It’s always ironic to me that when the inevitable happens we still feel blindsided and as though the rug has been ripped out from under us.
There are only two things we have guaranteed when we’re born:
- Everything changes.
- Everything dies.
So why was it that my entire world flipped upside down on a normal Tuesday morning when I received an unexpected call that my vibrantly healthy mother was just diagnosed with terminal cancer and had less than two months to live? Hadn’t I had my whole life to prepare for the only thing I could ever be sure of…that someday I’d have to process the death of a loved one?
We learn about many subjects in school, many of which have very little to do with life or preparing us to be vibrant contributors to the world.
Where are the classes designed to help us navigate this human condition with grace?
I’m sure compared to some cancer stories we may have been spared a lot in that my mother only had to fight through the suffering for three weeks. In those short yet infinite weeks of caring for her I realized some profound things once my stories of how things “should” be fell away.
I realized my mother was my greatest teacher and that her acceptance of her human condition showed me strength I could never have known was there.
I saw a warrior woman who was able to admit she was scared, yet walk steadily towards the unknown. I experienced a profound reverence for life as all the pettiness dropped away with each of her labored breaths. I learned that being present made room for the deepest and richest sadness to bubble up, unencumbered, and move me like waves, guiding me home. I found that with no other distractions each second became a moment, and each moment an hour. Days expanded in fullness as though we could bend time. Each glance was one I’d remember forever.
My mother got to say many things to each of her loved ones in the weeks that slipped by—each word tending to carry with it a charge and importance that no volume or punctuation could ever communicate. Helplessness turned into surrender as I learned that to rail and scream like a child would only keep her suffering longer.
I was watching life’s inevitable—the metamorphosis—take place before my very eyes. I saw the most beautiful caterpillar enter her cocoon to cultivate transformation.
We got to meditate together during those weeks. She enjoyed all of the journeys I took her on, riding waves of release together for the first time in our mutual history. We breathed in sync, held hands with nothing to say, and looked at each other with rich messages of silence.
What she left me was a brand new legacy that spun each of my memories of her into more deeply woven tapestries.
I began to see all of the invisible ways in which she helped me shape my life. She left me her recipes so I could embody her cooking and nourish myself from her passions and traditions. She left me her jokes and laughter so that I may always see the folly in this very short lifetime of ours. She left me with a more complete understanding of her power and a new way in which to love others.
I’ve had others I loved die, but the passing of one’s mother is something very unique. In a very short time, I gained a depth to my entire history that only my mother’s death could give me. Her grace was blindingly magnificent as she steeped in each of her limited moments left.
What could we change about our lives if we dropped the illusion that we have tomorrow? How would our actions and words change if today were our last day?
If you were to die tomorrow who would know by nightfall that you loved them with all of your heart?
What would you see when you looked in the mirror then?
Like elephant spirituality on Facebook.
Assistant Editor: Terri Tremblett/Editor: Bryonie Wise