Note: This excerpt is about Thanksgiving 2013.  My mother had been recently diagnosed with a serious illness and would die less than three weeks later. Giana, my daughter, died three weeks after my mother, on 1/3/14.

We arranged for Giana to get a forty-eight-hour pass from Caron for Thanksgiving. Lou picked her up on Wednesday and brought her to my mother’s. I was already there, preparing to cook. My brother T stopped by with a load of firewood and built the first fire of the season. That year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided, and we invited some family members to celebrate on the evening before Thanksgiving. My stepfather was Jewish, as are some other members of my family, so Jewish holidays and traditions were always part of our family life. We couldn’t find my stepfather’s menorah, so we sent out the call and ended up with three menorahs that evening. Celeste and her kids came over. We made potato latkes, which we supplemented with veggies, and then we sat together in the living room, in the peaceful glow of the fire and menorahs. A little later the children and I made four pumpkin pies while Giana and my mother and the others laughed and talked. Celeste and Giana were both reading the same series of historical fiction, and they discussed those books. I have a video of that evening with a brief glimpse of Giana as she moved from living room to kitchen to help me for a moment. My mother commented to me that while Giana was “present” in everything we did during those two days, she was very quiet.

I recall peeking into my mother’s den late that Wednesday night after I had done some preparatory cooking to see Giana curled up on the extra bed, sleeping peacefully. My mother was quiet, asleep in her room. The sweet smell of the pumpkin pies was mingled with the savory scent of sautéed onions and celery, promising a delicious meal and a lovely Thanksgiving. The meal was definitely not as good as it would have been if my mother had been the chief cook, but it was good enough. The next day we sat around the fire long after eating, football games muted on the TV, just talking. Festivities over, I took Giana back to Caron on Friday when the caregiver returned.

That was the last time Giana saw my mother.