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Saying Goodbye In Pieces

May 15, 2021

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I have a small porch outside my kitchen. It's very little and I'm not even sure it qualifies as a porch.

It's really just a stoop. Made of wood, with a few steps and a railing.

Random Plant Pots with flowers

It's not the kind of place you'd ever hang out. It's just too tiny, a utilitarian necessity that allows us access to our home.

Either way, it's there and I enjoy decorating it.

The square footage and traffic path are limiting, but I've managed to add some flair with a mat (which either needs replacing or a makeover) and a potted plant that sits in the area no one ever steps in.

Years ago, I had several tiny pots in space instead. Then one day, my mom showed up, on Mother's Day, with a huge planter from Costco. It was a gift and she thought it would be perfect on that deck.

She wasn't wrong.

It filled the area perfectly. Much better than my small collection of mismatched containers filled with anemic blooms.

Her planter was full of color and large enough to be visible from the patio area, the pool and best of all, from inside, while I was in the kitchen.

And it made me smile for years, sitting out there, full of pansies in the spring, petunias in the summer and mums in the fall.

A view I enjoyed and had grown to count on.

Then this spring, when we returned from the garden center, flats in hand, we noticed that the planter had a hole in it.

What?!? When did this happen?? I started to lose my breath a little.

Probably over the winter, my husband replied. It's plastic and almost 10 years old. I guess it was time...we can get a new one.

His words took the last bit of air I had left. I had to sit on the steps for a minute to compose myself.

Porch steps with floral wooden board and potted plant

But I couldn't and I started crying. A lot.

It was just a stupid pot. A faded, black, plastic tub. Void of any real style and available in bulk at any box store. And yet completely irreplaceable.

My husband was a little taken aback.

What's going on?

My mom gave me that. On Mother's Day.

At first, none of it made sense. I mean I actually hated that Mother's Day.

On that particular day, my mom gave me the planter, then went back to her car for something, passed out, broke her hip and crushed her arm and needed to go the hospital. In an ambulance.

Truth be told, it was a horrible day.

It was also the beginning of her almost decade long illness. No, nothing representing that day was worth crying over.

As a matter of fact, I remember telling my husband how much I hated that planter one spring when he plopped it back on the deck. Bad memories and all.

However, once my mom passed, something changed. All the terrible feelings that were stored in that plastic vault, got buried in the dirt and I only saw my mother.

Pink petunias in a planter

Every time I washed the dishes and caught a glimpse of color, I thought of my sweet, generous mom.

Every time I came home from the grocery store, struggling with bags and keys at that door, trying not to crush the flowers, I thought of my mom since she loved to shop.

Every time I sat on the patio and watched the kids run in and out of the back door, wrestling for space on that porch, working around the pot, I thought of my mom and how much she adored them.

Even during the months when the planter was stored away to protect it from Mother Nature's cruel blasts of cold, I thought about how I missed my flowers...and my mom.

Now that pot was going to be gone, too. I'd have to say goodbye to another piece of her, so to speak. And it hurt.

Butterfly on Zinnias

I remember the first time I saw that Meg Ryan movie, You've Got Mail. I was so touched by one scene in that movie and it wasn't a romantic bit.

It was when Meg's character, Kathleen Kelly, had to close her book shop, one her mother had opened years before. They'd made a life together in that shop, until her mom died. Then she ran it herself until Tom Hanks' big bad character came along and ran her out of business.

As the camera follows her through the empty, dark shop, she says, that she's heartbroken, that she feels as if a part of her has died and her mother has died all over again. And no one can ever make it right.

Such a sad scene. So well written and so very relatable. Unfortunately.

Of course, my silly pot doesn't compare to losing a family business, but the idea that saying goodbye isn't a one time event, is exactly the same.

Each planter that breaks, each holiday that passes, each day that goes by, forces me to part with a little more of my mother.

To confront the fact that she's gone. Again and then again.

And I don't like it.

I know she's in my memories, but even memories fade.

My middle aged brain is having a harder time conjuring them up with each passing season.

