I’ve been drinking tea and watching the Coronation of King Charles, today. At least the first part. Hubby taped it for me to watch at my leisure. It’s the beginning of a new era in the United Kingdom, as it is in Canada, in a way.

It’s also the beginning of a new era in my family. One that began with my mum’s death on Wednesday. We’re all pretty shellshocked. Even though she was ninety five, and her death was not unexpected since she had been declining for the past year and a half, we still deep down were not ready for it. As if we thought she’d go on forever.

The trail near Mum’s

My sister and I sat at her bedside most of the last ten days of her life. Those days at the hospital were hard, but I’m glad I went home when my sister called. Somehow watching Mum’s final decline made accepting it easier.

Walking is a good time for reflection.

We could do little but be there for Mum. There was nothing anyone could do, really. Except make her comfortable, which the nurses and doctors of the Doctor Everett Chalmers Hospital did with patience and kindness. Carolyn and I cut the last of the daffodils from Mum’s garden to take in to her one day. She loved her flowers, especially daffodils. She wasn’t talking much by then, but she did say “Beautiful” when I showed them to her.

Throughout the week, much-loved nieces came to say their goodbyes. A few family friends did likewise. And in a truly special moment, the woman who answered Carolyn’s request for a pastoral care visit for Mum was a family friend. A girl, I’ll always think of her as a girl, who was in my step-brother’s class at school and who I knew when she was a curly-haired twelve year old.

Taking the last of the daffodils to the hospital.

The time my sister and I spent together over the ten days I was in Fredericton was tough. But it was a good bonding time for us too. We haven’t spent that much time together in years, since we were kids, I guess. We talked daily to family and friends on the phone: our other sister who could not come for health reasons, our step-brother, our last remaining uncle, Mum’s younger brother, old friends and neighbours. We tried to keep everyone in the loop as much as possible. In the evenings, we made dinner together and watched British television mysteries. We ate out one night, treating ourselves after a long day at the hospital. At times we even talked about hair and clothes, like a couple of teenagers. I know. Typical.

The last night I was there, we stayed at the hospital until very late. Mum was unresponsive. We knew she wouldn’t last long. The nurses made us cups of tea because the cafeteria and coffee shop in the hospital were shut. We played Mum’s favourite hymns on my phone, and cried. I was leaving in the morning, so I said my last goodbye to Mum. I said it more for myself because I don’t think she could hear us by then. At almost midnight we said nighty-night, and stroked her forehead. We said goodnight to the nurses, and thanked them. Then we left.

You know, there was something so cathartic about walking out in the darkness to an almost empty parking lot, feeling okay with the world even though Mum would not be in it for long. We stopped for drive-thru french fries on the way home like two kids who were out after curfew. Turned out we were starving.

Heading home.

Then the next day I came home. Mum passed away in the late afternoon. “Finally, finally,” my sister and I both said when she called me. Mum had been so reluctant to give an inch. Her whole life she was like that. Even to the end.

On my way home.

This post is all about me and my journey. That’s because I’m not ready to write about my mum just yet. I will though. After some time passes. After I’ve processed everything. We did not hold a service for her. That will come in the summer. Probably around her birthday in August. This will give us all time to process. And allow family and friends from out of province to be there. We want Mum’s final goodbye to not be sad, but filled with funny stories, and tales of her exploits. Nothing overly sentimental. She’d hate that.

Full moon on the Rideau.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. And to those who will no doubt comment on this one. I won’t be answering comments individually. But I have to say, don’t let Mum catch you saying “sorry for your loss.” Say anything else but that. She told me a few years ago that when her first husband died when she was twenty-three that phrase was what she hated most about the grieving process.

And even if she’s only here in spirit… we still don’t want to piss Mum off.

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84 thoughts on “A New Era Begins”

  1. I attended my father at his home for the last five days of his life. It was a solemn time but not sad and, honestly, one of the things I am most proud of. To have been faithful to him in that way was and is very satisfying. And brings me comfort. I wish the same for you and your sister, as you remember and celebrate a life well lived.

