When I was little, I spent countless nights alone in bed dreaming of my mother and wondering when, and if, she would come home. She was always so close to me but always so far away. Mexico, China, Brazil, France, my room: these are only a few of the places I imagined her. In time I grew to the comfort of others, my grandparents, a nanny, and later, a boy. But it was always her fingers I imagined, tracing my shoulder blades, combing my hair gently to slip me off into sleep.

My mother spent a lot of time away. It was her job and not a bit do I hold it against her nor would I have it any other way. She was a learner, a scientist, and if she had not been this, I would not have either. She taught me many things both in her presence and in her absence that I am sure I would have never learned had she been a banker or a homemaker or some boring job that stuck her in an office five days a week. She gave me knowledge, a knack for art, and a connection to the water that I cherish. She taught me how to appreciate nature and how to take care of someone over miles and miles of ocean.

She took me to Peru once, and you already know what happened there. My mother and I, falling asleep on the banks of the river and loving every minute of it. There were several other trips like that. Adventures to far off places that my mother had seen many times and I, only once. Maybe someday I will tell you about more of them; I would like that.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 1999. She didn’t tell anyone for a very long time. She is a strong woman and she thought she could handle it on her own. I was living miles away; she felt it would be something for me to worry about that I would not be able to do much about. Sometime in mid 2000, when I came for a visit and noticed my mother wearing a wig, I finally found out.

It’s devastating information to have hidden from you. The good news was that the chemo was working; she was going into remission; she was beating the cancer.

I moved back to the city that my mother was living in to be close to her. It began to run through my mind about the time I had lost with her and how precious time really was to us. I found myself sitting up a night, just as I had as a child, dreaming of her fingers calming me into sleep. I recalled days in the castle, trips around the world, presents from far away. I wrote these things down in a notebook and wondered whom I would ever get to read these things.

My mother got better. She went back to work. She went back to Asia. She dug up more bones, more clay, more artifacts from a past that you can only read about.

And then she went back to the doctor. Her cancer was back, and it had spread. The doctors were not optimistic. It was in her brain. The one organ that mattered most to her.

In the beginning there was chemo again and all the energy that she had built back up disappeared. Months of therapy, appointments, treatments, and alternate medicines drained her. She became what I thought I would never see my mother as: a brittle old woman. Fragile. Don’t touch.

And then she came home, said the hell with it. She was not going to die weak and powerless from chemicals and radiation. The cancer had already eaten her. It is tragic but it is true. So she came home and read books, and spent time with friends and family. Her body was frail but her mind came back. And then, just like that, she was gone.

I wish I could give you more to this story. This is much more but it’s still hard for me to write. There are days that I would like to tell you about, simple days that would not mean much to you but mean everything to me. But it is all in the notebook, and one by one, just like every thing I have given you, I am pulling it out and putting it here. For your eyes only and such.

Here is what I will leave you with about this; I have told you about my mother’s passion for books. I will tell you that she finally finished writing that book of poems. All about science. It is delicious and I read it over and over again, all the time. Friends suggest I should look into getting it published, but I must be honest, I would like to be selfish for a while and keep it for myself. I hope you understand.

What I will also tell you about this is what I am most thankful for. Her library. She owned thousands of books and now they are mine, all mine. I have given several away, donated them to the university, to public libraries. I could not find justice in hoarding them all. But there are many as well that I treasure, which will never leave my own collection. The last book she read was Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America Oh I have read it hundreds of times, but it just keeps getting better.