The week my mother’s body began rapidly declining towards death, a doe and her fawn were frequenting my parents’ land. I saw them several times on restorative walks that I took to feel the comfort of the elements. The doe and her fawn would stop and look at me for a moment that felt eternal, then bound away to a safe distance before turning to look back again, as deer do. I was comforted by their presence. My mother’s face became emaciated and her eyes seemed to grow larger. I always admired her green eyes. I find myself now wishing I had spent more time gazing into those green eyes. Her gaze was a present, sometimes piercing one. In her last days, it had a startled quality, a doe-like look. Her gaze seemed to simultaneously see into me and beyond me. She saw visitors invisible to me and acknowledged them with the wave of her hand or the blink of her eyes. There was a luminescence emanating from her shrinking human form. Her soul and spirit and body were in conflict, torn in different directions. She did not want to leave this beloved human body and life, not just yet.
My grief is a richly colored, deeply textured landscape, with mountains that cast tall shadows, that feature treacherous and breathtaking cliffs. With dense forests that extend over rolling hills and through valleys. With winding rivers, salty seas, dark damp caves, sunlit meadows of flowers, muddy bogs and pits of quicksand. I wander through all of it daily, willingly. I don’t want the edges softened for me. I don’t want it made better. I want to experience all of it. I am hungry for the journey. My pain brings insight. I am curious about the depths of my soul. I hold deep gratitude for the love that helps carry me through, that prevents me from getting mired down, from getting too lost for too long. I have been an escort to the threshold and back of both birth and death. I am transformed with new understandings, new appreciations, new awe for the multi-dimensional nature of life and death.
I feel a strong sense of urgency. If I might not be here in this body tomorrow, what am I doing waiting on anything? But then, there are things in life that require my patience and nurturing to grow. How do I know the difference? When to act, when to wait? This liminal space is testing my trust. It is asking me to hold on and to let go at the same time. It is teaching me about the subtleties of separation and loneliness, of solitude and companionship–these may be profound realities of this physical human existence and also tricks of the human mind, for I have felt utterly alone in the midst of company, and yet, I also know that even when I am alone, I am never truly alone.
Spreading her ashes,
in my garden,
along wildlife refuge bluff,
under western red cedar,
into softly burbling creek,
I came upon bone fragments.
Bone and ash of the body,
bone and ash of her body,
bone and ash of your body, Mother.
bone and ash of your body, Mother…
your body that formed my body.
Bone of my bone,
flesh of my flesh,
blood of my blood.
Bone and body that no longer belong, to you,
no longer attached to soul and spirit.
I once asked,
Where do we begin and end?
We are a continuous, circular flow
of beginnings and endings–
with no beginning and never ending.
I wonder now,
How do soul and spirit unhook from the body beloved?