My Mother's Passing
My Mothers Passing
September 17, 2016 marks the date of my mothers passing.
The word “passing” is more palatable to me because it suggests a crossing over or passing from one realm of existence to another. Describing the feeling after losing a mother is elusive. You can empathize with others who have lost a mother but you cannot comprehend the depth of feeling until you experience it firsthand.
For over 40 years I was nourished mentally and spiritually by my mother. She had an overflowing, radiant beauty and powerful energy that seemed infinite. She poured her unconditional love into me daily to make my core solid, strong, and completely fulfilled. The safety net she weaved made me feel like anything was possible and she would catch me if I stumbled. It was a true blessing to be the daughter of this extraordinary human being. Through my lens it was a fairytale of happy memories. There was no more powerful love than her love for her children and grandchildren. She was the epitome of what a nurturer should be...loving her children with wild abandon while having still more room to share her pure love with others.
On December 27, 2014 my mother was given a diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer.
Twenty-one months later on September 17, 2016 my mother took her lasts breaths with her daughters, grandchildren, and best friend holding her hands and stroking her hair. It was a beautiful scene that could have been scripted out of a movie. Moments before she passed she was able to tell each one of us she loved us. For the past 21 months we had been preparing for this moment. Battling the disease for more time, yet forced into the openness that time was passing and the heaviness knowing that each cup of coffee shared together might be the last. Twenty-one months of trying to keep routines “normal”, savoring the usual spaghetti Sundays , going through pictures and laughing about ridiculous and care free moments, and hugging more tightly. The process of watching her physical body wither and process of losing her attuned me to what is beautiful in life…in living…even as it was grieving me.
With her last breath an ocean of sadness opened up. I knew it was going to happen yet I was completely derailed. I could only see myself as something I had lost and could never regain again. Her essence was somewhere else now. I was still everything I was before but in those initial moments felt like an orphan and grieved for that radiant energy that was now gone. Most of all I felt sorrow knowing the desperation she had to see her grandchildren grow and thrive. No one would revel in the mundane or daily experiences of my children the way she had. Her daily phone calls asking for a full report on what the kids were doing and how they were feeling was gone with her last breath. That last breath marked the end of a vibrant, caring, witty, and generous woman and a shift in our beautiful story together.
There are some souls we are so connected to that we remain connected to them even after their earthly bodies cease to exist. Somewhere deep inside I believe that I will see her again.
Grief is not a physical injury to recover from. People have described the loss of a significant loved one as a thief that robs them of happiness and pleasure for many years. My mother and I had conversations about what healing would look like after she was gone. We discussed that healing needs to take place holistically (physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially, and spiritually). Healing takes place at the soul level. The support that comes from loving hugs, checking in, meals dropped off, and helping with children is all part of the essential process to start drawing positive energy from other sources to continue on. She masterfully orchestrated a lifetime of strong family connections so my sister and I would never feel alone. At this point when others ask me how I’m doing, I mostly respond with the standard answer “I’m fine.” I believe I am providing an honest answer, but it is really a process that will continue to evolve. My grief is like a radio changing stations, trying to dial in more precisely an authentic happiness in everyday moments and drawing from the well of positive imagery to feel at peace and tune out the static noise of despair that she is not physically with me. At times there is even guilt for being happy and forgetting for a moment that she is really gone. People offer suggestions such as “you just need to focus on the good times,” “it was God’s plan,” or “she’s no longer suffering.” The words are hollow to me but I do draw strength from the act of reaching out and offering a kind word. Every act is an injection of the new vital energy that is needed to move forward.
Everyone will experience a significant loss and we will process it differently. I know I am extremely fortunate to have had an amazing mother and solid, wonderful immediate and extended family and friends to draw support from. Learning to live without my mother’s physical presence will be difficult and I know the heavy cloak of sadness will be worn intermittently in the near future. I know I will continue to find positive energy and feel authentic joy in the life she helped create. Our story has not ended; I view it as a shift. She will live on through all of those who knew her in the way we connect and love. The moment I hear my daughters say "always look for the silver lining," or "tomorrow is another day," or when we gather on Sunday for spaghetti, I will feel my mother near and see that vivacious smile and nod of approval.