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(by Amy Fischer Smith)

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.” Wendy Morgan

I didn’t always listen to my mother growing up, but I sure as hell listen to everything she tells me now that she’s dead. In the two years that she’s been gone, she’s taught me that life is brief, so make the most of it; be grateful for family and friends; the bond between mother and daughter is eternal; and with help from a toddler, I can survive the most life-altering loss I’ve experienced in my 32 years.

While most moms advise their daughters to pursue a particular career or date a doctor instead of a truck driver, my mother focused her efforts on leisure recommendations. She all but planned my honeymoon in France and Italy, and came up with elaborate party ideas like a birthday celebration for my dog Lance with the theme of Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table. My mom was full of great ideas for having fun, and was always thrilled when I liked one of them and ran with it.

But Wendy Morgan’s greatest strength when it came to recommendations was restaurants. Being her daughter was like having my own private Michelin inspector. She’d research a restaurant, stop by and pick up a menu so she could study it and decide what to order, then visit with my dad before recommending it. Once she liked a place, she was extremely enthusiastic about it, insisting that I drop whatever I was doing to try the area’s most authentic dim sum.

Her enthusiasm also extended to more serious matters. When my husband Tom and I were having trouble starting a family, Mom was always positive that the fertility treatments we were undergoing would work. She insisted that I would become a mom myself. And she was right.

In April 2017, I gave birth to my son Benji, and my mom became a grandmother for the first time. She told me that it was one of the greatest joys of her life, second only to having me. She and my dad came over every day to spend time with Benji, often bringing dinner for his hungry and sleep-deprived parents. This was a new chapter in our relationship. Even though I would always be her baby, we now had new roles as grandmother and mother, bonding over the blessing of my son.

Just seven months later, life changed forever when my mom died suddenly and unexpectedly due to complications from Crohn’s disease. She was just 60 years old. Tidal waves of grief swept over our family. The day before she died, Tom, Benji and I spent the evening with her. We had no idea that it would be the last time we would see her alive. The last message I received from my mom was an email with a picture of Tom holding Benji that she had taken that night. The message said simply, “I am grateful for my family.”

While it hasn’t gotten any easier to live without my mom, I know she’s still with me. Our relationship is different now that she’s no longer physically here, but I am still her daughter. Because I am her daughter and I want to embody her positivity, I’ve developed several ways to cope and to remember her. Many of these revolve around food.