Up until Mom’s last few months, whenever we had quiet time together, I shamelessly poured my heart out, sitting at the foot of her bed and conducting a rambling sotto voce. I would recount funny stories about my friends, tell her my writing ideas, share memories from our past. I would rail against the injustices of the world and reflect the values she taught me; to be a caring, active member of this planet. I would fill her in on the books I was devouring, the latest in brain studies and other medical research. I don’t know how much she took in; she seemed to enjoy listening, and would snort or laugh or roll her eyes at the appropriate moments. I guess I was dreading the day when even this would no longer be available to me. And I feel the silence now, profoundly.
Grief is such a fluid emotion. I didn’t know how much it would morph and evolve over time. Right after we lost Mom, I missed that fierce and funny personality that she adopted in her last years. I still do! Those memories are golden now. Then, as time marched on without her presence in our lives, I began to miss the mother of my childhood, the mother of my adolescence, and the mother who guided me gently through my mature relationships and ambitious career decades.
For over 60 years, our lives were forever entwined by long and loving conversations. This is what I miss most now, a year after her passing. Her insights, her wisdom, her equanimity. Her ability to calm my fears, balance my hills and valleys, her gentle guidance as both a mother and a friend.
I chose to honour the date of Mom’s death by sitting quietly and going through the photos that were featured at her Celebration of Life. I had been too overcome at the event to take in the loving collage put together by friends and family, and I wanted to sit and fully appreciate it. I invited my father and siblings to join me. One of my sisters came; my brother chose to go to her graveside and leave fresh flowers. Another of my sisters created a small shrine in her home; it’s beautiful. Everyone grieves personally and in their own way.
My father was reluctant to go through the photos, wary of big emotions surfacing. Keeping that in mind, we leaned into the funny, tender moments, the family milestones, the shining light that Mom was throughout her busy life. Soon we were laughing and sharing stories, and before long my father was snoring beside us, having succumbed to his afternoon drowsiness.
Then, on the evening of December 23rd, an unusual visitation. I was sitting with my father at the kitchen table, the Christmas tree a colourful, glowing presence in my peripheral vision. All of a sudden, I sat up very straight and said out loud, “Mom!”
I have no clue whom or what I was responding to.
One of our angel caregivers (a very spiritually-connected woman) was at the kitchen sink rinsing off a few dishes. She turned to me and said, “You feel her, too?” We both stopped what we were doing and waited. I was experiencing a warmth around my neck, as if someone was wrapping a soft scarf around it. She was feeling a light touch running up and down the back of her neck, like a tickle. My father was looking at us as if we had both gone mad. It went on for a few seconds and then dissipated.
Love is the most beautiful energy in the world, and it’s always with us.
My talented sister Cathy gifted us this year with beautiful cushions made from Mom’s favourite clothes – the pajamas that she slept in, the plaid shirt that became her daily obsession, the colourful tops that she was drawn to, over and over, in her shrinking world. The joy of it makes me cry; I wrap my arms around it and feel her presence.
We miss you, Mom.