The week after my mother’s memorial service, I found myself standing on the top of the first mountain I ever climbed, at 3, with her, my three brothers, and my father. Mom told me once that she had sort of pushed me up the short, steep path. I even remember how she asked me to stand by a small pine tree for a photo. The tree is still there. It pushes out of the rock ledge at the woods edge, back from the view over lake and mountains. And oh, was I grumpy. She later said how I used to complain, during family mountain climbs, “I hate this. I’m only doing this to get to the top.”

To her credit, she didn’t wave that at me much after I was climbing mountains all the time and telling anyone who would listen that the experience has nothing to do with the summit. Ha!

Mom didn’t do much hiking—let’s be clear. This one little mountain was her thing. She climbed two others with us that I know of. I’m pretty sure she and her sisters complained when their father drove up Pike’s Peak. She didn’t mention how it looked, just how scared they all were.

The coming months will unfold so that I can understand where Mom’s complete soul remains in mine. Now I can see the complete mother—and no longer have to think about the problems she had in old age, and the fact that she was unhappy as her freedom to move around freely evaporated with her strength. All that is over now. Now I’m standing in my little green pants by that gnarly pine that could keep going despite the rock on which it had rooted. Now I am trying to cool my flushed cheeks again beneath the same tree, and I can hear her voice asking me to look toward the camera.

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