I am currently writing a collection of essays on mourning. This is an excerpt from one in honor of my mother who died December 26, 2008.
I want to know what my mother feels. Feelings are the way I connect best; it is what gives my life meaning. Feelings is the porthole through which I learn whether I can trust someone or not. My mother and I we speak a different language which neither of us understands. What is it like having to be bed bound for six months? To have a leg amputated? To give up and wait. And wait. And wait.
She shrugs her shoulders. “What do you think?” she says in an anger which even the morphine cannot disguise. Her answer frightens me. I don’t know what to think except that I have once more failed to reach her. Failed to be a good daughter.
I have heard it said that the violence of grief can be softened by good memories. Can descending into unpleasant memories make a mother’s dying easier to accept? From my magic hat of flashbacks I am again the twelve-year-old finding my panties stained with blood. We are alone in the house and I am grateful for that. We have never talked about sex or menstruation. “Look,” I show her my panties. “There is blood.”
“This will happen to you every month,” she says. There are no sanitary pads in the house and so she hands me some rags and a safety-pin. I wrap them around the crotch of my panties and tie them in place. I am off to school, humiliated and angry at my mother for not having been more prepared. She has ruined my passage to womanhood. And I hate her for this.
A nurse comes into the hospital room. My mother offers her a bruised and skeletal arm for her to shoot more morphine into her veins as if her arm is an altar. My anger fades; memories evaporate.
Have a listen to this classic song by Alice Cooper
For awhile, I am intrigued with the teachings of Raja Yoga. “The main object of this form of yoga is to balance the energy throughout the brain and body so that the mind becomes very calm,” the very sexy and young Guru says.
We meditate on the kind of life we want to have in our next life. I imagine living on a beach with him.
Later, I will think that this karma planning is no different that buying a lottery ticket. You don’t have to win in order to enjoy the fantasy.
These days I want to believe that my particular life on Earth is but one of several journeys I will take. Earth but one stop among many; one of many experiences. And maybe I will get to choose to live another experience at another time in another space. My niece Debbie asks me if I believe in God. “I don’t believe but I hope there is something else,” I say.
The Aboriginals living in northern Quebec believe that the spirit of the dead lingers on for a while; then they are absent as if they are busy doing something. Getting passports, maybe, or tattooed or having identity chips installed into brand new supersonic bodies or maybe painting dream billboards. Who knows? Then, the great tribal leaders say that the dead come back and we can feel their presence once more.
When she first died last September, I strongly felt my sister’s presence for two or three months.
Then she was gone as if the connection between us had jammed. I found her absence unsettling for it put into question my spiritual beliefs about the afterlife.
Maybe after all, there was nothing but a memory that becomes foggier and foggier as time goes on.