TS Eliot wrote, "April is the cruelest month," and in the shadow of Mom's death, our first impulse might be to agree with that sentiment. It all seems tremendously unfair, nonsensical, and arbitrary.

But spring was the season Mom most loved, for it was another chance to get back out in the garden. Planting and tending and weeding, dirt all over her hands, was a joyful thing for Mom. It's one of the few things she wasn't able to teach me. But she taught me so many other things that I think we can let that one slide.

Mom taught me a love of books, for example; she read to me and my sister all the time. She read us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach and Danny, Champion of the World and Charlotte's Web. She cried every time Charlotte died, as many of us cry now. I'd swear she read us Stuart Little, but when the subject came up a few months ago, she said she hadn't. So maybe I read it as a young child and just assumed that Mom read it to me.

Mom, ever the teacher, taught me most of everything I am. She taught me to consider how others might feel, which is the gateway to empathy; she taught me the value of respect and discipline; she taught me to use the word "hate" advisedly. She taught all these things not in lectures, but by example, and by offhanded comments that she didn't recall in later years. (Just like reading Stuart Little.) Most of all, in the last 16 months, she taught me how to face death, and she taught me how to live.

In these last 16 months, I've watched my mother truly live, as we all have. In the week after her diagnosis, while still in some shock, she told me that she'd spent most of her life just wanting to die, and now that she finally wanted to live, she wouldn't get the chance. It was a horrible moment to hear her say that, most of all because I knew it to be true. But shortly thereafter, she put away self-pity and got on with the business of living, and I mean really living. She started quilting and went on trips to places she'd always wanted to see. She saw her daughter happily marry, and anyone at the reception can tell you how happy and alive Mom was. It may be the only time in my life I saw her do "The Twist."

It may seem like 16 months is too short a time, but the way Mom lived that time, it was plenty, and she shared that plenty with everyone she met. So every April spring will come, and every April the scent of renewal will fill the air. The flowers will once more bloom and bring color back to the land. And in that, I will always be reminded not of Mom's leaving, but of her living.

21 March 2003