In a white flash of realization she could clearly see what it was that she so greatly sought after — the dark passion that can only come from knowing the pain of loss. You love fiercely when you have experienced this fine agony.

She knew that she had always felt it — the sorrow that inconspicuously shaded the home. It was not strong, not overpowering, not potent, yet she felt it. It intensified in the late afternoon, as if the impending dusk, followed by the soft fading on the light, were enough to give it some perverse strength. Now, many years later, she wondered if the shadow — that she felt only she could see, that at the time did not seem to have any cause or purpose — was perhaps a collective emotion that was cast into the past from the darkness of present day.

An old friend once told her that she needed to be more black and white, that she was too grey. Too dull, too bland, too inhibited, too complacent, too flat. What this friend didn’t know was that she loved the grey. Lived in the grey. The grey covered all her black and white thoughts, her black urges, concealed her white revelations, hid her deepest darkest desires. They grey placated the infinite span of her black and white emotions. The grey was her sanctuary, her solace, her resolve.

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, and thank you for all that you have done for me. You gave me the greatest gift of all — life. For that I will be forever grateful.

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 glory that it once was, is now, and will continue to be, always.

A house that stood on a corner that was once quiet, bordered by cherry orchards and cactus fields, on the outskirts of town. A house that now stood on a corner that was no longer so quiet, now bordered by freeways, strip malls and auto dealerships with stadium lighting that claimed stake to not only the land, but the surrounding sky. This is where I spent my youth.

There, every other time of day seemed unremarkable, save for those late afternoon hours. Perhaps it was the elongated angles the sun rays traveled to reach me. Perhaps it was the particular way the light illuminated the windows. Perhaps it was the deep amber that settled around the house like a low hanging fog. Or perhaps it was all of these that made the autumn of each passing day unlike anything I would ever come to know.

The feeling this inflicted was odd, unfamiliar, uncomfortable. It seemed to take me back to a place where things moved differently, where strife and survival were potent enough to taste from the glance of a passing stranger, cold and bitter like copper. The only remedy it seemed was to endure these foreign hours until they passed, replaced by the setting sun and the last moments of fleeting daylight.

The city as a world of its own. Each crevice, detail, brick, corner, seemed to have a life of its own, where if seen anywhere else would have been admissible. Every single face that passed in rapid succession was breathtakingly beautiful. Perhaps unjustly – every feature seemed all the more glorious because it was there, because it was a London face. A London dimple, a London wrinkle, a London grey hair. All beautiful. Full of character, meaning, substance. If seen back home, none of this would have been striking in the slightest. Had the mundane nature of routine rooted itself so deeply that nothing seemed to rise above the baseline of normality, save for far away from home?

It came over her again, the feeling. the overwhelming urge. To be gone. Just to be lost for a while. To be free. To be untied from the people, the places, the feelings. The things that seemed to pull her in so many directions. The empathy for the pain of the world setting in. The sadness that she knew would never fully leave her. Not sadness of her own, but that of the wrongs of the world. The wrongs of the now, of what had been before, and what still had yet to be. It began when she was young, too young – she came to the realization of what the human condition was – the endless cycle of strife, stress, redemption, reward, until there was no more. This fate is one of the heaviest of burdens to bear to one who fully realizes it. Oh to be no particular person, in no particular place. Actions to hold no consequence, no repercussions. To be no one. Never had she dealt with anything more difficult than her own soul. She had always known it was different – it looked at the word differently, thought about the world differently, saw the world differently. Perhaps it was because she was born heartbroken. Heartbroken at the world, heartbroken at herself, heartbroken even more so feeling so low never having known the pain of the collective souls she shared the earth with.

She loved laying with him. Listening to his breathing slow and lengthen as he drifted closer and closer to sweet sleep. As envious as she was that he could rest so easily, she was thankful for the chance to remain awake and aware of his endless beauty. She caught herself in stillness, lost staring at the back of his neck – his skin peaceful, beautiful. She entertained the thought that perhaps if she kept her own head there, close to his, in silence for long enough, he would take it with him, such that she could experience the world through his eyes, sinew to vision, if only for a few fleeting moments.

She did always like Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. It was smooth, catchy, euphoric. Sounding like a time when memories were made in sepia, and life moved at a different pace. But she would never like the song as much as she could have, because her eyes were blue. Blue like her soul that arrived on this earth shrouded in a shadow that did not belong to it. A soul that would gather the sorrows of the word and corral their reflections within itself. To hold such sadness within oneself is a great task, proven only harder but the fact that her own sorrows could never hold enough substance compared to the shadow of the cumulative woe that lived within her. Being born heartbroken, she thought, was an existence of great burden, yet one of great honor. But maybe it was because her eyes were blue like the sky, rather than her soul – vast, endless, unbound. Perhaps that was the reason why she found it so difficult to look into the eyes of others. To gaze into an advance of perpetual thoughts, dreams fears – ones that were present now, and ones that still had yet to be formed. Perhaps though it was so hard for her to look into the eyes of others because she was afraid that someone might actually see her.

One week you were fine, the next you weren’t, and the next you had cancer. Brain cancer. Stage four. Incurable, but potentially 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 not 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 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 dark shadow that cascades across my mind. The downward spiral into darkness is only kept at bay by the sunshine and your smile. I hope to replace the nights I lay awake silently weeping for you, writing your eulogy in my mind, to visions of when you were the most you, savoring your essence and basking in the glory that it once was, is now, and will continue to be. 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 am forever grateful.