It wasn’t until my mother’s funeral that my cousins knew what had happened. I didn’t want to burden them with holding the lie. I let them think what they were going to think, rather than break their hearts around her.

They didn’t understand why I couldn’t be with her during her final days until we were standing in the parking lot of a restaurant after the service. The realization brought shock, tears, and an understanding that forgave my previous indiscretion. This hit them with more loss, and more grieving. It was something I didn’t want to do but couldn’t hold back any longer. The gracious thing now was to live in the good, bad, and ugly of an authentic life.

I then gave a plaque to each of them that I bought in Walmart the day before.

“Family like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

We bid each other goodbye, and I headed back to an empty apartment, starting the process of packing up a life well lived.

It was a bittersweet time. I slept in the recliner that she used instead of her bed (it was surprisingly comfortable). I uncovered a treasure trove of photographs that included pictures of my great-great grandfather at 22 years old. And as I took out several pairs of crazy socks, I vowed to honor her by starting a collection of my own.

Then came the greatest gift of them all. Stuck inside a drawer full of papers was a folder filled with notes. My mother had started, but never quite finished, a genealogy report. There, typed on the cover, were these magical words:

“Family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

Like the sun, I knew she was watching over us.


I wish to take my family to England in April 2023 where I’m showing my art in a gallery in London. Please help make this dream come true. Every little bit helps.

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