This morning I got up to watch the sunrise. I sat sipping orange spice tea, remembering the first tea parties I had with my Mom. My hands tingled, as they do more and more these days, when I feel the presence of energy, or spirit. I sat in peace and love. It was one year ago today that we sat with my Mother as she breathed her last breaths, as her soul slipped from her body.
When I was packing for the campaign in Wisconsin, I asked Candace to buy me Neutrogena hand lotion. It’s the best lotion there is, and more importantly, it smells like my Mom. When Candace brought it back and I put some on my hands, she thought something was wrong. Candace couldn’t smell anything; she thought she had bought the wrong kind. I made her get closer and sniff again. Just the faintest unscented scent. My Mom. Sometimes I look at my hands now and see hers. Long fingers, big knuckles, prominent veins on the backs of the hands. My fingers do the same tapping on the steering wheel, the same fanning of the pages of the book while I read, the same hand holding when someone needs a loving touch. I smell my Neutrogena hands: immediately it’s winter, nearly thirty years ago, my Mom’s flannel nightgown, her full-length robe. I crawl under the robe, toddle around with her in the kitchen, a sanctuary of flannel. Trying to get back to the womb.
My Mother died too soon: my children will know her only through pictures and stories and songs. I will never hear her laughter again. I grieve and miss her every single day. And yet here I am today, with a heart full of hope – how is that possible? When she died, I did not know how to go on living. I did not know. I flailed in the darkness of my too-painful grief. I tried to claw down to her grave, and bring her back to life. I sat numb, watching the Earth spin around me. But I knew that when the good Mother dies, the daughter must learn to grow. In order to mend my heart, I had to learn to follow it, wherever it led me: down blind alleys, along twisting and turning paths, up steep hills in the snow.
When you’re overcome with grief at Starbucks and you start sobbing, you have to let go of public embarrassment. When you’re too grief-stricken and exhausted to follow up with any of your many, well-meaning commitments, you have to let go of the judgment of others. When you can’t cook, clean, or take a walk, you have to accept yourself exactly as you are in that moment. When you can’t get pregnant or find a job, you have to let go of attachment; you have to be patient and keep on living. To honor the deep loss, the anger, the fear, the sadness that goes on and on – you have to do things differently than everything you’ve learned about becoming a successful member of this society. You have to open yourself up to a better way: listening to your heart.
Now my Mother is amongst the stars, the blade of grass tickling my foot, the molecules of water in the air, the breath of flame in the campfire, the music in our song. Now she is cosmic, all around me, again: I’m back in the womb. It is a womb of grand possibility. What I have now is a deep sense of knowing. I have radical self-acceptance. I have a profound sense of my truth – of who I am, and truth in many forms – which I am not afraid to share with the world. I have outpourings of love. I have dreams of a springtime in which I will be part of the revolution: it will be fueled with the love my mother has enfolded around me, every moment of my life.