  2. It is so hard to see our parents decline and leave us. My dad will be 90 in September and has been diagnosed with macular degeneration. He has not seen well for years and having him quit driving is so tough. He has taken off at least 3 rear view mirrors on the truck. My mom struggles to accept he can’t do what he used to. A stroke 5 years ago changed his cognition/speech a lot. My MIL has been in hospital for about 3 weeks and won’t be leaving anytime soon. She just turned 86. It’s just tough. Yes, I believe in a celebration of life. I think of my grandma this time each year as was a gardener and loved spring flowers. My maternal grandma’s birthday was May 16th and she died in April. I think she was ok with not having to have a big vegetable garden and can for survival. She did not have running water in her house until the early 1980’s. A tough woman, widowed at 55 and never remarried. My mom said her dad “was difficult.” Ah, rambling some now. Reflection feels good as we are celebrating Mother’s Day in the states next Sunday. Praying you feel the hug I am sending and thank you for sharing you Mum over the years. She lives on in my memory. A strong woman who raised strong women.

  3. My sister and I held vigil at our Mom’s bedside for four long days two years ago. I was so thankful to have my sister with me during that difficult time as it was during Covid and we had to do some major begging (and her doctors intervention) for them to let us be there together. I truly understand the feeling of helplessness as you watch a loved one slip away but I’m sure she knew you were there. My thoughts are with you Sue. Take care of yourself!

  4. Thinking of you,Sue,and your Mum! I feel that she was loved in our community here as well,through your stories and photos……
    Love,Dottoressa

  5. I lost my own mother nearly 3 years ago. She had just turned 95. It is difficult to loose your mother when she has been part of your life for so long. I often wish I could pick up the phone to tell her something or to ask her something. Wishing you peace and comfort as you grieve your mother. Take good care of yourself.

  6. HI Sue,
    What a mother you had!!! So pleased you were there for her, your sister and yourself. It will be a comfort for years to come. I know that is how I feel after being there for my mother as she slipped away . In those last days, we pour all our love over them for all they did for us and for the woman they were in the face of the adversaries of their life. They feel our love and it eases their passage. Take time to grieve and talk about her a lot with hubby and friends.

  7. The gift of a good mother is beyond price. It will keep on giving throughout your life in love and memory.

  8. My sweet mom died in August, two days before her 95th birthday. She had also been in declining health and my siblings and I took turns staying with her the last eight months. Bedside vigils are hard, and while we were glad she was finally at peace death brings conflicting emotions. I still have the urge to pick up the phone and call, especially when there is news she would want to know. Be gentle with yourself in the weeks and months to come.

  9. Sharon Hamilton

    This must have been a very difficult time for you and your sister. Get some rest and revel in memories.

  10. Ahhhh, Sue, no words can express… I love the daffodils. We took Lenten Roses to my Mother’s bedside. That moment of recognition is sweet. I have enjoyed the funny, determined stories of your mother in past posts. She must have been “a hell of a woman!” Peace be with you and your family.

  11. I will not stay the phrase that your mother detested. I will say how happy I am that you were able to be there, bond with your sister and had your mother for so long in your life. I am sure you will see your mother again…in the mirror daily and occasionally when you open your mouth. I do at least…especially when I wonder why I said something. God bless and may He hold you close as you move through your loss.

  12. My mother died 20 years ago after a terrible struggle with cancer. She was only 72 , and she fought so hard to live. My dad sat by her bedside for months, and I flew in every few weeks as often as I could. I have no siblings or cousins – just the two of us. We talked and told stories when she could hear and when she could not. It was bitttersweet, but I am so glad we had that time. You will too. Remembering the stories keeps her alive so we tell them over and over with my children who did not get to know her well. Peace and love to your family.

  13. You have written such a beautiful and poignant post…sharing these final days with your mom and sister remind me of my experience.
    Be gentle with yourself and don’t try to do too much. Processing this profound life event takes awhile.
    My heartfelt condolences go out to you.
    XO
    Leslie
    Hostess of the Humble Bungalow

  14. I have been reading your blog for many years and get so much pleasure from it. I’ve never commented until now, but wanted to say how much it means to me, and how happy I am that you could be with your sister and mom for that time. Even if she might not have been responsive the entire time, she felt you both with her. And you will cherish that time always. My sisters and I spent my mom’s last weeks with her and that time has never left me . Take care and thank you.

