On the One-Year Anniversary

On the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death, at the suggestion of my therapist, I sat down to write her a letter. I had a difficult time starting it and I could not understand why? I had written plenty of letters before — love letters, break-up letters, letters about heartache — but for some reason this proved to be more difficult. I had known and experienced heartache before but somehow this heartache, what I was asked to write about, was harder, deeper, and wider than anything that I could wrap my mind around. But, I also knew that the only way for me to work through the depth of my pain was to indeed write the letter.  The writer in me wanted to make it beautiful, make it perfect. But then I realized that the writer in me could not make sense of your death and so what you have below is the rawness, however imperfect, that I felt when I sat down to write this.

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Dear mommy,

I wondered this: what would I have said if I knew that that phone conversation was the last time, the last one. What would I have said if I knew that that would be the last rushed, “I’ll call you back” that I would ever say to you. What would I have said if I new that you would never see the complete production of the one thing that you never talked about — my novel — the one thing that I sat and talked to you about, the one thing that I knew I had in me but was so afraid to push out. I imagined that I was like you as I pursued the publication of my novel — afraid but hopeful.  I imagined that you dreamed along with me, fighting for those dreams even though you were prevented from realizing yours, the faraway sound in your voice indicative of your pain….

When I was there — in that place that last held your body, your rings, pink-framed glasses, diamond S necklace, heart shaped necklace trimmed in diamonds, I stood and stared at the spot. There it was: the sheet that caressed your body as you left this physical place — the shape of your body I tried to make out: the loop of your neck, the shape of your back: was it straight or were you curled in a ball like the way that you normally slept? Did your hand hold the pillow that was under your head? Did your fingers cradle the remote that you loved as much as you loved your Cranberry Ginger Ales? I stood there and tried to imprint the imprint in my mind because you see, I would never see you again — I would never be able to hear you say my name, never be able to hear the anger drip off of my name, “Michael” when I did something that made you upset. I looked around the room and saw my life ending…

Going through your papers, I found the envelope with the first three chapters of my novel. You never said a word when I sent it to you, never even acknowledged that you got it in the mail. I wondered, like most kids who love and want to be validated by the one person that means the world to them, if you even read it. I wondered if, when you did, if I made you proud. I wondered if it languished in the many piles of paper and envelopes that had become your comfort, your way of making sense of a world that was passing before you — a world that silently and slowly dismissed you because you were a woman with a disability, a woman who stood her ground at all cost… I wondered, the entire year after I sent it.

I wondered and when I saw the open envelope and the numbers and calculations that were on the envelop — that was your way: you calculated everything, right down to the penny, on any piece of paper that you could find and the more calculations the paper had, meant that you used it over and over again.  The envelope with my novel had calculations on each side — full with only my name visible on the front of the envelope. That was your way…

So, even if you did not read it, even if you never took it out of the envelope, I knew that you had seen it, had held it, let it rest in your hands, held it like I had as I worked through it…

I thought about that on the one -year anniversary of your death because I never thought that this moment would occur without you — in the physical. I never dreamt that the first award that my book won would be shared with other people first — it was always your right, I believed, to feel it first. To experience that first with me…

I was at breakfast yesterday and I pulled out your various work ID’s to show my friend, W.U. You taught me something that has been good but what has also haunted me: never look like you are not prepared, not together. This idea that I can never come undone helped me come undone. This need to not let people see my pain caused me more pain. That is how I lived this year, that is how I almost lost myself — I thought for a moment, however brief, that ending my life would be the best thing. That it would stop the hole that continued to get bigger as each day passed. People who I thought and expected to be there left — they could not take the weak me, which made me believe that I could not take the weak me.

So I sat with my pain, and anguish and panic and anxiety and thought about killing myself — I have never spoken these words out loud and I guess it is because I did not have the courage to do so or I thought about how selfish that idea was — but it sat there and I watched that other me wasting away, watched that other me walking to class everyday not knowing how I got there not knowing how I made it, not understanding how I taught students, not trying to see the pain in their eyes as they witnessed the pain in mine… but I digress — I sat at breakfast with my friend, W.U. (this friend was unexpected and one who has surprised me with the level of support, ease, understanding, and laughter; more importantly, I don’t feel like less of a man when I say to him, “I am hurting. I am not doing well. I did not sleep well.  I am sad” — I know and feel that he is sincere and means it when he says, “I will always be here for you”…) and I showed him you and I tried to put in words what you meant to me and he sat and listened as I tried to come up with adequate language. And when my words did not make sense, we sat in silence. And I wondered what you were doing on this one-year anniversary of your death. I was still loving you… do you still love me?

Your son,


Danny M. Hoey, Jr., an Ohio native, has stories published in WarpLandWomen in REDzineMandala JournalConnotation Press, and African Voices Magazine among othersThe Butterfly Lady, his first novel, won the ForeWord Firsts’ Winter 2013 debut fiction award.