The sound of her voice is a bit fainter, along with scent of her signature perfume. And after almost 3 1/2 years, I can barely recall the comforting feeling of her warm hand in mine.

The tangibles seem to trigger those lovely intangibles and bring her closer again.

Plastic Whiskey Barrel

So while my new planter, a plastic whiskey barrel, is much more stylish and a bit larger that the old, it'll never fill that tiny porch space in quite the same way.

When that wholesale pot cracked, my heart cracked a little again, too.

And there's no container big enough to fill that hole.



Saying Goodbye In Pieces text butterfly on flower

  1. I lost my Mom 2 years ago. Some of your description of your Moms failing health seem so familiar that I want to cry. I find similar circumstances beginning to happen in my own health. I think well it won't be long till we meet again Mom.
    So, the precious reminders of our dear loved are bitter sweet. There is a very old
    song that says, "We'll shake hands in that land where all things are new."
    But until then, We will just smile remembering all the good times we had.

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    1. Kathy, I'm so very sorry to hear about your mom and equally sorry to hear about your health issues. I definitely do smile remembering all the good times and we quote her words of wisdom all the time around here. Sometimes the sadness just pushes its way in though, doesn't it? Be well...

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  2. I feel for you, I cherish items that have been given to me by family members as well. No matter how big or small the gift was, I always keep them. You cannot place a monetary value on gifts given... they are worth all of the money in the world!

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  3. What a wonderful tribute to you mother. In such a seemingly insignificant way, she has continued to be with you all this time. Now she can be with you in the flowers you put in your new container each season. What a beautiful mother you had. I understand your grief. Once our mothers are gone, a little piece of us goes with them. I’m sorry for your grief but it is a testimony to the love you had for her and that is a beautiful part of you.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Gayna, your perspective is so appreciated. Your words are very touching...and the sadness really is a testimony to love. She was an amazing person and I was very, very lucky.

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  4. What you wrote is so true. I not only miss my mom, still after over 40 years, but close friends. But, I love the memories I have of all of them. Now my “going home” time is much nearer and I hope my children and grandchildren have some very special memories of me. I love them all dearly, including spouses. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. This year, coincidentally, Mother's Day fell on the 41st anniversary of my dad's passing. In some ways the losses feels equally as long and on other days, it feel as if I lost them both yesterday. Time is funny that way. I hope you enjoy making more memories with your family in the days ahead. I know I cling to mine. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with me today. It really does mean the world...

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  5. Tears here too.......
    Blessings, and hugs to you!
    J

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    1. Thanks J…and right back at you. Blessings my friend.

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  6. This post hits home and brought tears to my eyes. I cried at that scene in You've Got Mail, too. I have a few treasured things from my mom and a few things that I really need to let go of but can't. I have her serger that is over 40 years old and I almost got it into the car to take to our local thrift shop. It's in pristine condition and still works great, but I have 2 newer ones and really don't need it. When I picked it up to put it into the car, I just broke down into tears and couldn't do it. It really did feel like I was losing her a bit again (she passed away in July 2013, a few days after her 95th birthday). I can remember her bringing it home from the dealer and how many beautiful things she made for us with it. I still have a car steering wheel cover she made from one of her serger classes (it's 40 years old too, lol). She would laugh at me for the emotion, and would rather her machine went to someone who would use it, but I just can't do it yet. These losses don't get any easier as we get older. Sending cyber {{hugs}} to everyone dealing with loss .

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    1. It's really crazy, isn't it? My kids were like, mom, you know she'd laugh and be like throw that old thing away and go buy a new one that makes you smile. And she would. That's exactly what she would've said. Just like your mom, with her serger, but it's weird, somehow our feelings get tangled up with this stuff and then it's nearly impossible to separate the heart from the head. Hugs to you and thanks for sharing your story.

