As the Sun Eclipsed, So Did My Mother’s Life.
Feeble as you were, you got up from your recliner, held tight the bars of your Rollator, and walked your two daughters to the door of your apartment.
You kissed first my sister, with the security of knowing you would see her again, and then you kissed me saying, “We will write.” No tears, no “I’ll miss you,” no clinging. And then we softly shut the door, leaving you in your apartment as your daughters stood in the hallway.
This was the end of four days visiting mother in Maine. My sister turned to me and said, “She has let you free.” I shuddered. A thud had landed on my soul. It was Thursday, August 24, 2017, the last time I would see my mother alive.
We had left for Mom’s on Monday just as the solar eclipse was passing. We would have left earlier had the skies not been so eerie, and had the synchronicity of our mother’s decline and the moon passing over the sun not been so unsettling. Two hours later, I stepped into mom’s apartment.
I had not seen her for four and a half years. Then, she was Mom, the short-story writer and columnist, the woman of wit and charisma. Now she was a soul hovering outside a 94-year-old body that no longer served her.
On Thursday we drove back to Massachusetts, trying to understand what had happened those four days with our mother. Mother who did not eat her dinners. Mother who took endless naps. Mother who, when she did try to speak, called a refrigerator a cat or a sink a dress.
Mother who whispered to me as we slowly rolled the Rollator down the hall to the elevator for what would be a final drive in the countryside, “I need to tell you a secret — I am very, very, very tired.”
Here was our mother who would wake from a nap wide-eyed, trying in garbled words to tell us the dream gems she had just received. Mother who had virtually stopped eating but wanted us to buy her eggs, and when we forgot, almost cried from disappointment.
And the next morning after we had gotten the eggs, she ate heartily the breakfast she had requested, one egg in a hole of toast, her pig-in-a-basket, the breakfast she used to make for us when we were young and now we were making for her. Here was our mother who had seemed to find an acceptance to her loss of sight, sound, taste, and speech.
Our mother seemed to us, my sister and I, to be departing her worn-out, non-functional body.
Thursday and Friday, I was numbed from the thudding reality that she was dying. Saturday I was distracted from the travel home from Boston to Tampa. Monday I experienced anger, the cut-off from my mother that I was incapable of changing. Then, the lump in the throat, the inability to weep, and finally the scream expressing my powerlessness at this thing called death.
And, like after her stroke a year earlier, and my confusion and turmoil from surfacing memories of a tormented childhood, I again felt the darkness that was trying to grab my ankle and pull me down where the old critical mother complex lived, dormant but ready to destroy. But today I am done with that old darkness. I have seen her childlike essence. I have accepted that my mother has released me.
She paid for my flight and wanted me to come so she could do just that. Today I see I need to release her.
I release her to her story, her present narrative, her own death. I say to my mother tonight, “Mom, you are now writing the story of your life. You are remembering your dreams, and your dreams are writing you. I give you the space that every writer needs. You go for it, mom. Write to the end. And at the end, we both know you will be ready to begin a new story with new eyes and new speech and new ears, writing on a heavenly typewriter that will joyously connect you to new and never-ending words.”
She had a recurring dream:
Walking the beach
Warm sands, crystal light day
And coming upon a wall —
And she knew
(This mother who for months
had sensed the big day was coming)
Yes she knew
She had to climb that wall.
And when that day came
She began to scale the heights
Grab the rocks
Pull her weight up and up —
At moments drawn to bliss,
Clambering to the crest
Oh exhausted agony!
As weary as when she had once —
Oh mother — given birth to us.
Then the summit.
Her eyes deadened to the
Sights below: her room, her things
Once blue eyes
Now fire-fueled by the gods
And she was done.
The full circle of her life
Like a mandala stitched to the
Center of her being, heaved
And she exhaled her last breath
And gulped the air of the eternal —
Winning her gold medal of existence.
now midnight and my mother’s gone.
we were entwined soul to soul.
great heart of mine she was, she is
but still I’m aching, heart is breaking.
Really mom, I know you’re free
I feel you loving down on me
Please don’t worry if I grieve.
It’s human that this sadness reigns
And none of us will be the same
From knowing you on this plane.
Your death proclaimed a living faith
Each step you took toward its fate
With humor, dignity, and grace.
One who loved you called you “queen”
Your face aglow in astral beams
Another felt you in the wind
I saw you near the cherubim.
I have no word, mom, for this love
That clearly you have found above
And give to us who grieve below
This wordless love that you now know.
Pamela Preston, a student of Carl Jung, Robert Graves, and the dead poets and philosophers, embarked on a literary, mythological quest in 1992 with a typewriter and a one-way ticket for Paris, France. Based in the French countryside for 20 years, Ms. Preston continues living and writing her personal myth in a world that is losing its agrarian culture and its legends. She adheres to the words of C.G. Jung, “… a myth is dead if it no longer lives and grows.” Pamela’s books and mandalas can be found on Marianne Press and Mythic Threads.