Today is the sixteenth month anniversary of my mother’s death. Her birthday was a week ago and I’m experiencing some sort of strange sadness-lag. Kind of like jet lag, only emotionally. I was fine on her birthday. I actually had a great day with lots of fun and happy thoughts about her.
The hubster and I spent that day taking his father on a belated birthday, airboat ride down in the Snake River Canyon.
There were storms rolling in across the southern part of the state later in the afternoon and we were treated to thunder echoing off the canyon walls, one of the most spectacular double rainbows I’ve ever seen, and some distant lightning.
“Hand of God” looking isn’t it?
(Smiting? Anyone? Anyone?)
It was wild and intoxicating and celebratory, the kind of day my mom would have adored, and there were a few times during the day when I secretly felt like what was going on in the sky was the meteorological equivalent of confetti and giant candles on a big afterlife cake.
But that was the anniversary of her birth. Now I’m at the anniversary of her death and the happiness engines have reversed and I’m feeling sad instead, gliding back down into one of the shadowed troughs between waves on this huge ocean of grieving. I thought I’d grown accustomed to the ups and down of the whole process but this slide has taken me by surprise. The troughs have grown farther apart over time, and I guess it’s been long enough since the last one that I actually forgot and thought I was done.
Silly, silly me. Like the waves of the sea are ever done.
Maybe in the end this isn’t so much an ocean of grieving as an ocean of love, and this vast, rhythmic fluctuation of ups and downs, joy and sadness, fullness and loss is simply a continuation of the love my mother and I always shared…and still seem to share in some new yet confusing way.
On the morning that she died my sister and I gathered water, soap, and washcloths by her bedside. We closed the door to the room and together bathed her for the last time, gently touching her arms and legs, her face and hair, all the intimate, beloved parts of her body that granted us entrance and life so many years ago. At one point I stopped and rested both hands over her womb. I closed my eyes, struggling to remember what it was like back then, when I was infinitely fragile, tiny, and curled. Waiting and dreaming. Contained and safe in the first home I ever knew in the world.
Perhaps this ocean of love I’m drifting up and down, up and down in now is like some second, larger womb I came into when I exited the first. A continuation of the warmth, protection, and nourishment she enveloped me with after I left her body and began to grow outside of her. What she smiled and still cradled me in as I pushed her away, developed into a woman, and came to believe I was somehow separate. Only in the end, not quite so separate as I thought.
And now, even with her beautiful body collapsed and dead and returned to ash, I can still float along in the waters of this other great womb that her love for me once created, and my love for her now sustains. It’s probably okay to welcome today’s weight of longing as much as I welcomed the joy of a few days ago because in the end, they’re each a different expression of the same exquisite gift.
I miss you, Mom. I’ll always miss you. Thank you for loving me.
Thank you for everything.
Taken on her 70th birthday, playing in a tributary of the Salmon River: The River of No Return
copyright 2010 Dia Osborn
I am taken by suprise of the tears welling up…not even sure why. Very beautifully written.
Thanks sweetheart…funny how we were celebrating both your Dad and my Mom on the same day, only in such different ways.
What a lovely tribute to your mother. She must have been a wonderful person and you were both so close, I can see.
Funny how the ‘dips’ will come from nowhere on important dates. Got to have them though. Otherwise, we wouldn’t appreciate the ‘good days’ as much.
Found you through ‘Going Gently’.
Y’know, that’s so true. The sweetness definitely makes the ache deeper, but the ache uplifts and strengthens the sweetness, too. Somehow the arc between the two makes them both more bearable and worthwhile. Thanks for the visit Jim.
Your metaphor of the ocean for love, life, and grieving is perfect. Your words are poetry. Your feelings are a warm, wet, beating heart.
Thanks Linda. Wow. I think you’re something of a poet yourself lady.
Dia, I hope you won’t be offended by this, but I posted a link to this post on my FB page. I’m now passing along a response from one of my friends.
“Thanks for posting this. It brought me tears and joy and memories of oh so many loved ones who have passed out of this life.”
Offended!? Not likely. It’s a great compliment, Linda. Thank you and thank you for passing on your friend’s response. I was touched by it.
is the last act of respect and love you can do for a loved one!
it is a hard act to do….( I couldnt do it for a loved one—even though I have laid out literally 100s of people)…
I take my hat off to you dia……
You keep throwing out these teasers! I’d sure love to know more about your experiences as a psychiatric nurse John. I get the feeling you’re an absolute font of valuable insight. The invitation to do a guest post is a standing one!
And thanks…it means a lot coming from you.