This is Joyce, graduating from high school. Some years after this photo captured her Hollywood profile, she told the man who would soon be her spouse that she would like her first daughter to be named Tala Marie.
He told her that with a name like that, she better find somebody nice to marry.
Joyce is very patient.
She also has good taste in husbands.
Joyce gave birth to two daughters,
Tala Marie and Hannah Sejnoha.
I came first, and helped her get used to the idea of being a mother.
She was very good at it.
Mom gave birth to Hannah on April 1, 1986.
Hannah got very sick, and the two of them realized just how strong and beautiful and brave they could be.
Eighteen years after, Mom had to be strong for Hannah again.
Hannah died in 2004, and Mom had to say goodbye to her daughter, the brown-eyed girl that she had carried under her heart for nine months.
Mom told me that she understood how people could be so sad as to curl up into the fetal position and never want to move again - when a life that you helped to create is somehow no longer within your embrace, frozen is the only thing you feel.
I would sometimes sit beneath a reproduction of this statue at the church near my dorm and compare my Mom's face to Mary's, loss to loss.
I don't know how, I really don't, but my Mama never stopped loving. Even when she was frozen.
So, so, so many times, I thought, "She has all the reason in the world to quit."
And she did have all the reasons in the world...but she had more. Reasons beyond this world kept her open and alive and real and loving.
I saw that she seemed to have other reasons when I was blazing, mad as hell, hiding on the floor of the pantry, pretending to be organizing the dozens of covered dishes that neighbors brought, thinking that if I were Hannah's mom, I would just give up.
Thankfully, Joyce is Hannah's mom. I am Hannah's sister.
My mom loves lots of people with her mother's heart. All of those people that she knows, that Dad loves, my friends, their babies...they are all tucked in, securely and specially loved by Mama Burnison.
If we had been twenty-something at the same time, I think we would have been friends.
Even better, I get to be her daughter.
If I see her-ness in my future, does she see me-ness in her past?
I can't wait to be more like her.
Thanks, Mom. I love you.