Once again, spring is burgeoning. I have daffodils blooming, cherry trees dropping petal snow on the ground, and my neighbor has a tulip magnolia that he lets me cut branches from for bouquets. Spring is all about life and flowers and blooming youth and love and such; why am I thinking about death?

My father is ill. He does not want to admit it, but years of smoking camels like he wants to grow a hump have left him with fairly non-functioning lungs. My sister, who is a family practice doctor, tells me that he has trouble walking up hills. Soon he will not be able to sing, or sail, and then what will happen? He might drink himself to death. Perhaps a better fate than life as an invalid, towing an oxygen tank around behind him.

My uncle is dying, my mother's brother. He has something called Progressive Cerebral Palsy, or PCP, nice acronym. Is a breakdown of the mind worse than a breakdown of the physical body? I don't know, all my relatives have died from physical causes, not dementia or Alzheimer's or just fading old age. My grandmother died at age 94, and she was still in command of all her marbles, and then some.

I asked another noder yesterday why I'm so grumpy. Sickness, fatigue, working too hard, the world is a little bit too much with me, as usual, but there's more, and until yesterday I had not put my finger on it. My life is being taken up in damned coffee spoons again.

I just miss my mother. I'm 39, about to turn 40, and I want my mother. I want her laughter, her voice on the telephone, to show her my garden, to tell her about my work, to show her my writing, to take her to Florence. I do not have the words to tell you how much I loved her, and what an incredible person she was. The more I watch other people's kids, and the tools they bring to being a parent, the more I think she was a feminist ahead of her time.

I will be sending an easter basket to a friend. Easter brings back, loudly, the spring my mother died. Our egg hunt with the two cutest two-year-old girls ever. Morphine. Hair falling out. Her being thirsty and hungry and cold, and complaining that no one was touching her. When she said that, I climbed into her hospital bed (which was in the room in their house that had been "mine"), and just curled up around her. She looked so fragile, with the flesh falling off her, that I think we were all afraid to touch her because we feared she might break.

How can we remember the wonderful things, and let go of the not so wonderful? I want to remember her as an amazing, vital, funny, passionate, loving person who would walk for miles through museums and gardens and mountains, not as a veritable corpse in a hospital bed. How do you honor someone's dying, and be present for it, without having that overwhelm the other memories?

Last night my housemate channeled my mom, when our hellion of a kitten, Shadow, got up on the kitchen counter. Eve stomped her foot, and hissed, and for a moment it was Helen, scaring off a cat 30 years ago. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Why are all the important women in my life named after great beauties and goddesses? Helen of Troy. Eve. Katherine the Great. My sister, Kate, who when I am too flirtatious, calls me Bianca. She is not entirely sure she likes that play.

So I will be sending that easter basket. But Chii, when you get it, remember that it's not really from me, it's from Helen.

/me still misses her.