This is my mother. It was taken not long ago by my brother. He often took her and my father out to lunch since he lived nearby. My mother had Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed in February 2020. She passed away on February 21 this year. I like this picture because her smile is bright and though the disease she fought had taken so much of her by this point, you can still see her intelligence and humor. And there’s a bit of innocence there, too. Like maybe she was already becoming an angel.

I saw her a month ago. She was still awake and still knew me, though communication was difficult by that point. But I could see she knew who I was, and I am grateful for that. I got to hold her hand and even felt her squeeze it a little. I know this is not always the case. I miss her. I’ve missed her for a long time, but now, knowing she won’t wake up and talk to me again one day, it’s different.

My mother taught me to laugh whenever I could, to curse when I had to, to enjoy music and reading, how to clean toilets (although I don’t use that much), that you always vacuum before you dust (again, not something I use much), to clean as you cook, that the beach is a bit of heaven on earth, that fried potatoes and country-style steak are the best food you’ll ever have on this earthly plane, to apologize when you’re wrong, and that loving and protecting your children takes precedence over everything else and doesn’t end just because they’re adults.

Among many other things.

I remember hearing that you’re not truly dead until no one is left to remember you. That’s part of why I’m putting this out there. Tomorrow is her funeral, and I will say goodbye to my mother. But I don’t believe she will truly be gone. Because I will always remember her. And maybe now some of you will, too.


By Michelle Garren-Flye

Let’s say goodbye as many times as you like:

once when I’m lying in bed unable to face the day,

and again when I’m packing my bags,

when you refold my underwear unnecessarily.

We can say goodbye over breakfast toast,

lingering until our coffee turns cold.

Say goodbye to me later

when I get in my car and wait

an extra moment to close the door

so I can see you standing on the front porch

without the glass and metal between us.

Call me later and say it again and again

over the too far away phone line.

Just say it


and again

with tears

and anger

and finality

and reluctance.

Don’t stop…

Don’t ever stop.

Just say


one more time.

Poem: Motherhood

This isn’t exactly a new poem. It was inspired by my oldest son but over the course of the past year I’ve seen more and more instances of strength in all three of my kids. They’ve been generous with that strength, too, loaning it to me when I needed it. Like a warm coat they take off their own shoulders to place over mine.

So thank you, kiddoes. Without you I wouldn’t be me.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Mother’s Day Poem

Perhaps brought on by my “Bad Mommy” experience of last weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood and what exactly it is.

I realized that if we’re lucky, we have a lot of mother figures in our lives. Just giving birth to kids doesn’t make you a mother. A mother is more than that. My own kids have me, two grandmothers, the wonderful lady who’s helped me with babysitting, laundry, housekeeping for eleven years, and several teachers, relatives and friends who’ve at one point or another provided guidance or help. A veritable village of mothers out there—I’m just the one who’s lucky enough to live with them on a day-to-day basis.

So I wrote a little poem for all the mothers out there, whether you gave birth or even live with your children. If you’ve ever supported a child in a time of need, this is for you.


What a Mother Does

By Michelle Garren Flye


Mothers may

Lend their bellies

To grow their infants

Or their arms

To hold them

Or their breasts

To feed them.

Mothers may do that.


Mothers do

Give their hearts

To love their children

And their spirits

To hold them up

And their lives

To help them grow.

Mothers always do that.