Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my Mother’s death. It’s so hard to believe it’s been one year. I remember I couldn’t write for a while after she died. It was as if things needed to settle inside me. No, settle isn’t quite right. Things needed to move around, push their way out, burrow deep inside, get all mixed around, catywampus-sideways…everything just had to be left alone to be inside me. One thing I have become all-too-familiar with is the need for grief to be welcomed and befriended. It is an intelligent process, grief. I have experienced that when you open to it, don’t rush it, don’t fight it, even befriend it by giving in to it and entering the darkness of it with trust, it will move you, it will shake you, it will bring you somewhere out the other side of the darkness, somewhere new that you never expected.
Mom’s death was a lesson in letting go on so many levels. Letting go of my longing for her to be cured of her cancer, letting go of her being open to talking about her death, letting go of being able to say good-bye in the way I wanted to, letting go of wanting to be by her side at the moment she passed, letting go of all the things I thought I still needed from her as my mother. One big-time letting go.
And now it’s one year later. I find I am still letting go. I am letting go of our culture’s taboo on discussing death and sharing grief. I am letting go of the expectations that we are only supposed to grieve for a set period of time and then if we don’t move on we’re ‘not normal’. I’m letting go of the culture’s obsession with the objectification of a woman’s body, as if it existed solely for sexual gratification. And, I am letting go of the societal voices that ‘honor’ mothers on the surface, and treat mothers with disdain and women with second-class status.
As I wrote in a post last year, as my mother died, I felt a deep painful tearing in my body, right at the core. It felt as though my connection with my mother (the most primal connection I had) was being severed as she prepared to die. The pain seared in my core, down deep at the base of my body. It was as if I could feel her leaving by way of the pain in my own body.
Then, after she died, I sat with her body for a long time. I felt awe in the presence of her body, the body that nourished me and delivered me into this world. I felt gratitude for all she did in her life to provide for me, to keep me safe, to usher me into adulthood. I felt compassion for her foibles and humanness, a humanness that I had once expected to be perfection. Yet, there in the moments following her death, I was captivated by the ephemeral nature of this imperfect humanness for I knew, with her life force no longer there, her body was already beginning its way to non-existence.
Over this past year, I have come to know a strong connection between my mother and my own body. This connection lies at the heart of being human. We are fed by our mother, both inside her and once we are born. Her body is the vessel that holds us as we grow from being a few cells to a baby big enough to make our way into the world. She sustains us. During this time in the womb, she is all that we know.
This connection is primal. It is a connection to more than just mother. It’s a connection to the Universal Mother and to the Earth. This Earth is the vessel that sustains us as we move throughout our life. She provides for us. She nourishes us. While life can be harsh, without the Earth, we would not be.
We lose our connection because we are conditioned to believe we must let go of mother to be strong, independent individuals in our western culture. We also learn to blame mother for most everything that wasn’t right in our childhood. Mothers take the brunt of blame. Mothers are taken for granted. Mothers learn to internalize this blame.
It’s not about believing that mothers can do no wrong. Rather, despite the ways in which you don’t see eye-to-eye with mom, and regardless of whatever story you tell about your mother, can you find and feel your heart’s deepest gratitude to your mother for carrying you and birthing you? Because, that Mother, the mother that nourished and sustained you, is the same Mother that sustains all of life. The substance that fuels a mother’s capacity to nourish a baby into existence is the same substance that fuels all of existence.
What conscious grieving of my mother’s death has taught me is the profound, yet basic connection between awe and gratitude for my mother and the gift of life she gave me. It has strengthened my connection to my own body and to the Earth, and to all of life. And, it has brought me to the wisdom that comes from knowing this same substance is within me as a woman.
This substance allows for a beautiful and mysterious connection between women. We don’t have to be mothers to know this connection. It just is. This substance connects us with the Earth, with nature, and with the sacredness of life itself.
I don’t know what sharing this with you will bring, I only know that now knowing this has awakened reverence and awe for my mother, my daughters, my sisters, my nieces, and all women; my grandchildren and all children; my father, my partner Jeff, my sons-in-law, my nephews, and all men; and all of life. That’s been the gift for me that lies in knowing the fullness of my mother’s humanness, as well as the sacred nature of her female creativity.