not all sentiments here are positive, though the process was incredibly cathartic, and helped to build the foundation for a different perspective, one filled with light and love. This is for you mom ❤

She comes to me in dreams, in my own acts, in sights seen, or smells remembered—the sharp sting of chlorine, hinting a pool is close, once her favorite place. She comes to me in a fleeting glance at a mirror, her eyes once so similar to mine. She comes to me in habits—forever reheating morning coffee, lists abound, hanging swimsuits to dry over the passenger seat, or in bouts of sickly-sweet optimism. She comes to me in a gust of summer wind—dust and oak over dry grass. She comes to me in the crested vistas of a fall walk through the hills, in the smell of damp earth as the sun sets, day giving way to the still grace of night.

Chlorine drenched and sun kissed skin, forever crunchy hair / Sherry in the holiday bread / Always flashing your biggest smile at strangers / Making friends with everyone / Those running shoes you’d leave outside because of the mud / Never being afraid to ask / Your odd affinity for balancing your checkbook / Overwatering all the plants / The glint in your eyes when you were feeling wild

One week you were fine, the next you weren’t, and the following you had cancer. Brain cancer. Stage four. Incurable, but possibly treatable. Those words, sharp in meaning, struck my heart with a blow powered by fear, immense fear. You were supposed to outlive us all, and now you could barely move or speak. I hope you do not feel trapped, please do not feel trapped, do not feel helpless and weak. I can only imagine how much more living you have to do—to do all the things that before you once did not deem important, or that you were too afraid to do. Be open, be free, be passionate, be alive. Now you must face a struggle to respect and bolster with all your might. Emotions wane from profane to positive, to trying to outrun the shadow that cascades across my mind, kept at bay only by the sunshine and your smile. I hope to replace the nights I lay awake, unknowingly composing your eulogy in my mind, to visions of when you were the most you. You weren’t the first, you weren’t the last. You weren’t the best, and you weren’t the worst. But you were mine. My mother. You gave me the greatest gift of all—life. For that I will be forever grateful.

A letter to my mother: Oh courageous, strong woman. What a journey this has been. You fought so valiantly with optimism and strength for 16 months. One week you were fine, the next you weren’t, and the following you had cancer. Stage four.

You were supposed to outlive us all, and now you were to face a most daunting challenge. One that you met with unwavering optimism and strength. It was your positivity and sweet smile that made it bearable for the rest of us, and we are all so fortunate to have been part of your journey.

You picked a beautiful day to leave us, a beautiful day for your spirit to return to the grace that bore you. Your last breath back to the winds that carried your first, and your memory back to the hearts of those who love you.

Though you are no longer with us, you will remain in my heart, always. I love and appreciate you more than you could ever know. For you, I promise to live my life in a way that you did not get the chance to. For you, I will replace the nights I lay awake silently weeping for you, to visions of when you were the most vibrant, savoring your essence and basking in the light that you gave us all.

Season 1
Mom, why are you so quiet, is everything ok?
Dropped dishes, balance lost, misplaced words, an illegible signature
The worst possible news—brain cancer, stage four, incurable
My heart implodes to crystalize you within it, all I can control
You were so healthy, you were supposed to outlive us all
The blank stare you had when you emerged from surgery
Do you see me? Please see me
Can you feel me holding your hand? Please feel me
One word at a time, muffled whispers, we’ll get you there
Helping you walk, you’re so close
You’ll be able to do this on your own soon
Once you can, we can take you home
Please come home. Come back to us
Are you ready, ready to fight?
Humor, making fun of all the staples in your head, “Franken-mama”
You laugh at your radiation mask, I do too—you do look like a fencer with it on

Season 2
We got you back in the pool, you were so happy
You said it was your sanctuary
My sanctuary was knowing that, for now, you were still with us
Alive with sun kissed skin, bringing me back
Back to the smell of the old swimsuit you hung from the passenger seat headrest
I cry as I drive home knowing those days are long gone
Setbacks, but you remain strong
We try to be strong for you, but your willpower overshadows all of ours
Let’s go for a walk, you’ve been doing so well
White lies, stinging positivity
Let’s get outside, and be reminded of the magic in the world
The magic reflected in the trees, in the kind gestures of strangers
The cashier at the store who could tell you weren’t well
He gave you flowers, no charge, remember?

Season 3
Why are you slowing down?
Maybe you’re just tired, please just be tired
Confusion. You don’t know what you’re doing
I am fearful, I don’t know either
That’s a phone number, not the time
Focus please, I know you’re in there
More medication, so many pills
We make a game out of taking them, while they take their toll on you
Rendering your skin thin as parchment paper, left to bruise like an overly ripe stone fruit
Sedentary, so many naps
The chemo isn’t helping
Two new tumors, many expletives
More dark, more despair
Let’s take solace in the sunlight

Season 4
Wheelchair-bound and movement comprised
You sleep so often, I hope you dream sweetly
They don’t tell you what it’s really like, it can’t compare to anything else
I tell myself that sometimes things must get better before they get worse
You are able to go to your son’s wedding
You couldn’t dance, but you still looked so lovely
I am happy for my brother that you were there
Though dismayed that you won’t be on the guest list when my time comes
Clinical trial application, accepted
A glimmer of hope, maybe this is the answer
Come to find out, it was not
Seizures, slowing down, sleepless nights
Back to the hospital, this time you would not be coming home
Two weeks by your bedside
Brain activity diminishing
Your favorite song played for you once more, echoes of better times
“The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation”
Your eyes close, you will not open them again
Are you still able to hear me?
Not knowing the answer, I whisper in your ear that I love you, so much
Your lips open, just a sliver, a waning crescent, and you exhale a barely audible “I love you Amy”
I wave of gratitude consumes me
Everything I had once hoped for our relationship to grow into, condensed into a single moment
I kiss your forehead, I am in awe of your resilience
Your breathing shortens over the following days
Until your chest ceases to rise
And on a sunny afternoon you were gone

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