As her memories slipped away, so did the opportunity to meaningfully say goodbye. She did, at one point, tell my sister Kathi, “I’ll come back for you.”

Out of her fading memory emerged a sharp wit that surprised us and sent us into fits of laughter.

She was too frail and weak to make it to Kyle and Chelsea’s wedding in September. Leaving her with caregivers was just barely tolerable knowing she didn’t know what she was missing.

The happy couple dropped by to see her after their honeymoon, decked out in wedding dress and partial tux and ready to tell her the good news. Kathi escorted them into her room, shouting so she could hear.

“Look who’s here to see you! It’s Kyle and Chelsea! They got married! They came to show you!”

She raised her eyebrows in mock surprise then furrowed her brow. Eyeing the dress she declared, “I would have believed them!”

Those little interchanges left us with something we wouldn’t otherwise have at this point—the ability to smile.

I’ve ached deeply in recent months over lost opportunities to connect and say goodbye. There were tender moments to be sure, but over the past year I’ve had no sense that she really knew or missed me anymore.

As her ability to write dissipated, she spent hours practicing her handwriting with Kathi’s help so she could continue sending notes and Christmas cards. The last batch never made it to the mailbox.

While helping my sister sort through and move a few things yesterday, Chelsea discovered a tiny blue note next to some notecards with birds on them—she loved birds, trees, and lighthouses. It was, perhaps, her last note to me, written just a few months ago—now my greatest treasure.

Dear Conna,

I miss you.
Hope to see you

Love, Mom