I think we all do it. Measure time in terms of whether or not an event occurred before we lost someone we loved or after. The death changes everything about us. Everything. How we talk. What we think about. How we show up in the world. How we love. How we look. How we “are.” Our foundations are rattled. We are cracked open and apart and even if the pieces are ever put back together, they will never fit quite the same way. But you already know this. I’m preaching to the choir and it’s an old sermon. I’m writing this to you just to say I know what you mean. I hear you when you delineate: “did I get married before or after Mama died?” “When did we buy the house? It must’ve been the year after we lost Dad.” The death becomes a permanent marker in our histories and in our minds. So we place our life stories in two distinct columns. Before/After, and like a magazine model with a makeover, no one cares about the in between. The death has cut us in two and what survives is nothing but pre and post, the middle murky like an old painting that’s been on the wall so long, no one notices it anymore. Recently one of my sorority sisters posted a picture of me on Facebook. The photo was taken on a sparkling Spring day at Howard University, a long time ago. I am so young, wearing a pink and green hat, looking down and somewhat preoccupied. Looking happy. My first thought when I saw the picture was who is that woman? She is me but she is not really me. She’s the Gayle before Mama died. The clueless Gayle. The one who had no idea her mother would leave her life within a year or so and tear her seams. God, I was dumb. God I was cute. God. This is what I think each time the photo pops up in the echo chamber called Facebook. The after me looks at the before me and wonders where she’s gone. She feels very far away. I know the that Gayle is never coming back but honestly I don’t miss her. Sure, she was a lot less wrinkled, but since she lacked the depth, the seasoning of my current self, I like her less. I know her less. I trust her less. She’s too naive. She believes in fairy tales. She thinks mothers live forever. Silly me.