5 years ago today, in the early morning, my father, brothers, sister and I sat with my mother as she took her final breaths. That was, and remains, the most heartbreaking, moment of my life to date.
I have been reflecting on this, on her life, my life with her, and my life since her passing over the past few weeks. What does one say on such an anniversary? Are words needed or useful?
I don’t know that I am particularly wise regarding this topic, but at least I speak from some experience now, unwonted though it may be.
It still sucks. The shock, the intensity, the bitterness of it has lessened, but I still really miss her, and it still really really sucks. I still want her back, want my children to have their grandmother. I have a level of acceptance of this reality now that I could never have imagined 5 years ago, or even 2 years ago, and I still wish it were otherwise. I watch my younger siblings grow into more mature adulthood, I imagine some of the big life moments that may be ahead for them, and I want her here for that, for them. They have their own thoughts and perspective on this, but in my mind for them, this really really sucks. I’m probably going to use that word a lot in this post, bear with me please.
I don’t feel her, wherever she is. I’d like to, to have this deep connection that reaches to the other side, beyond the veil, to a place where I could still feel her, believe the connection still exists. Maybe I’m just not that person, or maybe I haven’t figured it out yet, but I don’t like it when people say things like “she’ll always be with you. ” I believe that, in the more symbolic way. I see her in my children, in my siblings, in myself, in some of my actions and beliefs. But I want this to be true in a much more tangible way, and I don’t feel that, and that, yes, that sucks. In the moments surrounding her death, I felt that place, that thinning of the veil, if you will. To me, it felt very much the same as the feeling or energy that surrounds birth. I have, to date, been present for 7 births and 2 deaths, and I believe from these experiences that we return to the place we came from, and that it is good. I don’t know anymore than that, or really need to. But I’d like to feel my mother’s presence. I did once, and once only, in a dream, during a particularly rough patch in my life, where she stroked my cheek and told me all would be okay. In this instance, she wasn’t a character in the mental house-cleaning stream of consciousness type of dreams I typically have. It was different. My cousin told me I would feel the difference, and I did. I woke from this with my cheek still warm from her touch, from sleep? If this was what I want it to be, I’d like more examples please.
Life continues on. There is a rightness to this that I didn’t want to admit or embrace just after she passed, that I can accept and even revel in now. In the moments and days just following her death, I thought, please don’t leave me here without you. And then I looked at my beautiful daughters, and continued on. My baby, not yet 1, is about to be 6, and my beautiful then nearly 8 year old, is about to be a teenager. My awesome siblings are growing and changing into these amazing adults I knew they would become, but couldn’t quite picture in advance. I have the gift of a deepened relationship with my father, this beautiful, compassionate man who I’ve always known, but didn’t know as well until now. I have been able to witness, as I said to my cousin recently, time and life soften him until what exists in him now is rich and lovely, and I’m grateful, so very grateful to have more time with him. Life and time are making their mark on me as well, more noticeably lately, and I doing my best to move forward into this with some grace. All of this doesn’t suck, so there’s that.
The passage of time, of 5 years, has given me time to mourn, to move through the stages of grief, more than once, and to mature myself. I’m glad to have been as grownup as I was when she left, for even then, I was moving into this place of seeing her as more than mom, as well meaning and flawed as myself, as deeply human. It’s an interesting and humbling thing to reflect on both my childhood and my parenting, to see and acknowledge the flaws in both, and then to extend compassion to both parties, to my mother and myself. It’s easy to want to latch on extremes, to the black and white of people. To hold onto only the good, or only the bad, depending on the nature of the relationship. More challenging to learn to hold and accept both. In my teens I remember listening to my grandmother describe my grandfather as this nearly saintly person after his death, while remembering that I learned some of my more colorful swearing vocabulary from the words they called each other when angry. The irony was not lost on me even then, and now, I understand a little. This too, does not suck.
I have one silly thing I do, that I continue to hold onto. My mother was a nature lover, the Lorax in real life. There are moments when I see just a few leaves fluttering merrily at me. Not the whole tree, or all of the trees nearby, just a few leaves. And I imagine she’s waving to me, saying hello. I’m sure there is a scientific, physics based, unmagical answer to this phenomenon, but for now I’ll hold onto the wave. Until we meet again mom.