I have been writing a memoir of my mother’s death since before she died. It began with a piece I started after she moved to hospice care, on the cusp of 2013. I began at my grief’s beginning: writing about the spring of her diagnosis the previous year. I currently have over 100,000 words that trace her life, her illness, her death, my grief, and my (ongoing) healing; the first chapter begins with that first piece, which I will excerpt later on. As I edit, I’m shaping the body of the text, as though it’s a person, as though it’s my own body, or my mother’s, modeling in some ways how I’ve used movement and physical exercise to help me through the stages of her illness and the space left without her. I’m also shaping my own therapeutic response to grief through my editing, shaving off the repetitions of my own pain and weaving in reflections of my mother’s healthy, well-lived life, and including a lot of the concrete actions I have taken to change my life since she died, both purposefully and accidentally.
In this article, I consider sections of my in-progress manuscript alongside others’ published memoirs of losing a mother. Some of what I think is distinctly creative about my work is the addition of other modes of composing. This article, for example, incorporates memoir, scholarly analysis, multimodal video, and my mother’s own words. Using Megan Brown’s 2010 invitation in College Literature to consider my writing as a prism, I analyze Eggers (mostly, following Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson’s 2001 analysis, through its appended paratext) using theories and texts developed by Jacqueline Jones Royster in her Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women, all mediated by sections of my own grief memoir and by portions of my mother’s introductions to her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation. I have also added two layers of video to the manuscript and essay, one that traces memory and grief through my own relationship to books and reading and one that chronicles my grieving process through my athletic practices. Ultimately, with these combinations of texts and approaches to life writing, I posit that the ways in which the personal, academic, visual, and aural converge in my work about my mother could intervene in the grief memoir genre to create a broader way of mourning.