Life and DeathNov 22, 2022
Where do I begin?
I thought I’d be writing a message about what it was like to see my mom after 8 years of not seeing her.
Or maybe it would be about what it’s like to walk into my mom’s hospital room, walk right up to her knowing that she’d look at me and wonder how her “daughter Susan” now had a beard. And then to have her put her hand on my face (which she’d never done in all 54 years of my life) and then say, “Well you still have those pretty teeth.”
Feelings and thoughts flooding all through my body and all I could think about was how vibrant and alive my 91 year old mother looked there in that hospital bed.
What a moment to be forever preserved.
New ideas never before thought, filling my mind.
How could this old woman, with a cracked pelvis and 4 cracked ribs, look so alive??!
The visit lasted 2 days, it was sweet and special.
Watching Tiff clean my mom’s face, rub rose ointment on her lips, and lotion her hands and arms… soothed my mom and me.
When saying goodbye, I knew it would be the last one we’d ever have in person.
That was 2 weeks ago.
This past Sunday, as Tiff was teaching her zoom class, while I was fielding the questions and bringing them to her attention, I got a text message that said, “Mom passed away at 10:57. Mark and Bruce were there.”
“Take a deep breath, Jack, compose yourself. The show must go on.”
But all I could think about was that text. It felt wrong, yet so right, all at the same time.
“Relief. Was it relief that I was feeling??”
Relief that she didn’t have to stick around in a body that had broken parts?
Relief she didn’t have to be stuck in a hospital bed when she’d lived a long wild life gathering berries from her garden and making raspberry jam?
Relief she no longer had to live in the care center with a crappy view, having someone else wipe her butt, making her so damn mad?
Yep, it was relief.
Tiff wrapped up her show and when she came out of her office to the top of the stairs, I looked up at her and said, “My mom died.”
The tears came.
An empty gap.
Being 11 when my dad died, made me wish desperately that time would have stopped. I just didn’t understand why everything just kept going when it felt like my life had ended.
My mom dying, and me having the wisdom of being 54 years old living a lot of life since I was 11, I now know that in order to have time stop, it’s up to me to stop it and take the time I need to FEEL what’s begging to be felt. It’s no one else’s job.
So many feelings.
My mom. While I call her “my” she really isn’t, she’s always belonged to herself.
I think my mom is more like the dream I had about her so many years ago, than I ever knew.
In this dream, I saw a woman that looked like my mom in her younger years, dark curly hair, red lips, hazel eyes, big smile . . . running like a wild beast across the tops of the red cliffs of Moab.
She was wearing a red crimson flared skirt, belted at the waist by a colorful scarf, with bells and objects, jingling as she ran. Her blouse, cream colored and off-the-shoulders.
Barefoot and running like the wind.
Dark long curls bouncing with every step, and I could hear her laughter everywhere-around-me-all-at-once.
Faster and faster she ran.
Straight for the edge of the cliff.
Was she going to jump? Would she stop?? I was getting more anxious with the passing second.
She didn’t stop.
In fact, she flew off the cliff’s edge, falling hundreds of feet to the ground.
Looking over the edge, thinking I’d see her splattered… nope, what I saw was this woman hitting the ground, jumping up, throwing her arms out wide, yelling at the top of her lungs with a wild grin on her face, “I’m alive!”
And then she continued to run.
Wild and free, and very much ALIVE.
Nope my mom isn’t a frail little 91 year old woman living in a care center, she alive and free and finally able be HER.
Thanks mom for helping me see that I’m here to be free.
And every day.
Mom’s message to me, through my gorgeous wife that’s a medium, “worrying slows you down, Jack, be free.”
And so, I am.
I love you mom, see you on the other side.
P.S. Here's a photo of my mom and my oldest sister, Karen.