I recently went through a life-threatening crisis.
I found myself at a delicatessen, asking myself why I was consuming this enormous bagel complete with overlays of cream cheese, onion, tomato and a huge quantity of lox. Marveling at the generosity of the deli owners, I simultaneously was asking myself, why, if not hungry, am I greedily downing this bagel and lox?
And then it came to me, the remembrance of sitting at my mother’s deathbed, chomping on a lox and bagel sandwich during the last days of her life. I can only thank God that she was not very conscious and couldn’t see the gluttony with which I attacked the sandwich.
I have since concluded that lox and bagels have become death-defying totems for me. I have said that my mom during her last days miraculously became the mom I had always wanted. Remarking herself upon the change, my sister confided that during the last two years of her life, Mom had undergone psychological therapy.
My mother and I had always been at loggerheads growing up.
I said no and she said yes to many matters. While this is reduced to a simplistic version of the huge fights we had, it about covers it. My sister unfortunately remembered these imbroglios and thought that I was the cause she took to an early marriage to escape. Fortunately, 50 years later into her marriage, I told her she should be thanking me for a great husband.
When I arrived back home during the last months of her life, my mother could not tell me enough how much she loved me. I was always a funny kid and whatever I did to amuse her was met with laughter and appreciation. My hair had gone grey and in an effort to lighten my life at that time, I put this temporary red hair dye on it. She had a big laugh about the beautifying disaster it turned out to be. It was as if the prodigal child had returned, fixed and whole. I could do not wrong. She even told me that she had envied my leaving Miami and living in California; it was something she had always wanted to do. What an eye opener!
I hear that forgiveness is one of the modalities that happen at end of life events.
To me it still felt welcomed, unique and wonderful. I don’t think my mother knew about so called “end of life forgiveness,” but whatever shone from her eyes and glimmered from her heart, it was the healing balm that covered any pain and resentment I had felt in the past. It was gratefully received.
I remember so clearly one particular day before she died.
Those brilliantly blue eyes, which neither my sister nor I unfortunately inherited, somehow began to shine with an inner light. Myself about to enter an ashram, “spiritual” is how this light felt. It was thrilling and when my sister came into the room, with that same unconditional love pouring from Mom, I remember feeling happy that my sister received the “gift” too. I have never forgotten how her eyes appeared that day, and when I ponder it, I have thought that it was because she had truly “let go” of her stuff and was ready to move on.
When Mom passed, I found myself mourning the mom she had become rather than the mom of my past, all vestiges of those painful times disappearing in the love she at last showed me.
Is this a lox and bagel moment remembering this? Maybe.
Editor: Anne Clendening