  15. I have enjoyed all the stories you have told us about your mother over my years of reading your blog, and I have been thinking of you often over the last little while. So many of us are at the same stage of life as you are, either having lost a parent recently, facing the prospect of losing a parent before too much more time has passed, or both. I hope you find support and comfort in knowing that you have a large community of readers who care very much about you and who understand, at least a little bit, what you are experiencing.

  16. My mom died in February at 89, and the loss still feels new. She drove me crazy sometimes, but her love was never in question. Like your mom, she had a fierce life force, even as her health declined. We’ve opted for a memorial later this summer too, to regroup in the spirit of celebration. God knows, we’ll have stories to tell. As I adjust to my own new era, her best qualities shine brighter. They are memories now, of laughter, love, and motherly certainty that she could fix whatever was ailing me. Lessons too, of strength and tenacity. These are the blessings that come with the pain. May the memory of your mom be a blessing to you.

  17. I’m so happy you were able to spend time with your mum and with your sister. My mother at 90 suffered a bad fall and head injury ten days after our only child was married. Off my husband and I flew to TX, where we along with my sister sat with Mom in hospice for days. (Our two brothers couldn’t get there.) One night we three enjoyed a bedside picnic, complete with wine, which happened to be the only time a physician stopped by, with a social worker. We raised an eyebrow or two, which Mom certainly would have appreciated. On the day she passed, a big impressive wasp took up a post outside on the window and did not budge for hours. When she was gone, I looked, and so was the wasp. We decided it was Dad, always a little thorny, waiting on her. She died the day after what would have been his birthday; seven years earlier he had died the day after hers, so as (we decided) not to ruin anyone’s remembrances. Today my sister is also gone, but I carry them in my heart always. Alla famiglia! May healing memories comfort you.

  18. I have always enjoyed stories about your mum and I look forward to more. I smiled at you and your sister eating French fries and having conversations about hair and clothes. It was a healthy, life-affirming way to deal with the stress and sorrows of your mum’s passing.

  19. Julie,Melbouurne,Australia

    I love the title of your post and what it will mean for you going ahead without your precious Mum. Also, thank you for sharing some of your feelings during this time. I could say more but won’t. Sending peace and strength across the world to you and your family.

  20. Thinking of you and will just say how nice to have sisters to share this time with. ❤️

  21. My sympathies. My mother was in her 70s when she died suddenly. Even though it is more than 20 years ago now, something will happen and I think I must ring Mum and tell her……

  22. Hi Sue,
    Your mother was blessed with a wonderful, caring daughter. It’s now time to focus on taking good care of yourself.

  23. Wendy in York

    How good it is to see all these lovely comments . I’m sure they will be giving you some comfort . As ever you’ve managed to put into words how we all feel at certain times of our lives – a real skill . You also managed to give your mum a presence here which will be greatly missed . I’ll always wish I could have made her a cup of tea & sat with her for a long chat . I might have got a ticking off though as I make terrible tea . Time to take care of yourself now

  24. Your mum sounds like quite a character and it sounds like she had the ending we would all want, surrounded by love. Glad you had your sister with you

  25. Your stories of your mum paint a portrait of a great lady, strong, hard-working, loving and determined. My condolences to you, your sisters and all your family. Take care Sue 🌸

  26. I recall very well the strange sense of quietness within when my mum died, as if all the volume had been turned down. May you have sunshine so you can sit and watch your river go by.

  27. There is never an easy time to lose your Mum. Mine lost hers when she was just 14, and I still regret not talking to her about it, when you are young you don”t have much curiosity about how your parents were when they were young. And looking back it’s strange that Mum never talked about her mother.
    And then I lost her when I was expecting my first child, and I was miles away at the time, but she was so excited to think of her first grandchild. And then suddenly she was gone, only 69 years old. She never saw our son, and I needed her so much in those days.
    So it was wonderful for you to be there for your mum in her last days. Enjoy your memories.

  28. Thinking of you and your family and don’t forget to take care of yourself! Mary Lou

  29. When my mom was in her last days, in hospital, my son and I sat at her bedside and did puzzles and talked. I still have clear images in my mind of those. The fun and funny stories help with the process you are going through, the ups and downs that can change in an instant. The good times will eventually win out. There are more times now when I can see her in my bathroom mirror and it makes me do a double take. My thoughts have been with you since your last post and am sending you both my love.. sometimes our spouse is left to the side in all this.

