I’m writing this on the eve of the ten year anniversary of my mother’s passing. It seems cliche, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the way she looked and sounded, but especially how her whole little being was intent on holding it together, until those last few days when she seemed to need to just let it go. There were moments that were devastatingly funny. I mean, my mom was already the funniest person that existed as far as I was concerned, but the pain meds made her hilarious in a way that surprised me. The meds made her sloppier, looser and more free but also undeniably more fragile than I had ever seen her.
My family recounts one story of gently and relentlessly redirecting my mother to the task at hand. Signing my birthday card. It was the last thing she would ever write to me, and my mother wrote a lot of things to me over the years. She didn’t consider herself a writer yet I have a stack of letters where she poured out her heart to me on the page. She always thought I was so much like my father and adored me for that, for being that reminder. I don’t think either one of us realized then how much I was actually so much more like her. She wrote, To my little om om om. I love you, Mom. Although she had never called me that before, the moment I read it spoke a kind of reassuring truth.
The cancer was quickly moving and beginning to effect nerves that controlled her speech. In what felt like a second, her tongue no longer worked anymore. With that first slur, I knew the time was close. I knew she wouldn’t be able to eat. It was a terrible cancer. The kind that takes you away from life in seven months after finding it. The kind that attacks every last part of you until you are in excruciating pain. In the last couple weeks she would just stare at me. Trying to express what words no longer could. That big desperate urge to express big love. I knew the look well. We had already been through it with my father after his motorcycle accident. He had a traumatic brain injury that left him unable to speak, so we became quite proficient in speaking our hearts through our eyes. It was a kind of family language that we had become proficient in. I look at my son like that now.
The birthday card was her last gift to me. It was a heart stopping offer of her awareness of everything. om. She got me. She got everything that mattered about what I believed and she got the profound meaning of the word. The sound vibration that created, sustained and holds the entire universe. I later learned that when we incant om, we recall the most ancient sound of the Mother Consciousness. The sentiment felt big and real and profound. I knew that as she was so close to passing through the veil, she understood. This was her way of conveying that to me. Beyond whatever our religious difference were, there was always this big connection. She addressed that depth in such a playful way. I have always felt honored, loved and accepted by her. This was just another of those moments.
I remember never being able to acknowledge to my mother that I knew she was leaving me. She wouldn’t have it. It was too much for her. At least with me. All I could say to her was, I know I will never be separated from you. So when I was, separated, the grief was more chronic and debilitating that anything I expected. I had already lost my dad so I thought I had an idea of how it would feel. It just wasn’t the same.
When I finally saw Anna Raimoindi, the medium I spoke about in a previous post, and she told me that my mother had waited to pass so I could enjoy my birthday, I knew what I was going to do. There were years that I searched for that birthday card, but I had tucked it away somewhere so safe that I had to live without it. Once I finally found it, I knew that I wanted it with me always.
Ten years is a long time. I have moved out of that angry kind of grief. I think I was ashamed at how much I still needed her. I think I was confused at how I wasn’t the same person anymore without her. I didn’t know that all the good things she felt about me, she would take with her and that I would constantly feel the sadness of that. My husband loves me, yes. My family and friends, of course. But not that crazy love. Not that cosmic, transcending love that I had with her. It didn’t seem to matter who else loved me, because I just didn’t feel that special anymore. Having my son brought with it lessons that I never could have anticipated, but he also came with that cosmic kind of love for me. He also came as a way for me to now love him like crazy. And he has been part of my healing journey on a multitude of levels.
I wish I could have given my grief much more space and much more honor. The capacity to grieve, I believe is in direct correlation to how we love. What is it to be a mother, father? A daughter, son, sister, brother, even a friend. It is everything. Everything we came here for. To love so deeply it sometimes breaks our heart. Now I see the beauty in my fragility, in my anger. Just my heart longing to be seen. After she passed, I left the hospital exhausted. From watching her leave, from wishing I could go with her. I awoke in the morning crying and I knew they were still the tears I went to sleep with.
On this eve as I write about her, I see the fragments of myself finding their way back to the whole. She thought I was so funny and smart, witty and gorgeous and independent. I was her free spirit, her traveller, her fearless daughter and she listened to everything I said. I ate it all up. It makes me laugh out loud now, the way she viewed me. I hope I did that for her too. I was awed by her talent, her strength, her fight and her integrity. I was awed by her humility and ability to be fierce, sometimes both at once. I know she knew I saw her too. The good parts and the bad parts too. Which should be the definition of what it is to be unconditionally loved.
The tattoo artist told me how bad tattooing on the ribs hurt and he asked, did your mom call you little om om om? I said no. I could tell how much care he was taking getting her handwriting exactly as it was on the card. I told him she was on a lot of pain medication but that it was the last thing she wrote to me. He shared that he had lost someone close and he said, just remember when it hurts, it is nothing compared to the emotional pain of losing her. He was right about that. He also said, it will be worth it, this honor for her. He was right about that too.