. . . Hunched over with disappointment, I quietly make my way through the master bedroom and shuffle into my closet. This is my sanctuary – where I often go to express gratitude or simply take a moment or two to embellish quiet time – usually a happy place. The smell of leather from my collection of thirty or so pairs of Western boots has always had a calming effect. Instinctively, I sit my sorry ass on the floor and reach for a pair of exotic ostrich boots on the lower shelf. I hold them for a brief moment then put them back. Instead, I pick up the black lizards and put them on my feet. I picture myself riding across a Montana meadow, galloping into the wind, feeling the grace and enjoying the freedom, resulting from the magnetic connection between horse and rider.

I think of my mother and how much I miss her. It’s been five months without her. When does the healing start? I don’t feel it. I feel only pain and sadness. So many times I’ve sat in solitude sobbing, tormented, and lost. This can’t be natural. Several times I’ve witnessed friends who have lost their moms and watched as they grieved their way through time. Now, I truly understand as I walk in their shoes. It hurts like hell. I hurt like hell.

The carpeted floor is firm and uncomfortable, but I continue to sit there, crying from the grief I cannot shake. Punishment for God knows what.

I need to blow my nose and reach for a tissue box in the far corner under the bottom shelf of jeans. In that same corner, I notice an old shoebox with a plain red ribbon neatly tied in a simple bow. Along with a tissue, I take the shoebox and slide it in front of me, recognizing it as one of several I removed from my mother’s closet shortly after she died. Some contained every birthday, Mother’s Day, and anniversary card she had ever received. She had loved them all, whether handmade or store bought. For a lifetime she had gathered the many messages of love, appreciation, celebration, and well wishes, meticulously keeping her treasures in cardboard boxes secured with pink or red ribbons.

On the cover I notice the word “Pictures” in Mom’s elegant handwriting. Untying the ribbon with care, I wrap the silky band around my wrist several times in the form of a bracelet. It’s a sentimental moment — an unexpected little gift from Mom; so simple, so special.

Slowly, I remove the lid from the box. Family photos, lots of them, are carefully stacked. On the very top is a photo of my mother, sitting on the blue padded chair in the corner of her living room. I am sitting on the floor in front of her, legs crossed like a Native American, as I am sitting at this moment in my closet. Her hands are draped lovingly over my shoulders. She looks beautiful. I cry harder.

I press my mother’s picture against my chest, unable to hold back the flood of tears. Rocking back and forth, I dig into the deepest corner of my soul and begin speaking to her out loud.

“Oh, Mom. I miss you so much. I know you must be in a place of peace and comfort. I wish I could feel the same. But I’m hurting without you, and I don’t know what to do. Will you help me? I’m not going to ask for a miracle. I’m not even sure I believe in them anymore. But there is one thing you could help me with, only if you’re up to it. I know it may sound crazy, but I’m going to ask anyway. Dear Mom, I need a cancellation at the ranch in Montana so I can go scream under a damn tree. I know you know, and you understand why I’m asking. Please, Mom. Thanks for listening.”

Tired and weary, I curl my body into a fetal position and close my eyes . . .