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Last Sunday was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I met a friend of hers and relatives at the grave and read two of her favorite poems—“Invictus” and “Daffodils.” We told funny stories, we embraced, we laid stones on the stone, we went on our way. My plan was to spend the rest of the day meditating on my mother and I’d brought a sandwich, an apple, some water, my journal—life passes quickly into pages these days—and good walking shoes. I drove to her house to pay last respects there. I hadn’t been told that it would be torn down. It was a shock, I have to admit, all her plantings bull-dozed into the woods, the dogwood tree my step-father planted still standing, but damaged. The site looks clean, well excavated, a fresh start.

Every settlement is a palimpsest with its layered history and buried memories. We are usually not aware of what came before as we live fruitfully in the present. Refugee families are somewhat different as their history has been broken, the reason, perhaps, that the leveled house hit me hard. We had remade some history there and an illusion of permanence. When our daughter was small, we visited almost weekly, swam in the pool, had barbecues. Our dog’s ashes are scattered in the woods. I’ve written to the new owner to tell her some of these things and to wish her well. I know that her neighbors, warm and caring, will welcome her with all their hearts.

My mother lived until April 21, 2012. She was 99 when she died, alert and interesting to the end, listening to the news, eager to vote, eager to hear me recite newly memorized poems.

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