In this culture, we remember dates and celebrate years since events happened. It must be part of the caveman in all of us to keep track and record these things because we tend to do it automatically. When you put more thought into this it starts to seem strange. Tradition, boredom, the sales of greeting cards all come to mind. Why does it matter? There is the saying that if we don’t remember history we are doomed to repeat it, but the majority of the days we observe don’t fall into that category. The real notable moments in our lives tend to be remembered every day.
365 days ago. It was a hot day in Los Gatos. Our family was all gathered at my grandparent’s house for the past week spending time with my mom as she lay in her bedroom quiet and in a lot of pain. Her body had withered away from medicine and cancer, but she still looked beautiful and goddess-like in her white robe. It was very peaceful in her room. Quiet with only the sound of the pond outside and family talking with whispering voices. There were 15-20 of us at all times individually coming in to speak with her, sit quietly meditating or praying, and help keep her comfortable.
At this point, we all knew that my mom was going to be leaving us soon. There wasn’t much of a chance of her coming back and her silent internal meditation was her preparing herself to go. She was in two places at the same time fluxing in and out of what is here and what comes after.
My sister Lily had been traveling across the country after spending months taking care of our mom, but she had jumped on a plane in Louisiana to make it back. It looked like my mom had been holding off to see her. When Lily arrived she burst into the room and mom pushed herself up to embrace her. It was as though she had been saving up this energy to give to Lily. They held each other- my sister was very strong but still weeping as she squeezed because she knew at this moment the fight was over. We all cried silently together sitting around the room.
In between seeing her in the room we spent time outside on the deck in the sun eating and sipping wine or coffee and working on a mosaic that my mom hadn’t yet finished. Carefully picking up glass with tweezers and placing over my mom’s painting trying to follow her structure and patterns, often times not up to mom’s standards. Mosaics are difficult.
We were all exhausted. Emotionally spent. Our inner contemplations spinning at all different speeds just moving around one another with this sort of instinctual pack mentality.
After saying goodbye for the evening and knowing that mom needed to rest, some of us drove off back down the hill to the houses we were staying at, some spent the night there in the living room.
My wife Lindsay and three-month-old Olive had to make a trip to Texas and so I was sleeping alone that night. It was very strange to reach over and not have them there. I remember reaching my arms out to hold Olive every few minutes. Phantom limb.
Shortly after midnight, I received a phone call from my mom’s cell phone. My heart was racing. In my daze of waking up, I had almost thought it could be her calling me. On the other end of the phone it was a friend calling from her phone, “it happened, she just passed away” were the words I heard. I said okay- ill be over. Got dressed, woke up my dad- he and mom hadn’t been together for many years, but their friendship was lifelong. The look on his face when I told him was strong, he now had 3 kids all on his own. We made the journey back up to the house in the mountain.
We arrived and it was dark only lit by some candles and small lamps. Everyone was huddled together in the living room amongst the blankets from bedrolls and each other. I went to the room and saw my mom at peace, and said goodbye.
We all slept side by side that night. All of us kids and my dad. My grandparents were close by. Like a pack of wolves, we held close and did our best to sleep off our sadness.
The rest of the events were less important. The real-world duties that come along with someone passing away are less than special, but those days before mom had to go seem to live in my permanent thoughts every day. It was the end of something and the beginning of another.
Thank you, Momma, for giving us everything you had, for being the most loving, for teaching us your magic, for your laugh, your sarcastic humor, your energy, your support and for teaching us the most important lessons about what this life is.