Your laughter was my first happy memory, and when I fled the womb and heard it full, it filled my soul and became the song of life!

What a life you gave me!

I heard your angel voice singing every day as you cleaned the house. I saw you smile at every new thing your children mastered. I listened as you read books to us, and taught us nursery rhymes, and silly songs.

Your model of love, patience, empathy and kindness were things I wanted to emulate and absorb. I know I absorbed your sassy mouth. Ask anybody who knows me.

I’ve never been able to sing or dance like you, the dance hall queen, but the memories of your young voice and your impossibly graceful body will stay with me forever.

You filled our summer days with picnics and lake houses and our nights with old movies and tea. I still watch those movies on TCM. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to watch them with you.

Time was so kind to us back then. It moved slow, like the bayous. But lately, it’s been forcing its way through us like the Mighty Mississippi in spring. And we’re worn driftwood, helpless.

As I bathe your tired body, I see the arms that cradled me, comforted me, and held me up. I see the beautiful hands that never let go of me until I was older, and wouldn’t be held back. I remember the spankings they delivered, too, but let’s not rehash my misdeeds. This is not about me. This is about you.

I scrub your back, once sturdy and strong, now unwilling to bear much more. Your backbone made all of us strong. That back held up your family.

Your legs were always so beautiful! Now weak and stubborn, they still look beautiful to me. The lap I sat on. The legs that danced. The feet we stood on as you taught us to waltz. All beautiful to me.

My sweet, strong, stubborn, loving momma, you are still the most beautiful woman in the world to me. I count it as a privilege to be able to pay back the tiniest bit of the debt I owe for the work you put into making me a strong woman and a decent human being.

When the time comes, I will count it as a privilege to be holding your hand when you go home to God and the rest of the family. My heart will break for not having you here with me, but some of you will always stay behind in all of us. Words cannot express how very much I love you.