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It would be easy to avoid this room, to bypass the emptiness left behind by Mama. But instead, I find myself drawn to this space, where memories run in my head like movies, and also where I feel the pain of loss.

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Mama’s place

Here is where Mama spent more and more of her time, in her hospital bed. Though nothing is there now, it still feels full.

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Self Portrait, 1980, oil on canvas

The self-portrait I did in high school hung on the wall behind her.

Traces remain of Mama’s life in this space. Small gifts I brought her, or others gave her. Garden books. Mama leafed through the pages over and over again. She enjoyed the colors and shapes of the plants long after she stopped reading. Photographs of family. Our images surrounded her even when we couldn’t be there in the flesh.

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Krystyna’s bed

The place left behind by Krystyna, who loved her like a daughter, and whom I loved like a sister. There’s a double hole without Krystyna, who survived barely a month longer than Mama.

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The view of the garden

I still love this room, not only for what it was—a safe haven for Mama as she faded from this world—but also for what it is. Its walls of windows show off the garden. I watch as the sun slowly melts the remaining patches of snow, until clouds blow in and threaten another storm. It’s bright and spring-like inside, with the green and white walls and honey wood floor. A space waiting to be reinvented, maybe into a playroom for the kids, or a sitting room for guests, but where I’ll still be able to visit Mama resting quietly in her bed, while Krystyna swirls around her, a source of both company and comfort.