Tis the season of grief?
I’m sitting down to write on this snowy evening while Toots is asleep in hopes that I can finish what I have drafted over the past few weeks. I rarely find time to write, and, when I do, I tend to write in short, sprinter-like bursts. Tonight I want to write like a runner on a meandering trail through the forest, with no one to impress and no “personal best” to beat. I just want to speak my truth and let it echo through the trees.
This time of the year reminds me so much of my mom:
the start of a new school year followed by her birthday in late September,
crafts made from autumn leaves and pine cones and desserts filled with pumpkin and cream,
the silliness and make-believe of Halloween,
her childlike excitement over the first snow fall,
her way of bringing families together at Thanksgiving and how she would lead us in giving thanks,
and the way she celebrated the birth of her King at Christmas.
Whereas spring reminds me of my mother’s death, autumn and early winter remind me of her life, specifically HOW she chose to live her life. As a teacher, an artist, a mother, a homemaker and a Christian, her spirit shined brightest during this season. A glowing yet humble star adored by many, and especially by me.
Unsurprisingly, at this time of the year, I am just as aware of her absence as I am of her presence: that motherly love which transcends all boundaries. Although we can no longer engage in an earthly mother-daughter relationship, I sense my mom’s spirit surrounding me, influencing my environment and my way of showing up in this world. I hear her voice as I speak to Toots, using the same expressions she used when raising my sister and me. I re-create my mom’s dishes using the recipe book she made for me before she died, one of the many gifts she made in anticipation of “that day.” I buy the same household cleaners so my house will smell the same as hers did. I bundle myself up in her bulky sweaters to feel her embrace, to fall back in time. Every night, as I put on my frumpy yet oh-so-comfy pajamas, I catch glimpses of my mother’s body in the mirror: we share the same broad hips and fleshy thighs, passed down by our Scandinavian ancestors who farmed and birthed lots of babies with ease. It’s impossible to despise your hips and thighs when they belonged to a woman you loved so very much. As I pull on my pajamas- the same style she loved to wear- a fleeting, unanswerable question scampers through my mind: will I also meet her same demise?
Despite feeling her love surrounding around me, I still long for my beloved mama’s earthly presence—to hear her voice, stroke her silky cheeks, feel the weight of her arms wrapped around me, rest my head on her shoulder, lay next to her in bed for a chat, brush past her in the kitchen as we make dinner, hold her hand in church, and so much, much more. My heart aches that I cannot call her and have a two-way conversation, that I cannot ask her the millions of questions that I wished I would have asked her when she was still alive. My heart aches that Toots will never know what it feels like to be held by her, to be loved by her as he grows up. Although I take great comfort in knowing she lives eternally, the little orphaned girl inside of me finds her absence completely grievous. This little girl is still sad–and frankly, pissed off– that her mama’s gone. Like Toots when he throws a massive fit because I won’t buy him another Matchbox car at the checkout, my inner orphan SCREAMS for her mama and won’t settle for anyone else. She wants the physical, tangible, earthly version of her mama, not a spiritual stand-in.
Why now, I ask? Why this tsunami of grief which has flooded my world over the past month? Just when I thought I was in a good place, finally feeling at peace after years of loss after loss. Just when I was starting to get my professional groove back… Is my grief simply prompted by “the time of the year” with its traditions and holidays? Or was I unexpectedly triggered as I read Cheryl Strayed’s account of losing her mother in “Wild” and found myself bombarded with memories of my own mother’s battle with the big C? Or is this just part of the grieving process: a tidal wave, followed by still waters, followed by a tsunami, followed by still waters, repeat cycle until heart no longer aches? As much as I want to stop myself from this downward spiral, as much as I want to scream “I’m DONE,” as much as I want to silence my inner orphan, my heart says otherwise. My heart tells me to let this wounded part of me throw a tantrum and grieve whatever it is she needs to grieve. Give her time, space and an abundance of maternal love. Then let her go, just like everything else I’ve learned to let go. INNNNHALE, EXXXXHALE. Let GOOOOOOOOOOOO….
(Total side note: Is it just me or do you also hear that bloody “Frozen” song every time I write about letting go? Embarrassing and distracting. Blech!)
When I lie very still and quiet the constant mental chatter to deeply connect with Spirit, I can hear my mom’s voice whispering that it’s okay to let my grief go, that it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten her or don’t love her anymore. I know my mother’s right (of course she is!), but I also know that my inner orphan isn’t quite ready to move on. For the moment, this little orphan girl needs my love and acceptance. She needs to know that I’m not going to shut her out or abandon her. She needs me to honor her feelings, to hold her when she cries. She needs me to trust the process. With this simple acknowledgment of her needs, she rests her head on my shoulder in peace to soak up the maternal love she misses so much.