My mother received her unlikely gift the day of her funeral. A New York Times debut. Not in the obituaries where you might expect her to show up, but in the Sunday Times crossword puzzle. On Easter Sunday, she was Number 68 across: a seven letter word for the clue, Open up. I have a copy of the puzzle framed in gold leaf on the wall outside my home office.
I remain certain these were her last words of advice. Mom didn’t believe making something easy, made it better. Not surprisingly the advice appeared in written form, in a puzzle. A respectable way to catch my attention and memorialize her reminder – don’t close off, open up.
The ability to talk with her, hug her, even disagree with her – which I did heartily and often – ended with her life. The emptiness that first took root was as futile and infinite as a swim across the Atlantic. In the dark. Mid February. Alone. I’ve recovered mostly and there is beauty in this. Which Mom understood intuitively. Her legacy is a family that loves and misses her, and remains close.
Post Script: The seven letter word that answers Number 68 across is Blossom. My mother’s name.