Thoughts collide with one another in my head. I want to write them out. I don’t know how. I don’t know what they are. I just don’t know.
Is this grief?
Is this what happens after the one who brought you into the world dies?
I wrote to someone this morning that the one thing I didn’t want to do while giving my mother’s eulogy was to cry in front of everyone. I wanted to honour her in ways I couldn’t in real life.
My mother’s relationship and mine was very complex. It wasn’t that we fought. It’s just we couldn’t agree on how to live life in peace.
I wanted to talk everything out. My mother wanted me to just ‘let things go’.
I can’t let go of what I do not understand, I’d tell her. I cannot let go of what is not named.
You just want to make trouble, she’d tell me. Let the past lie in silence.
Growing up I wanted her to be the mother of television shows. You know, the one who had fresh baked cookies waiting for you when you came home from school. The one who gave really good advice even when it related to boys — my mother’s advice tended to extend to practicalities like, ‘keep your legs crossed and definitely don’t let boys touch you…. there’, ‘always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident’ and ‘don’t sit on cold concrete. you’ll get hemorrhoids’.
I wanted a martini toting, laughing and giggling, outrageous, belle of the ball kind of mum.
She wanted an obedient, dutiful, listen to me kind of daughter.
I was none of those.
Years ago, when my daughters were about five and six, I knew I had to do something to heal my relationship with my mother. So, after much deliberation, I went to visit my parents to ask my mother to tell me her life story.
She was eager to do so. When we sat down, I turned on my dictaphone (remember those?) and she began to speak. “I was born in Pondicherry, India.” And she began to cry.
My father, not one for tears, kept walking into the room and telling her to stop crying.
I kept offering her kleenex.
She ignored us both and kept telling her story. For two and a half hours.
At the end, I understood better.
It wasn’t that she didn’t love me, or want me to be happy, or want a relationship with me, (which were some of the things I told myself, and my therapist, were the problems in our relationship.) It was just, she wanted the world to be for me like it was for her, or at least as she remembered it, when she was growing up in Pondicherry, India.
She called it her Shangri-la. She had God. Family. Friends and a beautiful way of life.
She wanted the same for me and my siblings. Being the rebel whose nickname growing up was, The Brat, I didn’t want what she had. Especially her faith, which I told her was a patriarchal construct designed to keep men in power and women subservient. (I know. It was the mean feminist in me. The one who didn’t understand way back then the power of words and the need for kindness.)
Without God as my ballast, my mother was terrified for me. Scared that I would get hurt in that great big scary world over which she had no control. Scared I would lose myself, and without surrendering to God’s will, my will would lead me into temptation, trials and tribulations.
It wasn’t until I was working on the powerpoint for her celebration of life and the eulogy that I realized that my mother and I weren’t that different. We might have used different words, but we both want/wanted the same thing. Peace. Love. and Harmony.
Once upon a time I wanted my mother to be the mother I wanted.
I am so grateful she was the mother she was. She taught me the value of kindness and helped me grow into the woman I am today.
My mother believed. Deeply. She believed that God would never forsake her. That God would lead the way.
Because of her deep faith, I always knew I was never alone in this Universe.
Because she never lost faith in God, I learned to never lose faith in myself. I learned that kindness is the ripple that creates a better world, act by act.
And above all, I learned that it’s not words that transform the past and relationships and the world. It’s Love.