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  7. So touching Kim. I lost my mom last October and I too have times that remind me of her and it is so clear even as time goes on. I know your mom is looking down and saying what a beautiful new choice to replace the planter she gave you. She would be proud of you that you could make the space pretty with a new planter. With all of this said I know it still hurts to let go of those things that we held so dear after they passed. I think one of the hardest losses in life is when our parents leave us. Hope the flowers you plant will cheer you when you see them thriving in the new whiskey barrel planter. Happy Saturday. xo

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    1. Thanks Kris. I’m sorry about your mom. I remember when she passed. Not easy. It’s so silly, because like I said, I truly hated that planter most of the years she was with us. It just had bad memories attached. It’s crazy what happened when she was gone and how my feeling flipped. Hopefully, I will look at the new one and feel the same way. For now, that little dollar store frog is reminding me to smile when I look at the planter…until I get the hang of it on my own. xxoo

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  8. What a beautiful post and a loving tribute to your sweet mother.

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  9. Oh Kim, do I ever get this. Losing my mom over 25 years ago has never healed.

    I was 26 at the time. Time was beginning for us to spoil my mom. She got sick and died. I will never completely recover. She was my best friend, my mom and my smile everyday.

    We were together 4 days a week.

    Sad as this sounds I have her jewelry in the same thing it was in almost all my life.

    I can still smell her when I open it Shocks me after so much time to be able to have the smell Some how it makes me sad and comforts me at the same time.

    So I get it my friend.

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    1. I'm so sorry, Cindy. It sounds like you had the same relationship with your mom as I had with mine. She was here all the time, spent weekends with us and went on vacations with us, too. We just adored her and she adored us. And that’s so funny, I still have my mom’s jewelry in a soft zippered case that she traveled with and it smells of her perfume, too. I have it tucked away, so I don’t open it that often, but when I do it’s still there…and so comforting. Hugs.

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  10. This is why I keep using my mom's ragged potholders. She made them for me at least 20 yrs ago now....probably more. She passed away in 2016 & I thought about putting them away. They are so ragged & stained. And so thin I have to double up & use two or three to keep from being burned.

    Recently we cleaned out our pole barn & found some boxes of things that had belonged to mom....long forgotten. She was a fabric hoarder...a serious fabric hoarder. I found some very bright almost psychedelic-looking vintage fabric. All bright floral patterns in loud colors, just like my mother. Not my style at all. But I've decided to cover the potholders in her fabric. She made them using more subdued fabrics knowing I would like them more. But the bright colors & patterns are something she would love & she'd be thrilled to know I wanted to use them.

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    1. Jenny, that is truly the sweetest gesture...on both your parts. Your mom making them in fabrics she knew you'd love even though it wasn't her style and now you recovering them to honor her, knowing what she'd love. It has a way of keeping the relationship going...and I love that. ❤️

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  11. We are both in the same place today, Kim. You're remembering your Mom and I'm remembering my Dad. I don't have a lot 'things' that remind me of him, but I do have a pair of pliers that he gave me as part of a 'tool kit' when I got my first apartment. I smile every time I use them!

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    1. I saw that when I read your post today, Ann, and I thought, what lucky ladies we are to have had such amazing parents. ♥️

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  12. What a beautiful share. Thank you. In my Mom's jewelry box is a small wooden vial that my Dad bought her during WWII. When I open the box the smell of that perfume wraps me in a big hug from Mom and Dad. I don't think the hole they left will ever heal. But I hang onto those memories and I hang on to some stupid stuff that every time I think I should toss the item I can hear my Mom say the same thing, throw it out, get something you like! lol

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    1. Terri, that is a true treasure. Wow. You are lucky. I found my parents' wedding album recently and got lost in the photos. That was wonderful. I also found my dad's WWII flight record which was crazy interesting. It listed all the missions he'd been on and dates of service. That just made me miss him more and wish that he was around to tell me the tales...

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  13. Well, God bless you. I totally get how you feel. My mom loved yard sales and she had this old Windsor Ware serving bowl that she bought at one of them. That bowl didn't match any of her dishes, but she loved it and would use it all the time for serving salad. When she passed away my sisters didn't want it and my dad was going to throw it out because it was chipped. I couldn't bear for him to do that so I took it. It didn't match my dishes either. A couple of years ago I accidentally broke it. Thank goodness no one was home to see me bawl my eyes out over this chippy bowl. And I still couldn't throw away the pieces! They are hidden in a paper bag behind the sofa! I know that I am being ridiculous, but I just can't throw it away.

