That’s the thing about death, it is inextricably entwined with life.
In and out, it weaves its stories of time’s passage through seasons changing and life beginning and ending, beginning and ending.
My cousin dies and I am reminded of childhood days long past. I didn’t do well at keeping in touch. We are continents and oceans apart. As adults, my 3 siblings and I all lived in Canada. Our 16 cousins scattered between India and France. Twenty cousins in total, we are now 18. My brother was the first to cross the line between life and death.
And I shake my head in bemusement at the reference to crossing the line. Death is not a finish line that comes with a medal for having completed the race of life. Life is not measured by who gets to the end first. There is only the realization, for those who are left behind, that a thread of life that connected us to another has been cut.
In the eternal stillness that is death, life continues.
My mother left this earthly plane on February 25th. Quietly I dance with waves of grief and sorrow mingling with everyday laughter and joy. I call out to time to slow down so that I can effortlessly stand on the motherless terrain upon which I must locate myself only to discover, like a baby learning to walk, falling is part of the journey.
Be gentle in your journey,” I hear my mother whisper. “Be kind.”
Perhaps it is Linda’s passing that is unravelling her voice from memory.
My mother believed in kindness. It was at the root of everything she did. It was what she always told me to employ, no matter what the circumstance. Be kind.
I didn’t always treat my mother with kindness, just as I fear that in my youth, I wasn’t always as kind as I could have been with Linda.
And my mother’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “What is the kind thing to do here?” she asks.
Here? I wonder aloud.
I don’t know, I say in the sing-song voice of the child I no longer am.
My mother gives a sigh,
I remember that sigh. I hold my breath waiting for some further litany of my limitations. She surprises me.
“What if you just start here with loving yourself unconditionally?” my mother asks.
I don’t remember her being so so giving and wise in real life. And I definitely don’t remember her talking about the necessity to love oneself. In fact, in her final days, my eldest daughter recounted the story to my sisters of when my daughters and I were visiting mom when she was in her 80s and tried to teach her how to look into a mirror and say, “I Love Me”. She blurted the words out nervously and exclaimed with a girlish laugh, “Ooh la la!”
What’s happened to change her on the other side?
It’s as if she can read my mind. “Nothing has changed me Louise. I’m just able now to be my true self without the limitations of life getting in my way.”
I am surprised. This is definitely not my mother’s normal way of speaking.
She interrupts my skepticism with another gentle laugh and says, “In life, I only ever wanted to be the mother you needed but life kept getting in the way. In death, all I can be is everything I am. And that is Love.”
I take in her words and give my head a shake. Are we really having this conversation?
“It’s about time we did,” my mother says.
I take a breath. I am so with you on this one mom.
“Then let my words today fall into your heart and break it open in love,” she says gently. “Like me, you were always just doing your best to live your life. You can’t change the past. You can forgive yourself and move on with Love today.”
Okay. They’ve really done something to my mom. I mean, seriously, she’s talking like the mother I always yearned for.
“In life, I didn’t always know how to be the mother you wanted,” she says. “I could only be the mother I was. In death, I am the mother of your dreams, the mother I always wanted to be for you. It is my gift to you from the ever-after.”
I feel tears welling up inside me from somewhere deep within my belly. It’s as if new life is being born within the womb of my existence.
Breathlessly. Step by step, I let go of holding onto the past and stand fearlessly on the motherless terrain of my life today.
I hear you mom, I whisper to the sky and the sun, the moon and the stars. You may be gone but Love remains. Always and forever.