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Evelyn Marie Rice, 15 years later

Today marks the 15 year anniversary of my mother’s death.  After struggling for 7 ½ years with chronic progressive Multiple Sclerosis, she passed away.  Being that it is now 15 years hence, that’s actually twice as long as the length of her illness.  But illnesses are the kind of sprawling reality that takes up more time and space than actual time and space.  And it really doesn’t seem to matter how much time passes, there is still a void of mom.  She was far from perfect, and actually really resented when people tried to portray her as a suffering saint when she felt more suffering than sainthood.  But she was wonderful. 

She was creative and funny and embarrassing in the way mothers should be.  She cared so much, I am still trying to learn the courage it takes to show how much you care about things.  She made goofy dinners like chili boats, which consisted of Fritos floating atop chili.  They were awesome, and I will be making that for lunch.  She handmade the Christmas presents, each year more challenging than the last.  Birdhouses, jeweled ornaments, crocheted snowflakes.  When I was seven, she gave me a dollhouse she made from a two-shelf bookshelf, and had filled it with handmade items like miniature rugs and a master bedroom complete with checkbook box bed. 

She gifted me with a love and respect for imagination.  And books, a relationship with books that could carry me forever.

Living with her pain, and the inevitable ways illness changes a family (changing children to caretakers, living with being unable to help as much as you want to be able to, knowing that the end of it is a terrible way out) shaped me irrevocably as a person.  Losing her shaped me too.  I remember one of the many complicated feelings I had after her death was a great sense of unemployment.  There was grief and relief that her suffering was over, but also an enormous unmooring of my sense of purpose.  It seemed utterly frivolous to have to finally just focus on myself.  There is a beauty to experiencing time in crisis so that you can only live each moment and can’t see past the next one.  Having lost the crisis, suddenly I was faced with having to think about time in a longer fashion.  Now that I could grow up, what did I want to do, who would I be?  I’m still learning that one. 

These changes are the most formative I’ve ever experienced.  And every year I learn something more from them, unlock more of the power of growing and becoming. 

Today I am going to honor her by writing.  She would have liked that.  She’d be glad that I’m a little better than she is about letting myself enjoy it.   


  1. lovely. honoring.

    God was so generous to have let me know your mom. to allow me to be loved by her.

    i miss her for you. i miss her for jesse.

    p.s. my evelyn-made birdhouse is by my front door.

    much love.

  2. What a lovely tribute.
    Although I didn't have the pleasure of knowing your mom, I DO have the distinct honor of knowing you. For that, I'm thankful.

    The chili boat sounds awesome. :)


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