This week: Losing MomEdited by: Sophy
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Hi, I'm Sophy ~ your editor for this edition of the Spiritual Newsletter. In this issue we'll talk about losing a parent.
The Rev. Scotty McLennan, author of the book Finding Your Religion, compares humanity's innate need for spiritual searching to climbing a mountain. In his view, we are all endeavoring to climb the same figurative mountain in our search for the divine, we just may take different ways to get there. In other words, there is one "God," but many paths. I honor whatever path or paths you have chosen to climb that mountain in your quest for the Sacred.
My mother, Phyllis died at sunrise on May 31, 2012. I left the hospital late the night before, but my brother and sister stayed the night and were with her when she passed. I arrived a few minutes later, but was fortunate to have said my goodbyes and told her I loved her in the preceding days, for which I am grateful. She was 84 years old, and while her health had been more challenging the last few years, we were not prepared for or expecting her to go as soon as she did. She'd been having some medical problems and was seeing several doctors trying to sort it all out - but they couldn't find what was causing any of it. A week before she died she was taken to the emergency room with shortness of breath and difficulty walking, and a week later she was gone.
My father died ten years ago in October. In fact, his diagnosis of cancer in the spring of 2002 prompted my joining WDC so that I could find a way to deal with my feeling and process the experience of his terminal diagnosis. Mom joined soon after I did, enjoyed her time on the site, and even placed 5th in the last "SLAM!" we had in 2006. Though not active on the site in recent years, she wrote poems regularly as her emotional and spiritual release, one appearing monthly in her church newsletter. In the past few months, however, she did not do much writing as she could not sit comfortably at her computer for long periods of time
I was blessed to have two wonderful parents who loved me, and whom I loved (which I am well aware is not everyone's experience with parents). So I know how lucky I was, and continue to experience the fruits of having been raised by two very good people. But now I find myself orphaned in the world. Yes I'm not a child, thankfully my parents lived long, full lives and I was mostly raised by the time they passed. But if the literal definition of "orphan" means "a child who has lost both parents through death," then I qualify, even though I am almost 52 years old. Because no matter our ages, they were always Mom and Dad, and I was always their daughter. No one knew me more fully, more completely, and for a longer time (my older siblings knew me for as long, but not as deeply as my parents did, and particularly my mother.) And now they are both gone.
A friend expressed my feelings well in an email to me: "I know what it feels like to lose one parent. Losing the other parent makes it so much more difficult. You, or perhaps, I should say what I felt when my Dad went was that I was now alone, no parent to turn to." And that's true - and my natural inclination to grab the phone and call Mom to talk about something, or text her a photo, or send her an email has been slow to subside. In fact it's still there. But I am fortunate that I was blessed to have the depth of relationship I had with her, and that I spent some wonderful times with her, in particular after my dad died when she lived with us for half of each year. We took trips together, had lunches and dinners out, enjoyed BBQ's on our deck, and enjoyed favorite TV shows together.
Maybe it's hard to really believe that she's gone because she's not, really. No matter how her faith changed over the years, Mom remained strong in her conviction that there is a loving, Sacred Mystery who cares for us and is always inclined toward our well being. She wasn't sure what happened to our spirits when our bodies die, but whatever happens, she did believe we live on in some powerful way. And she was right, of course. She does live on - in her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren; in her friends; in her poetry; in the profound mark she left on this world, which is a better place for her having lived in it. And I'm glad we got to tell her that.
I want to close with some beautiful words shared my sister said at Mom's Memorial Service:
I always thought my mom was magical. She could seemingly do anything. I remember when I was 5 how she took a doll and made a beautiful dress that was really a birthday cake. And she would whip up real dresses for my sister and me literally overnight - like Rumplestiltskin spinning gold. At times she would help us with typing up some report or project (that was due the next day) her fingers could fly over those old typewriter keys at the speed of light, and she never even looked at the keys! To me, as a child, these and her many other extraordinary talents were magical.
Even as I grew into an adult, there was nothing she couldn't do. Once her grandchildren arrived, Mom (or Grammie as she came to be called) was often the only one who could sooth a colicky child to sleep. And trips to Grams' house for them as children were always magical...with endless hours of dress-up and make believe in fancy clothes she would buy them at the thrift shop. Not to mention how she could somehow just walk them (and often their friends) right into Disneyland without buying a ticket. Then there was the fact that nearly 20 years ago she beat the very small odds against a very aggressive cancer - twice - and because I'd always believed in her magic, I really never once doubted that she would.
Joan Didion, in her book The Year of Magical Thinking said this, "Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant." And on May 31, it did.
I read a quote once that said "Love and magic have a great deal in common. They enrich the soul, they delight the heart. And they both take lots of practice." Mom practiced her brand of magic for 84 years. It was the magic of her love, love that touched everyone she met, that transcended all age groups and knew no boundaries. She excluded no one, accepted all. Even her doctor and nurses that last week of her life grew to love her, and grieved her passing with us.
Love was the magic that she always gave; love is what we will continue to carry with us; for love is the legacy she left us to carry out in her honor. They say it's all you need, and Mom, you taught us so beautifully with the example of your life. We'll keep the magic with us, always.
Rest in Peace, Mom - and hopefully you can become my newest guardian angel.
Below you'll find some spiritual offerings from other WDC members about losing a loved one. Please let the folks know if you read their piece by leaving a thoughtful comment or review.
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Here is a response to my last newsletter "Drama Newsletter (June 20, 2012)" about "Getting Lost:"
My God, life is a tricky and interesting business; the best you can hope for is burning candles, peat logs on the fire, and friends who'll love you for everything. Do you know what I mean? Love is merely giving back what you yourself want to find. Thanks for a wonderful Newsletter.
I DO know what you mean, thank you for expressing it so beautifully! Well said, and totally true - love is giving back what you want to find.
I suffer from depression, so I get lost often. Thank you and Ben, I have been really angry with me, for not finding my way. This is great advise. Please thank him.
So glad you found this helpful - don't be angry with yourself for not finding your way. We all have many "ways" to find, some easier than the other, but wherever we are headed, as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep some sort of forward motion, we are ahead of the game. Blessings to you as you find your way.
Please keep your comments and suggestions coming! Until next time, Sophy
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