I am waiting for the call telling me that my mother has taken her last breath and I do not know what to do with myself. I am not sure how to spend this time. I walked the dogs, bathed, ate breakfast, doomscrolled, stared at my phone, ransacked boxes of old photos, searching for that one picture of her.

I found it and many others. Pictures of her with my children, at their births, birthday parties, reading stories. I see now how hard she tried to connect with me and how difficult I made it. My favorite times with my mother, as an adult, were the times there are no pictures of. The early morning conversations on her front porch swing with steaming mugs of coffee, our powerwalks around the neighborhood, being beat at Scrabble mercilessly and often. She always bought fancy creamer when I visited even though I don’t use it. And made meals from my childhood that I had no nostalgia for, but I see now what she was doing. She was glad to have me there. She needed me to have fond memories of her meals because cooking for her family is what she did, every damn day, along with a million other things. It was her work, her contribution, her way of caretaking and loving. It was also her “duty” and very likely a monstrous, unappreciated chore. But she needed me to acknowledge that what she did mattered. I wish I had been gentler with her, but I am only just learning that now, that gentleness is what is needed. Everywhere, with everyone.

As her health declined I heard stories of quiet conversations others had with her, too, and how her gentleness made them feel seen and loved and supported. She quietly lifted people up behind the scenes, always. And they remember. Some reached out to her, and for that I am grateful. It’s easy to forget to say the words. And its easy to chalk relationships up to being complicated and undecipherable, but at the end, all that remains is love.

Rest in peace, Mama.

Always Waiting by Michael Kiwanuka