I miss my mother so much lately. The world seems altered since she died seven months ago. Each relationship has a different color. Every street in our town is changed. Places once visited are built with memories I cannot shake (do not want to shake.) I feel the impressions of her body holding mine as I rock my infant daughter. I can embrace my mother in my mind’s eye and perceive the shape of her shoulders, the texture of her hair, and the softness of her skin. At times I even smell my mother in rooms, random and diverse.
It is only recently that I allowed myself to glance at her face in photographs again. Her shining smile caused too much anguish. Now, I sit at my desk with two small images close by: the first, her high school senior photograph and, the second, of my mother standing among sunflowers. The reminders are multilayered. Not only do I need to remember that she is not here (I often forget), I remember her capacity to love. Some of the harshest moments of missing her are when the love I came to expect is no longer provided by the one who gave it so quickly.
The pain of loss is both dull and sharp. I hear it does not ever really go away. I am fine with this and am willing to talk about her with anyone who wishes to, but that openness is also a gift I give to the listener. Not everyone deserves the emotional real estate.
The easiest moments of connection are the ones I have with my very young children. Do not worry – I am not unloading an emotional burden on my little ones for them to carry. Rather, my three year old son comes to me, love in his heart, wanting to talk about “Grandma” as if she were still here. He does not pity me. He does not stand awkwardly asking if I am O.K. He tells me what he loves about her and I tell him what I love about her. Then, we are together in love. This is what Jesus means by, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We remember how much we loved and are lifted up. My infant daughter, of course, does not hold the ability to have these conversations, not least for the fact that she was born the same day my mother died. But in this little one exists something very special: an open heart. When I cradle my daughter and think of all the times my mother did the same for me – impressions of that experience heavy in the moment – our hearts “talk.” Anyone who is sensitive to the ways of the spirit knows what I mean here. It is the unseen action of love and mingling of the Holy Spirit. It requires letting go of hurt, wrongs suffered, anger, and the like. There is so much healing in these simple actions.
Healing, though, does not mean avoiding the experience of pain, loss, or mourning. This kind of open healing paves the way for transformation through love. Through it we know when we are holding on to anger or despair or hurt because there is no movement into openness. It cannot be “made up” or invented. It cannot be forced or faked. It requires us to walk into that place of mourning, not to relish in grief, but “to be comforted.”
Like a ship searching for a beacon at sea, an open heart searches for real love, altering course when hard-heartedness is found and moving toward truth. The reason I feel grief at the absence of love is not because my mother was the total embodiment of it (she was not perfect, nor am I), but that grief can only be healed when it comes in contact with actual, real-deal, original Love.
This is the goal. As it seems, my mother’s death pointed me toward the healing that my spirit so desperately needs. While I miss her, deeply, to reject this call would be to deny the power of the life she lived here on earth.