My fingernails are chipped at the ends. The skin on my knuckles dry and crackly from constant washing, despite the constant application of handcream.
One bright spot is my hair. Albeit a bit shaggy, the cut I got on March 2nd seems to be holding its form not too badly.
I know the date of my last haircut. It was the day before we held the celebration of my mother’s life. She passed away on February 25th. Almost two months ago now. Before the great constraints of Covid sent everyone home to safety.
Sometimes I get confused over my feelings. Is this grief for the loss of the woman who gave me life or is it grief for all the lives being lost and all the losses we are experiencing in our world today?
And then, I remember it’s not about naming the source of my feelings. It’s about feeling them. Ya’ gotta feel ’em to heal ’em.
Feelings are felt. Not contained. Not stored away. Not stuffed into a drawer to be left alone until they pass their ‘best before date’ and can be safely thrown out on the next garbage pickup day.
The only way to safely let feelings go is to heal them. To heal them, we must feel them. To feel them, we must let them flow.
And to let them flow, we must dive into the murky places where memory and story intertwine. That place where we can unravel the past from the present and be present in what is true today.
Sometimes, that’s not so easy.
Sometimes, feelings like to masquerade behind identifiable targets — like grief over my mother’s passing.
My grief is about so much more than the end of her life. It’s about the end of a dream. Wishes and hopes. Fears and tears. Life. Love. Living.
And suddenly I smile at the capriciousness of my mind. A song I haven’t thought of in years flitters through my thoughts as gentle as a butterfly’s wings kissing my cheek. As gentle as my mother’s hands joining together in prayer. “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.”
And I smile again.
And my heart does a joyful little skip and lovinly tells me, “You were never a motherless child, Louise. You just never had the mother you thought you wanted.”
Of course, the teenager me wants to put her hands on her hips and say, (with attitude), “Yeah. Like, what’s with that? Why couldn’t I have what I wanted?”
Yeah. I know. Unreal. Right? Ever the petulant teenager!
The mind is a fascinating place full of stories and images, memories and connective tissues that pop up to enrich, or deplete, our lives today.
And the refrain of “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,” drifts back into my mind.
I remember it. It is a song of my childhood.
My father loved all music. Our home was constantly filled with the sounds of his extensive record collection. Big band. Marching band. Gregorian Chants. Rock. Folk. World music. Jazz. Easy-listening. Protest. Sitar. Classical. Opera. Gospel.
He loved Gospel music. On Sundays, he’d fill the house with sounds of bagpipes (to get you up, he’d exclaim) followed by Mahalia Jackson singing deep spiritual music of the south. “Listen to that voice,” he’d call out loudly from the living room where the record player sat in its prime location on a shelf surrounded by rows and rows of his LPs (2000+).
With a grin, he’d turn the music up louder. My mother would tell him to turn it down, “What about the neighbours?” she’d ask. And my father would laugh and say, “What about them?” And for good measure, he’d open the sliding doors leading onto the wrap-around deck of our home and turn it up just a little bit louder, “The birds want to hear it too!”
My father was not a quiet man. Though he was deeply contemplative.
I credit my love of writing to him. He was a beautiful writer. His words, deep and meaningful. His thoughts always came out so much more quietly on paper, his voice so much softer than in real life.
It was on paper my father broke my heart, open. Always. On paper his words rang true, piercing whatever shield of denial or resistance I’d erected to avoid whatever it was he felt I needed to hear or see.
I didn’t always listen to my father. I always read his words. And I always listened to his music. Still do.
This morning, through some capricious connection of the synapses between the here and now and the way back then, the memory of a song my father used to play popped into my mind.
With its arrival, memories of my father and his love of music washed over me in gentle waves, washing away grief and leaving behind gratitude, grace and Love.
Sometimes, I might have felt like a motherless child, but I never was. I always had a mother who loved me, just the way I was, despite my insistence she be some other kind of mother.