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    1. You're not being ridiculous, Briana, I totally get it. It's like a piece of them resides in these treasures and when something happens to the stuff, it hurts. Funny story, right after the pot broke, a kitchen angel that my mom also gave me fell and broke in two. My husband and my kids just gasped, quickly picked it up and whisked it into the garage for repair before I had a chance to react. After the planter mishap they were prepared!! Hugs to you friend, from someone who understands...

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  14. I understand. It's going to be 18 years for me in a few days. I often think of her when I see things she liked and I wish she could have met my granddaughters. It's a tribute to your mom that you had these feelings at the loss of that planter - we were blessed by the moms we had!
    You will still think of her when you look out at the flowers in the new pot!

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    1. I think you’re right, Mari. I believe I will think of her when I see those flowers…especially now. And yes, we were certainly blessed and that is wonderful. Enjoy the weekend.

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  15. Sometimes it's the little insignificant things that are really the big things!!! When you looked at that pot you looked at your Mom in many ways. That pot represented your Mom. You connected that pot to your sweet Mom. I loved reading your story because I understand how something so insignificant really isn't insignificant at all. The plastic pot wasn't just a pot.
    Take care:)

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    1. You're so right. It really is about the little things sometimes. They really aren't insignificant at all. Thanks so much for your sweet words. They really do help.

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  16. What a beautiful touching post, Kim! I lost my Mom three years ago too and understand how much we cherish those things that remind us of them. xo

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    1. I'm so sorry, Marie. Hugs to you my friend. xo

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  17. when my mother died almost 20 years ago, my uncle who had lost a child told me to be prepared for unaccountable washing of grief over me as the years go by. He was right. The grief never goes away. It is part of me. Some times it does become overwhelming and fresh. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. So right, Linda. My dad passed 41 years ago and I still get weepy at times. The waves are fresher with my mom, but it never goes away. Thanks for sharing your story with me, as well.

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  18. What a beautiful and touching tribute to your mother. I can totally understand why you'd cry over this flower pot. Big hugs to you. xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Melanie. Sometimes those tears just come out of nowhere...Big hugs back to you, my friend. xo

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  19. I can understand how you would feel about the planter situation Kim. It's about the same amount of time since my mom passed away and I know your mom would be happy that you bought a new planter for the flowers.

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    1. I remember when you lost your mom, Julie. SO hard...I'm glad we have such lovely memories with them. Including that ratty old pot. xo

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  20. Thank you Kim, for sharing. I have not yet lost my parents, but I was very close to my grandpa Sam, who our son is named after. I do know how you feel.
    Regarding the movie, You've Got Mail, it is one of my favorites, for the reasons you stated. It is well written and has a lot of truth in it.
    Love, Carla

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    1. Isn't it a great movie, Carla? Nora Ephron was a fantastic writer and for anyone who loves fabulously witty dialog her films are a must. They have that same great feeling as the romantic comedies from Hollywood's Golden Age. xo

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  21. I'm so very sorry for your loss...mostly for your mother, but also the pot. This was a lovely tribute to your mother. Sorry I've been absent from blogging but life has gotten in the way recently. Hope you are having a lovely week.

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    1. Thank you, Cheri. And I hope everything is ok in your world, that you've been busy with good things and you're having a lovely week, too.

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  22. Kim, that is so hard. It has been so many years since my mom has been gone but it just seems like yesterday still. I broke a beautiful piece that my mom just loved and I felt so honored to have it and it was undescribable the way I felt when it happened. When my mom first found out she was sick she said that the last time she was in the hospital she would just like us to talk about how I was decorating my home, so I know she would be OK about everything just so she knew that I had loved it too. As it turned out she died in the ambulance on the way so I never did get to talk to her , But, I just know that she would be all right with anything that I did and I know your mom would have thought that way too.

