If I have a love language, it’s cleaning and organizing and sorting and making smooth what was rough and mostly keeping my mouth shut about the whole thing. My mom died two weeks ago today and I’m just now starting to be communicative more than light social media and emails. She was a firecracker. She’ll be missed. Her obit is online which she mostly wrote herself (she chose that photo, I prefer the one in this post) but she’s better memorialized by her twelve thousand Flickr photos with their permissive Creative Commons licenses.

I’ve been living in my childhood home (a place I haven’t been for more than four days in a row since I was seventeen) and immersing myself in the work to be done. Kate and I are doing the usual paperwork and meetings and bill-paying and notifying but there’s also the work of assessing and presenting a life. My mom lived in this house for 45 years. When my father left twenty-five years ago he took some but not all of his stuff. Many other people have lived here and made their impressions. We haven’t made any long-term plans about the place, thank you for not asking, but one thing we do know is that we’re having a bunch of people over for a Life Celebration in two weeks (email me if you want details). I’ve decided it would be nice if this house highlighted the best things about my mom–her artistic sense, her adoration of nature, her fierce sense of humor, her deep and abiding love for this town and the people in it, her lifetime civic commitments and her reading and writing activities–and maybe downplayed her “don’t give a fuck” attitude, as much as I often admired it, that could make this magic castle of a house less than welcoming to anyone who was not-her.

I’ve been touched by people’s concerns about how I’ve been doing and sharing their memories about my mom during all the stages of her life. I have, however, deeply and soulfully enjoyed just getting to spend a lot of time alone with her spaces and her stuff, doing my little acts of service and love and saying goodbye in my own very particular way.

What do you think?


  1. Aw man, I wish I had seen her flickr sooner! I would have loved to have met her. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your Mom sounds like quite a gal!

  3. Oh, gosh, do I ever relate. It has been 5 years since my mom died and I was left with her house and her stuff . . . much of it stuff that SHE acquired from various family members who passed on (kids who moved out, parents and grandparents who died). The attic . . . the basement . . . cupboards and drawers, all full of letters, toys, books, clothes, tools, photographs. And suddenly it was mine. I was immersed in memories, feelings, anxiety, love. At times, it was overwhelming. Five years later, my mother-in-law dies. Same thing (but not so fraught with memories). I think that how we approach this task—handling the things our loved ones leave behind—says volumes about us. It’s both a burden and a privilege. You will work it out.

  4. How I wish I could be there for the celebration of her life! She was a part of mine for two of the most glorious summers of my life at the sundown ranch way off in the wilds of northern Arizona. Your writing is beautiful. Her photos were amazing. I have loved knowing how special and full of love her life was.

  5. Great write up about your mom & your current state. I LOVE the picture you posted here. It shows so much of your mother’s inner light.

  6. My father died just over a week ago, and going through his home with my brother, sister, and niece has been so hard and rewarding. My recurring thoughts have been how much I want him, not his stuff; and how blessed I was to have had him, and am to have my siblings now. It sounds like this is the same with you and your mom. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  7. that was a very nice piece. Your mom sounds very special.

  8. Jess, very nicely said!! I refer to your Mom as “Wonder Woman”. She was a huge part of my family’s life; we are still trying to wrap our head’s around the fact that she moved on to the next demension. She will always be the strongest woman I have ever known and a mentor I will always miss. There was never a day that went by that she didn’t speak of you and Kate!

  9. A nice piece Jessamyn yes she was a “Wonder Woman” and a freind even if I live on the otherside of the World down under.
    Introduced by Pat MacMillan as your mom and I share the same birthdates in March we very occasionaly talked on the Phone when Pat was with her.
    Then I get an email from her saying”Ian how would you to meet a couple of American Gals”It was a Hot West Aussie day,so after sail boat racing I got into my car and travelled to Perth to see Kate and you Both,A sunburnt Kate after walking in “KINGS PARK”.Our freinsdhip was for Sixteen years and one that I personally will miss.
    My Love to you both,

  10. We change when our mothers are gone. I am so glad you have this time. I am forever blessed to have had a similar experience when my mother died. Treasure it.

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