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Wandering through

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I put a lot of stuff online, both good and bad. Sometimes, though, something big enough comes along that I need to hold onto it for a while before I can write much, and if it’s really huge, then it seems wrong to blog anything else until that thing has been said.

So. Many of you know by now that my mother died on April 15. I’ve made any number of jokes about the long-time bookkeeper and Tax Day, but none of them were any good, really.

Maureen Vincent Goslee, July 30 1947 – April 15 2015.

DSC00514 1024Over the last ten years or so we’d developed a good adult relationship. I was living close enough for semi-regular visits, after years in North Carolina and New Mexico, neither in close enough proximity to Michigan for that.

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Mom came out for my surgery, and spent all three weeks at the hospital except for one thing she couldn’t miss herself. She snuck quietly into my room at 5:30 every morning so she’d be there for early rounds; that was very much like her.

She had cancer herself, originally diagnosed in 2000, and dormant for many years. I’d always figured that I’d end up with breast cancer in my 50s, like she did. Even my bad plans don’t always work out. Her cancer recurred a few years ago, in her bones and lungs, but until the end of March everyone, including her doctors, thought it was under control. It wasn’t, though she finally succumbed to an infection rather than the cancer itself.

Maureen was active in her church, cancer support groups and other activities around Ann Arbor. Since her death people have been coming out of the woodwork to tell me what a wonderful person she was, and how much she contributed to all of these things. I knew this, in a general sense, but hadn’t truly realized how integral she was to so many people’s lives. I’m not surprised, though, even though during the time I knew her best, while growing up, she was too geographically isolated and too busy to be engaged in that fashion.

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(Christmas 1989)

She was my role model for getting through cancer, and for living a full life afterwards. Fifteen years isn’t enough to compensate for the cancer finally winning. Beyond the simple fact of a parent dying, that model now switches from “this works” to “you can’t win.” I know that nobody wins in the end, but this was just plain wrong.

In typical fashion, she donated her body to medical research. Her memorial service was last weekend, and it was excellent. Many people who loved her, and as far as I could tell no drama whatsoever. Thank you to everyone, family, friends, church, who made that happen.

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My little brother Nathan (this is a family joke: Nate is 6 years younger than I am, but 14 inches taller) and I went through her condo the day after the service. That was an incredibly difficult thing to do: that’s her stuff, in her place, and to just rummage through everything when it feels like she could be back any minute?

Mom was incredibly organized, and left a list of things with particular sentimental value and where they came from. We never did figure out which gold locket she meant, but managed to track down everything else so we could ensure each item went somewhere specific. I took some other things, like the tattered and stained cookbook from which I learned to cook and a few of her jungle of plants, but how do you divide up an entire life?

Tomorrow I start what should be my final chemo treatment. I don’t know what happens after that; nobody does. But I know how to approach it, whatever it is, because I learned that from my mother.