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Brain cancer took my mother a year and a half ago. Something I hold dear to my heart is her playful but genuine use of the word “wuv”. It was a favorite voicemail and email sign off of hers: wuv and peace. It really stuck out to me and it’s become how she lives in my mind. 

Today was the annual American Brain Tumor Association’s NYC 5k. Almost half a million dollars was raised for brain tumor research.

Last year I ran it as a (lonely) individual but this year a group of about 20 friends came together as a team, Team Nilofer. I made a red beanies with the word wuv on them, and seeing those red beanies on smiling faces doing this with me, really made today great.

 
 
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Tallia Storm

In Paris last week, Tallia Storm asked me to take some photos of her. She's a young singer who got her start through Elton John and was in Paris performing at a designer's after party. It was her first time in Paris and she wanted to do a little something in the Eiffel Tour area. It's always nice doing shoots just for fun.

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365 days

It's my mother's first death anniversary.

In the last 7 days was my sister's birthday and Mother's Day. I was told this would be a difficult time - that anniversaries and occasions would hit hard. I didn't think it would be any different than what it's been so far.

But I feel it.

I preface this by saying that I am overall happy. I am happy with this little hole. 

This is what my "difficult time" translates to: Over the course of the year the memories are remembered differently. Perspective changes as time passes. Triggers change. The memories lead immediately to a yearning, an insatiable longing for some sort of impossible earthly connection with her, anything at all. I can remember what she feels like, how she carried herself and how she looked at me. I can remember it all. But these memories keep getting further away. Recently there's a feeling I get when I think about her being dead for so long now which isn't actually so long, and that she'll be dead for the rest of my life. (People don't like the word 'dead' because it is jarring. But it's the word I use in my thoughts. It is real.) These WTF moments seem silly because these are facts that I have accepted and have known yet they still arrive, feel new and pierce. These ones feel as if it will be impossible to continue existing with this void forever. But I know that's not true and a moment later I'm back to being rational.

I am finally plunging into my passions and feel happy with where I am - it's taken me my whole life to get to this point -  and I find it makes me more sad about her and I miss her more. She was a safe space and I didn't understand how much comfort she gave me until she was gone. There's so much I talked to her about that has changed now. She would have been ecstatic to know.

The process of losing her and the process of learning to love myself is ongoing. In many ways the two are connected.

Experiencing her death has brought me closer to belief. Not traditional religion as it does for many, but belief in energy, spirit and dimensions. I believe in empathy, meditation, breath and wellness. 

I start my day with a large glass of water and meditation. I breathe deeply with intention and am in awe of breath and life. In the last year I have reflected heavily on what it means to be alive and lead a good life and I've decided to live a healthier life and make wellbeing a priority. Making this happen means consistently practicing mindfulness in thought and action by considering how I treat my body, the quality of my thoughts and how I make others feel. Some days it comes easy and some days it doesn't, but it always feels right.

I let myself feel everything. Feelings are good. I process then I turn them into progress.

One thing that's been on my mind a lot is how society responds to someone's experience of loss. It feels to me that people think that after a certain amount of time has passed that it's inappropriate to speak about it or that it will be a reminder. For me that's not true and I'm not sure it is for a lot of people. Why are these discussions shied away from? It should not be awkward or uncomfortable. We should talk about these things openly. I always think it's sweet when anyones brings up my mother or my experience.

I want to speak more about mental health and what I have learned through my experience. I want to make this a regular conversation in our community. There is so much to talk about and so many different perspectives to share. I have ideas and I'm working on something. So let's talk.

A year has passed. It feels like no time at all and all the time there ever was. I'll always have this little hole but I am forever traveling on.

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Some family photos from Phoenix - April 2017

Clearly it's all about the kids.

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