For the past four years, my husband and I have lived in my office. It started out by necessity. Our German shepherd, Tasha was unable to walk up and down stairs for the last three years of her life. When we got a puppy, moving two flights of stairs from her potty yard seemed, well, unwise.
Now that Ana’s almost eight months old, we’re making the move, so to speak, of living in our entire house. A house that has been a 2400-square-foot storage space for the past four years. Needless to say, I’m sorting through and discarding lots of stuff.
In the process, I came across a handwritten page. I wrote it while I was flying to be by my mother’s side during the last days of her life. It’s over a year old, and I don’t know how much wisdom it offers, but perhaps it will have meaning to some of you.
Crime writers have a saying: “Everyone’s the hero in their own story.” By this they mean that every character we write—even the most heinous villain—believes that they had valid reasons for their actions. From their point of view (albeit sometimes a skewed one) the murderer “had” to kill. The sleuth “had” to solve the crime. It’s all in perspective.
As it is in families.
My mother and I had a fractured relationship for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if it was because we were so completely different from each other or because we were so blindingly the same. If you heard our story from her perspective, I’m sure it sounded much different than my version. In fact, I know it did. In the end, the only way we could coexist was to not tell it, at least not to each other. It worked, for the most part.
I’ve spent most of my adult life finding my own way. Healing, if you will, from the past traumas between us.
And now it is time to say goodbye.
The next few weeks will undoubtedly be hard. Well-meaning friends offer advice. Most people tell me to make sure I take care of myself. Others assert that this is a time for my mother and me to finally heal; for us to reconcile the hurts of the past. I’m not sure either is possible.
You see, the cancer she’s fought for the past year has spread to her brain. The soul inside her body is still my mother, but she’s not able to communicate. I’m not sure she fully understands, either. I have no idea what, if anything, she’ll be able to tell me. The only thing I know for sure is this:
Forgiveness has no meaning; anger no place. Hurt remains, though transformed. All I can do is be present, and I will do that with one-hundred-percent of my being.
I hope there’s an afterlife. I hope the conditions for entry are different than I was taught in childhood Sunday school classes, because my mother didn’t share my father’s and my faith. The Yoga Sutras are echoingly silent on the subject, asking instead for us to each find our own way. To be completely honest, I find this both warmly comforting, and chillingly terrifying.
So for now, the best I can say is this: May my mother’s end be graceful, her journey peaceful, her destination filled with love. That is my hope for all of us.