By Talia Bromstad

Life! No one gets out alive!

Nobody needs to tell me how stinking proud of me my mom would be, if she was here to see me this first year running Bromstad Printing Company full time. She would be bursting with pride. She'd be sending catalogs to all her friends. She'd be with me at the markets and tradeshows and she'd be folding cards for me and packing orders in her afternoons, the way I see other makers' moms and dads doing for their children's businesses. 

I've thought about this all year long but especially today.

It's been ten years since we said goodbye to my mom Julie, but she never said goodbye to us because she was so certain, so certain it wouldn't be goodbye. And after all, she'd survived her first time in ICU.

So after spending weeks in rehab after her first intubation, she agreed to go under a second time to give her body a chance to fight off an infection. She had cancer, but it was the infection that got her in the end. 

December rolls around every year and I am thrust back to that time. 

I laid in bed extra long this morning as Sylvia patted at my face — little morning imp — eventually settling down on my legs after my husband fed her and the other cats breakfast.

I remembered how my mom, in her ICU delirium, mistook the air compression device that helped circulate blood in her paralyzed legs for our cat Bianca, purring at her feet. 

Sunlight was cutting in at the edges of the blackout shades and pouring through the window in the bathroom but there I lay in the dark, well past 9am. If I stayed under the covers maybe the day would tick by and I wouldn't need to dwell on my mom's ten year absence.

But all I was doing really was dwelling so eventually I peeled back the blankets and forced myself vertical and opened the shades to a clear blue sky and sunlight that hurt my eyes. 

Ten years is a big round number, it's when anniversaries are celebrated, neat little decades of accomplishment. I've been thinking about the looming specter of ten years all year. 

It's been ten years, and it gets easier in some ways, but in others it is still the same weight, maybe heavier, heavier for each day and year that you carry without someone. I don't put that last part on my greeting cards but maybe I should.

For the most part I'm adept at shelving my sadness, at reveling instead in remembrance and delighting in memory, but this time of year, this day of the year, I take my sadness out the box I keep it in and a swim around in the grief. Sometimes it feels good to wallow.

But then I put it back on the shelf, or I try to, because there are orders to pack and cards to fold and emails to send it all has to get done.

I channel my sadness into music or into making cards that others can use to make even more others feel seen and less alone.

I find solace in printing illustrations of my mom, just for me, just for my sisters and cousins and aunt. I like to see her face in multiples, always have.

And here I will end with the thought that it will be OK, even when it is incessantly and aggressively and predictably not OK, even that can weirdly be an OKness in itself.

Life goes on. No one gets out alive. The tragic and the mundane intertwined forever.


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