  30. We buried my dad‘s ashes yesterday. He passed away in December from cancer that was diagnosed in February. We knew he was going to go, and yet we were unprepared. Even though we know our parents will die, it somehow doesn’t seem possible.

  31. My mother died when I was 17. Believe it or not I still miss her at times. You have wonderful memories of you mom.

  32. I’m so sorry, Sue. I lost my mom a year and a half ago. My younger sister and I also bonded over those long hours sitting with her in the hospital. Mom’s cancer diagnosis and death at 86 were very sudden and we were reeling for months. Nothing has been the same since, though I am closer to my sister than I’ve been in fifty years. Mom would be so glad. I miss her.
    All the best.

  33. Ah Dear Sue, I have thought of you so often since your last blog. It’s a sad time for you, I know that we all share in your loss. Most of us have been through it. Take time and rest, reflect and take comfort that your Precious Mum is with The Lord and is at Peace. Thank you for sharing your Mum with us.

  34. Difficult times, I’m glad you and your sister were together, had each other’s company. Peace be with you.

  35. As soon as I read the title of your post I knew what the content would be.

    I am glad you were with your Mom during her final days. I look forward to the stories you will share about her in time.

    Warmest regards, Sue.

    Elaine

  36. Oh, Sue. . . I won’t say “I’m sorry for your loss,” but I know it’s a big one, no matter how inevitable or how well you might have thought you were prepared. After my Dad died, someone offered me these words — “Be gentle with yourself” — and they really struck a chord. So I will pass along that same suggestion, and hope you find the advice worth taking. The loss of a parent, however expected, is significant and plays out in ways we don’t always anticipate. Take care. xoxo

  37. Teri Crockford

    Sue, thank you for your courage to hold your mothers space with your sister.Hearing is the last to go so you and your sister instinctively knew how to share your tender time with her. We are never ready to say good bye.I hope you find comfort in the time you had with her and your sister

  38. Well that’s sad news Sue. Now you are a member of a rather exclusive club. I was reminded of this by a dear friend after the death of my mother in 2019 at 93yrs. My friend had lost her 91 yr old mom the year before when she said these words of comfort to me, “we are members of an exclusive group of women who have lived into their sixties but still have their mothers. It’s odd because it seems like our mothers have been with us through everything, marriage, babies, career glitches, grandchildren, great children and retirement! The challenge is we get comfortable and think our moms will be with us forever, after all we’ve become elders together! The blessing is that when the time comes we have enough wisdom to not only cherish them in memory but to celebrate their lives with joy” wise words from a retired teacher then in her late sixties.
    when you think of your mom I hope Wordsworth’s poem sings in your heart:
    And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the daffodils.
    Hugs

  39. May all your memories with your mum be a blessing in you life. XXOO. I hope she’ll approve of that….I don’t want to piss her off!!

  40. Such a beautiful post expressing so much of what many of us feel at these very difficult times. As others have said be gentle with yourself and take your time.

  41. It is no easy thing to lose a parent. Prayers and good thoughts for you and your family. You will never regret spending the time you did with your mother and your sister. It can be tough to go through these end-of-life journeys, but they are also oddly tender and life-affirming. Your Mom will be with you as I am sure you already know. Life is eternal. May you have peace.

  42. Sue, I’m so sad for you. No matter how much we “know” it’s going to happen, there’s just no preparing for the actual moment, is there? Thank you for sharing your mum with us, and know that I’m beaming gentle hugs westward. XOXO

  43. You will never regret the strength and wisdom gained sitting vigil at your mother’s side with your sister. Your mother had a remarkable life and a kind and gentle passing. That’s all any of us can ask for. Hugs to you and your family. Treasure the memories.

  44. Sue – this hurts so much. Just know that we are all thinking about you. It takes time to adjust to the absence of this wonderful person who has always been there. Take your time.

