Before my mom died, I made her promise to haunt me. She said she would, but made me promise to believe it was really her. The night she died, I had a vivid dream where she sat me down to explain there were some important things she had gotten wrong in life. Her eyes were sparkling and she brought a friend to help me understand. This guy I’d never seen before helped her explain the way the world really works, but he also said I wouldn’t remember what they’d said. Which I don’t. Since then I’ve thought of this dream often (and those eyes!) and wondered what it really meant. What did she want me to know? Among other things, I think my Mom wanted to make sure I knew I had answers within me, and didn’t need her to guide me any longer. Still, being without her on this earthly plane has really kicked my ass. But today, rather than focus on the suckiness of it all, I’d like to share a few of the incredible things I’ve learned since my Mom died. Here goes:
- How to love myself like my Mom did – Missing her love is the hardest part. I never realized how much I depended on her confident reflection of me to lift me up when I was down. I mean, I knew. But, I couldn’t really know until she was gone. Now that my Mom’s not just a phone call away, I’ve been learning to look at myself through her eyes. Becoming a mother myself has helped. Sometimes, when I gaze in wonder upon my sweet babies, I remember my Mom, and how she looked at me that way too. In those moments, I feel her unconditional love for me, and I remember to love myself unconditionally too.
- Other mothers – While no one could ever replace my Mom, the world has provided me with an abundance of motherly love since her departure. Friends, family members, and even strangers have come together, most often without even knowing they’re doing it, to provide an emotional safety net that can still catch me when I’m falling. They help me bounce back from disappointment, celebrate achievements, get through motherhood, and remember to rest and rejuvenate from time to time. I am so lucky to have so many incredible women in my life and grateful to mom for teaching me how to receive that kind of powerful love.
- It’s always too soon. Since my mom died, people have often commented that it was too soon for me to be without her. But, really, no one is ever ready. I’ve seen the tears well up in my elders’ eyes when they recall their mamas. It’s the natural order of things that our parents die before we do. My Mom made my brother and I promise when we were kids that she got to go first. But that doesn’t mean any of us are ever ready. My Mom certainly wasn’t. She wanted to live to her very last breath. Even when her perception of reality was nearly gone, she would reach out in an instant to console us as we wept by her side. Life is sweet, and always too short.
- Death happens – My father died suddenly while my Mother died slowly. During the course of her illness and passing, I had lots of time to ponder death and dying. I confronted my own fears – of death, of being alone, of not having lived life to its fullest. I also couldn’t help but notice how uncomfortable most people were around my Mother. Some couldn’t even really look at her.Seeing her made them remember their own inevitable end. It’s funny how we all fear death so much. There’s great power in looking death in the eye and saying “I love you.” Even though none of us wanted death to come, it was such a blessing to be together. We shared so many tender moments, said everything that needed to be said, and finally, sat together in silent appreciation for all that we had become together.
- Greater interest in the non physical – One of the gifts of having people you love so much die, is a heightened interest in the non-physical aspects of being human. After Mom’s death, an Aunt told me a story about how she thought of my Mom (and her other beautiful sister, CiCi) anytime she saw hummingbirds. At the time, I was super pissed Mom wasn’t haunting me like she promised, but also worried that maybe she was and I was missing it. So I decided to borrow the hummingbird association and see what happened. I immediately saw them everywhere – and not just because it’s such a common and iconic image. My favorite story occurred shortly after my son was born. I was sitting on the porch at Star B nursing Leo while Ardea and the boys were off working on something. A hummingbird flew right up to us and proceeded to poke its little beak between each of Leo’s toes like they were flowers full of nectar before flying right up to my eye. I jumped back a little and she flew away, leaving me breathless and elated.
“Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.” ~Rossiter Worthington Raymond
My mom taught me that life often isn’t fair, but it is still always working out for me. She taught me how to see the good in everything and everyone, especially when I think I can’t. She is still teaching me. I look forward to whatever lessons – and hauntings:) – come next.
Love you mamacita, you’re still the best!