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    1. I'm sorry you didn't get that last conversation with your mom, Judy. Your home is beautiful and warm and charming and I'm sure that she would love everything you've done and continue to do...but it would've been nice to have one more chat, I'm sure. And just as you said, my mom would love the new pot. And you're right! Big hugs!

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  23. Oh Kim! I haven't lost my mom, but I just knew what you meant. Your mom would have been surprised that the pot lasted that long, and would have enjoyed your new pot with flowers. Like you said, it was after the loss of her that it became so dear to you, because it was a gift from her to you!
    This makes me think about the things I gift or the ways I am speaking love and encouragement into my kids lives. What things will make them remember me when I am gone?

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    1. You know, Deanna...you're so right. I think more than anything she would've been surprised I still had it at all! Haha! I love your thoughts about your kids and their memories, too. Food for thought for sure...

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  24. I wish I could hug you right now, but, alas, I can only send you a virtual hug.

    (((((hug)))))

    Such a sweet post honoring your mother.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ricki! Any kind of hug is a gift! xo

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  25. I am so very sorry for your loss. My mother is so similar, so generous. The little things from her mean the word to me.

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    1. A generous and loving mom is the best gift of all...and thank you.

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  26. Kim!

    Never mind me over here...I'm just crying uncontrollably wishing I could wrap my arms around you and hug you. One of those long hugs that you don't really know when its right to end, because a little bit longer just continues to feel right.

    I'm so sorry about your planter, and your sweet Mama. My heart is breaking...and I'm sitting on the stoop crying.
    Your new planter is beautiful...but I miss the old one now too.

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    1. Oh, I'm so sorry I made you cry!! Sometimes tears are like yawns - just as contagious. And I appreciate the hug and your lovely, lovely words. They really are a comfort and you just made my day.

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  27. Kim, I completely understand about saying goodbye in pieces, or bit by bit. It seems that with each additional loss, we grieve previous losses. In some ways, it can be part of the healing process. Experiencing all that grief at once would be unbearable. Such a good post. And we are similar in seeing the biggest lessons in life's littliest moments. Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful words, Cindy. You are so right, I think all at once would be too much. I'm sorry about the pot, but it's made me think about my mom and fill my heart with her again. Happy and sad, I guess...just like life.

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  28. I understand completely. I lost my mom 2.5 years ago and although our relationship wasn't always perfect I still miss her. I still say goodbye to her in pieces xo Laura

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    1. I’m sorry to hear about your loss, Laura. I don’t think any relationship is perfect, but somehow a lot of the imperfect seems to fade a little more with each day.

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  29. This brought tears to my eyes. I am lucky to still have my mom. We don't live in the same state anymore and I miss her so much. Being away from her has made me appreciate her so much more and I feel so bad for any moments I was ever harsh to her.

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    1. I think as I got older I appreciated my mom more, even though she lived close by. Age and distance have a way of doing that I think. I hope you get to see your mom soon...

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  30. I just know your mom is thrilled the pot she gave you lasted this long and gave you this beautifully well written post to share with us. So many can identify with your loss and this is such a touching tribute to her.

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    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words...and I think you're right. I doubt she expected the pot to last this long, or mean this much.

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  31. This is such a beautiful post and tribute to your mother. I am sure that she is smiling down knowing how much joy this pot gave to you and her spirt has now been shared with all of us.

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    1. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I do hope she'd be happy knowing how much it meant.

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  32. What a beautiful tribute. I think about this when I garden with my 88 year old Mother. I will have so many memories.

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    1. Enjoy your time together in the garden. It really is so precious.

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  33. You had me in tears! It's so silly the things we hang on to but then it's not silly at all. I lost my Mum four years ago and every day I think of her. There are things in my house that remind me of her and that's bitter sweet. We had a similar incidence with my Mum when she broke her hip - she did it twice and for her it was the beginning of the end also. I absolutely feel your pain

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    1. Carol, I'm so sorry for your loss. I know how tough it is. And your journey sounds very similar to ours. The aftermath was not easy either and carrying on without her now is no easier than it was on day. Thank you for sharing your story and I'm sending over hugs.

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