  45. Peggy Kreling

    Sue, I lost my mum in 1991 at age 66, the same age I am today and still miss her dearly, and shed tears still…..I came across this quote from Jamie Anderson that gives me comfort, I hope it does the same for you.
    Grief. I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

  46. You were so fortunate to be with your mother during those last days. I arrived too late, from California to Connecticut….I am grateful I had been with her for a week during autumn. She fought hard, but the cancer just wouldn’t stop, so that December we lost her. I do think she haunted me until her three girls were married and settled. I was 35 when she passed. I was 48 when I married. She came to my soon to be husband in a ‘dream’ giving him a hug with tears of joy he said he could feel. I miss her still and every once in awhile if feel a warm hug…always in the strangest moments.

    When visiting an ancient cemetery in Great Britain I read on a headstone “Keep talking about me, it will keep me alive”.

  47. I’m in tears reading this, Sue. I’ve always loved the stories you told of us of your Mum when you came back from a visit with her. I think your leaving to go home, was her permission to let go. Thinking of you and Stu at this time. Hugs.

  48. Sue, you write for all of us. I’ve read your blog for years, even though I don’t comment often. The blogs about your feisty mother were my favourite. She must of been so very proud of you, her baby, the youngest.
    How fortunate you were to have her for so long. My mother passed away in 1998. I regret that she never was able to experience our life on the West Coast. She would probably have come with us.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. The sad, as well as the hair chronicles.
    A virtual hug…
    Ali

  49. Sue I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing and am glad you were able to spend time with her and your sister. The death of a parent is never easy but in time the good memories ease some of the pain. Be kind to yourself and take time to grieve.

  50. My mother left us last july, in the heart of a huge heat wawe.
    I’ve just seen her at the hospital 2 days before but I do regret not having been there for the last moment.
    I felt bad as it was truly the end of the me as a daughter as my father is no longer there any more either.
    With the death of my mother it was also the disappearance of one who lived during WW2 with all the things that happened during that time for people in France but also all that happened after.
    Your mother still lives because she lives through you still and through your sisters.
    She shaped you in a way as much as you shaped yourself. She gave you what she hoped and thought was the best of her and the best for you because she loved you and you loved her.
    I am sure she was proud of you as most mothers are. She had time to watch you and your sisters grow into adults .
    But it was time for her to go her own way as it was time for my mum also when she went.
    Ah yes how I wished she would have kept a bit longer but she decided not.
    I wish you to be always close to your remaining siblings and to cherish all the little mementos of your mother.
    Please i apologize as english is not my first language and I have never been so aware of this at this time when I would need a better use of words.
    I hug you, if you allow me, through internet, very strong.

  51. Sue, I’m so sorry she’s gone and I’m so glad you spent those last days with her and your sister. Everyone grieves uniquely, so I will not presume to know how you feel even though I’ve lost my mom, but I will hope that as you settle into a world she’s left that she stays with you in ways that feel sometimes gentle, or abundant, or sweet, or funny. Sending you my love.

  52. One of my favorite quotes is:

    “My mother is a never ending song in my heart of comfort, happiness
    and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune.”
    ….Graycie Harmon

    My sympathy, Sue.

  53. At the top of the program for my husband’s memorial service, it read, “Celebration & Farewell”. Like you, we (myself and our two sons) delayed the service a few months after his passing last November. This gave us time. Precious time.
    We sent out an email to family and close friends asking them for their favorite memories of Glenn. We asked them to forward the email request to others that were close to him. The response was WONDERFUL. Poignant, loving, funny, inspirational stories came in. We shared them at his Celebration of Life. Various family members got up and read the ones we selected. Our two sons both spoke…one on fatherhood, one read his words in a Dear Dad letter. The emcee was a dear golf/fishing buddy that set just the right tone. It was a wonderful service honoring Glenn’s life.
    I hope you and your family get to experience the same sense of honoring your mother’s life and also gain a sense of closure.
    Closure…that’s another topic! Ha! (See that? I tried to write/express myself like you!). A prayer for peace and comfort coming your way.
    Charlene H

  54. Waiting for the summer to have a celebration of the life your Mother had will give everyone time to remember what an amazing Mother and person she was. To recall those funny little snippets; good, naughty, annoying, silly, the fabric of human life. It sounds like you have all been blessed with her in your life.

  55. Knowing that death is inevitable doesn’t make it any easier.
    My parents died eight years ago, within three weeks of each other, and I still think about them daily and miss them terribly. There’s a Mom-sized hole and a Dad-sized hole in my world that never gets filled, though I have become used to it.
    Wishing you strength. Do write about your mom, if only for yourself, before memories get foggy.

