(Dedicated to my mom on the 1st anniversary of her death)
“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you”
– Maori Proverb
When I opened “365 Science of Mind: A Year of Daily Wisdom from Ernest Holmes” to the month of July the quote above jumped out at me. Synchronicity has it that this was exactly the quote used at my mom’s memorial service a year ago. With the anniversary of her passing today, I remember her with love and am contemplating the inner shifts which have occurred since her passing.
One of the first thoughts I had after my mom passed was, “I will never again be loved in the same way in my life.” It seems that is a common emotion and fear when losing one or both of your parents. “…with the death of your parent you may feel the loss of the perfect and unconditional love that only a parent is supposed to be capable of supplying.” (Therese A. Rando, How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, 143)
One of my own daughters echoed that belief when she said to me a few months afterwards in her childlike innocence “Do you know why I love you? – I love you because you love me so much. You are my mommy and you always love me.” As amazing as it was to hear her love declaration, it hurt because it reminded me that the time of receiving that unconditional mother’s love is gone for me. But is it really gone?
“Do you have any kind of relationship with people after they die? Of course. You have a relationship of memory. Precious memories, dreams reflecting the significance of the relationship and objects that link you to the person who died (such as photos, souvenirs, clothing, etc.) are examples of some of the things that give testimony to a different form of a continued relationship. This need of mourning involves allowing and encouraging yourself to pursue this relationship.” (Alan D. Wolfelt, Understanding Your Grief, 92)
My mom and her mother love live on in me. I know she still loves me. It is just up to me to continue that unconditional love by taking care of that little child that we all have inside. I need to look after the little girl who needs to be taken care of, reassured, encouraged and treated with love and compassion. It is my job to integrate her into the wholeness of my being. That enables me to act consciously instead of re-act from that wounded part inside. More than ever, my mother’s physical death is a call to do my inner child work and to parent myself in the way I parent my own children.
Another interesting shift occurred in the family dynamics and the relationship with my father.
“The death of the first parent usually means some reorganization in your relationship with your surviving parent. Regardless of the quality of the relationship, it will need to be readjusted to reflect the fact that your parent is not one of two parents anymore, but your sole surviving parent. You will need to perceive and relate to this parent as an individual, who is no longer one-half of the parental unit.” (Therese A. Rando, How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, 150)
In fact, the relationship with my father went through a lot of adjustments over the past year. Last summer we found ourselves in deep hurt and misunderstanding. He insisted on making arrangements for my mom’s memorial service and funeral that I felt were not in line with her wishes. That disagreement surfaced a truth that could no longer be ignored. We did not know how to interact with or relate to each other. My mother had always been the go-between and her passing was exposing the gap between us.
Neither of us felt supported by the other; he did not feel respected and I had to forgive him completely before we could move on to hearing, understanding and appreciating each other. At the heart of this experience was a need to know and accept each other as pure Love. Over the next few months, we slowly found to greater understanding and healing as I let go of old stories I had grown up with.
One of the stories I had to let go of was one of my mother’s favourites: the story that she was a victim, making the man in her life the victimizer. I had a lot of judgements around their relationship. With my mother’s death, I was given an opportunity—a beautiful gift—to actually get to know the man who is my father, separate from those old stories.
This transition also meant not accepting new stories based on old patterns either. There was no victim. Both of them attracted into their life exactly the right person they needed for their growth. This knowledge allows me to see my mother with compassion instead of pity and my father with love instead of judgement.
My mom’s legacy, beyond the obvious that she was a beautiful and smart woman living her life with passion, lies in what she did not do. She did not move out of her stories of dependency and victimhood. She chose to feel separate, helpless and unloved. That is her story, but mine still continues to be written, written quite differently.
“The essence of finding meaning in the future is not to forget my past, as I have been told, but instead to embrace my past. For it is in listening to the music of the past that I can sing in the present and dance into the future.” (Alan D. Wolfelt, Understanding Your Grief, 92)
I continue the relationship with my mom and carry her in my heart as I turn towards the sun. When I face the light the shadows fall behind me. Turning towards the sun for me means turning towards Love. Ultimately all that is real is the Love we come from and the Love we all go back to at the end of our lives.