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Losing Mum and Gaining Wisdom.
It’s two months ago today since Mum died.
It’s strange to even write that sentence. I find there are moments I’m not thinking about her and then there are days when I feel the heavy blanket of sadness wrap me up like a cocoon, and I find myself drifting through the day, paying little attention to anything in particular.
My mind will only sit for a few seconds on any specific thought. I try focusing on work, taking a walk, or meditating, but nothing seems to stick. The only thought that can pull me out of the darkness is to think of something worse that could be happening to me, like if I was in prison or have a life-threatening illness. It usually works, at least for a little while, long enough to reach down and catch me before I hit the bottom.
On these days, my thoughts float out and over my life as I try to imagine Mum is still here. That perhaps she’s simply gone on a long holiday, hopefully to a place she finds peace. A place that can heal her broken heart with lots of little love stitches.
My mum had an adventurous life, but it was not a journey lived without heartache and trauma. In the end, her heart was split wide open when she lost the love of her life—the same broken heart that refused to heal, that took her away and back into the arms of her love. It’s only my brother and I left now out of the small party of five we used to be.
Mum and I had a love/dislike relationship for most of my adult life. I can’t use the word “hate” because I never hated Mum, but we definitely had our moments of disliking one another. Like many, our mother/daughter relationship was fraught with layers of complexities.
Three years ago, we had a big fight when Dad was dying, which fractured our relationship, and it took me a while to recover. I didn’t speak to Mum the first few months after Dad died, which is something I often think about now that she’s gone. I can’t change anything, but I do wish I’d kept more in touch with her right after she lost her husband.
After she died, I experienced such profound loneliness and deep abandonment, as if something had been ripped away from me; I was floating untethered. A person without roots. A motherless child.
Her loss was palpable, and I could feel her pain through our phone calls, which made it challenging to talk with her. I would feel helpless and at a loss as to how to make her feel better. Nonetheless, I like to think those last few conversations we had did somehow alleviate her pain, even if it was just for a moment. These lessons of retrospection come with a price, as I have been carrying around oppressive guilt and worrying if she felt like I had abandoned her. Did she feel all alone when she died?
It’s hard to even think about Mum in a negative way now—all the fights and miscommunications evaporated the minute she drew her last breath. As if it’s the universe’s way of letting go of old hurts and grudges because none of that matters anymore.
I find I’m hard-pressed to even recall any of those difficult moments; even when I try, it’s like looking through thick glass—all I can see are distorted shapes and moving figures, and I can’t quite make out what it is I’m looking at. There is relief and peace in that as if the universe did a spiritual sweeping away of all the hurt and bad memories.
A few weeks after she died, my brother sent me a lot of her clothes and belongings. When I opened up the box, I immediately could smell Mum on everything. I hung her clothes in the closet, and I would often open the closet to smell her. But her smell is getting fainter now, and I’m worried when her smell is gone, I will have to face the fact that she is not on some long holiday and she will not be coming back.
On the bright side, Mum dying has forced me to think about my own mortality and the fact that I am moving closer to the end—or is it a new beginning? In the past, thinking about death and dying wasn’t something I found myself pontificating over a lot. If I did give it a thought, it would often come and go in a flash. Her death is a proposition to linger on the subject a little more these days, and I’m learning to embrace and listen, instead of pushing it away.
Her death is encouraging and challenging me to grow wiser. It has shifted my point of view and the lens I previously looked through. It’s advising me to listen and love deeper than ever before. It’s asking me to gaze a little longer into the eyes of loved ones, to stop, be still more often, and give little thought to annoyances that can overwhelm and suck the energy right out of me. Her death is showing me to pay more attention to my intuition and instincts and to seek more truth and beauty in the world and pay less attention to bad news and tragedies in life.
Through my sadness and grief, there are many beautiful gifts that are being offered. There’s a lovely quote I found that poetically sums it up. This quote I had sent Mum after Dad died. I thought it would help her move through her grief. Little did I know I would also need to read this over and over to help me move through my grief of losing her and gaining wisdom.
“There is no way to prepare, there are no neat answers or ways to deal with loss; we stumble as we go. It’s hard and it hurts, but curiously there are gifts and unexpected kindnesses to be found in the bleak places.” ~ Anonymous
Goodbye, Mum. I loved you more than anyone.