I keep remembering odd things: the way she loved daffodils, her delight at the antics of our dog, jokes she told at the dinner table, her subtle brand of feminism, the look in her eyes when she talked about my future. I knew about college before I'd ever heard of high school; I was Mom's second chance at the degree she never had.

Her parents pushed her too much, too hard, too fast, and she always wished she hadn't let the pressure overwhelm her. She dropped out of college after one semester for marriage and a secretarial job. While she never regretted marrying my father, she always regretted giving up her dream of becoming an accountant. She was determined her eldest daughter would never miss an opportunity, and missed out on so many herself so I could succeed.

She was the one person I could talk to about anything: politics, dating, parties, failed tests, or nail polish. She was right about so much, so often—much more than I gave her credit for at the time. We never did agree on clothes. She favored the J. Crew look, I kept trying for (and failing at) the neo-sixties style. One year we didn't buy any new clothes at all in a battle of wills: she refused to buy anything that didn't "fit me properly" and I refused to wear anything with an alligator on it.

She loved the holidays, Christmas most of all. One of the most intensely special times of my life was Christmas my sophomore year, when I played Tiny Tim in a local community theater production of "A Christmas Carol." Mom delighted in my endless rehearsal stories, and spent hours helping me work out ways of disguising my long hair. There's a line in the show, "And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge." Change the pronouns and that quote describes Mom perfectly.

I never imagined she wouldn't be here now, micro-managing, debating the merits of such-and-such college with me, chasing the dog around the living room, ruining spaghetti, explaining "power colours," and relishing the exciting changes in IRS forms. I never thought cancer could strike so quickly, could kill someone so strong and determined in only a year.

She's the one person I couldn't imagine living without; now, since last January, I've had to. Suddenly, I have no one to talk to about meaningless little things, no one whose advice I trust implicitly to help me with decisions. When I come home from school, it is to an empty house, haunted by the memories of the year she spent here dying. I remember the disastrous Thanksgiving when she was nauseous and delusional, our wonderful last Christmas Eve together, the tangle of tubes in the family room, the needlepoint picture of Rainbow Row she labored over while stuck in bed, and the bags of M&Ms she always kept within reach.

What I feel cheated of is our future. There are so many memories I'll never have.