  56. I feel a sense of calm that runs through this, the empty parking lot, the flowers, even gazing out the plane window. The time with your sister. The processing that’s ahead. Thinking of you.

  57. Susan in Kelowna

    My sincere condolences, Sue. It is so hard to lose your mother. I hope that sweet memories of her will ease your grief. I always enjoyed reading about your mum. She will live on in your stories. I wish you and your family peace.

  58. Your Mother had to have been a wonderful person. She had you. Thank you for introducing us to her in your blog. Take care of you and yours.

  59. Sue,
    I was thinking about you much of last week, knowing that you were holding the sacred space between life and death. I was fortunate to keep vigil with my own mother who passed in 2019 at the age of 92 – and the experience was like none other. Because my mom was active and independent until the beginning of the end, the space that was left
    when she drew her last breath was, and continues to be, a large void.
    I continue to take comfort in my faith tradition while simultaneously missing her. Even still. And mostly as the years roll on, I am grateful and appreciative of her special brand of Moxy and determination. 🙂 Underneath it all, I know this: Love never dies.

    I will continue to hold you and your family in my thoughts and my prayers.

  60. Thinking of you, your sisters and step-brother. I hope that you are getting some much-needed rest and that you are going over memories of your mother as you gather stories for the later celebration of her life. Hopefully you already have a few chuckles and smiles as you think of the past.

  61. I’ve been thinking about you and your siblings ever since I read of your mum’s death. I always enjoyed your stories about your times together with her when you went home. Your mum seemed to be a feisty, determined and down to earth person. I am so glad that you were able to be with her in her last days.
    Take care of yourself, Sue.

  62. I’m very sorry for your lose, Sue.

    Rest in peace to your dear mum and comfort to her loved ones.

  63. Dear Sue, I won’t say it, but I will be thinking it. I have enjoyed hearing about your mom on the blog in the past, and look forward to hearing more. You and your sister have done a hard thing, and it sounds like you did a really good job of it.

    Sincerely,
    Dawn

  64. Thinking of you and your family, Sue. A journey so many of us have taken with aging parents in the last few years. I hate being an orphan – and I’m grateful that I had the love, support and guidance from my parents that some of my friends never did. Your dear Mom was about the same age as mine – so resilient, so much to admire. Take care of yourself- long walks, hot baths, tears, laughter and days doing only the things you want are in order!

  65. The world seems calmer and a better place when one’s mother is in it. May your memories provide comfort to you and your family.

  66. Dear Sue,
    you wrote “As if we thought she’d go on forever”. We children, no matter what age think this way.
    I will send you a poem from Rainer Maria Rilke, hoping the translation is not too bad and that the words will give you comfort.

    I’m living my life in spiraling gyres

    I’m living my life in spiraling gyres
    that move o’er the choirs nearby.
    I may never reach the top of the spires,
    but still my resolve is to try.

    I circle round God, the ancient expanse –
    for thousands of years, pray to tell –
    and still I don’t know: what shall I be thence?
    A falcon? A storm? A chorale?

    Hugs from Cologne,
    Susa

  67. Hi Sue,
    Your Mum will be missed by your readers. I always enjoyed your stories about her life. Her inner strength raising her family, stretching a dollar, her love of books and her quick wit to name a few. More importantly, was the loving relationship you 2 shared.
    You were a good daughter.
    Take care.
    Hugs ❤️

  68. Sharing the final days with your mom and sister, so precious.
No matter when or what the age, when your mom passes, it’s hard. Take care.
    Thanks for taking the time to share this.
    Suz from Vancouver

  69. Thinking of you and your Family Sue. I look forward to the post about your Mum, when you are ready to share.

  70. How fortunate your mother was to have you and your sister, and her daffodils, with her at the end. And how fortunate you were to be there. May your memories of her keep her alive in your heart.

  71. Margaret Grant

    Dear Sue,
    So sorry to hear of your mum’s passing. I know how much she meant to you and life will never quite be the same after we lose a parent, especially one who had such a special place in your heart. I wish you peace, solace and joy in the happy memories you had with her. Take care,
    Margaret
    Ps. Your writing and photos are beautiful!

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