Climbing, rambling, shrub roses in shades of old-fashioned pinks; ornamental rose hips; fleshy thorns that prick; Zinnias in a riot of oranges, yellows, pinks and reds; A disarray of messy hollyhocks, sweet Williams, peonies and daisies;
Endless cups of tea – lots of milk (not cream) and two spoons of sugar (oh, what the heck, throw in another teaspoon of sugar) – sickly sweet, all the better: “it’s healing, don’t you know”;
Daily sister chats until her sister died;
The aroma of Sunday roast beef dinner and Yorkshire pudding; Hamburgers on Saturday evening, fried in a pan (not grilled), sprinkled in paprika – loved by grandchildren so much that the recipe was discussed at her funeral;
Bed linens so immaculate and taut to satisfy any drill sergeant’s precision;
Hockey arenas at dawn, early hours to scream at the referees. Grand kids skating, ignoring their grandmother’s hollers and shrieks;
Dancing, always dancing. Even a wheelchair couldn’t hold her still;
Hugs that belied her tiny body – hugs that transformed you.
My mother’s legacy. The ephemera of a life once-lived: Moments not meant to last, but do.
These are the images, the scents, the memories that assault me each of the days since she died two years ago this week.
It’s what remains. Not things, not possessions. Just fleeting remains.
When I am in my own garden, I remember the many hours we spent in her garden: a simple garden, no plan, no design. A riot of colour.
Every time my stove top kettle boils and sings, I think of her – she is running (because I swear she lacked the slow speed dial) into the kitchen insisting that we don’t talk or finish the story until she returns. She never wanted to miss out on a word.
She was a cook in the army during World War II and her kitchen skills (and bed-making skills) were a testimony to the time she served. My grill-loving husband used to shake his head and wonder how hamburgers, fried in a pan on the stove (no less), could be mouth-watering tasty. Her family dinners were legendary, now continued in my home.
But it’s those times when I am hugged, really hugged – you know what I mean? when someone hugs you so long and so deep, you swear that you are loved, fully loved – that I feel her presence so strongly. Because it is her deep love for her family that remains. That endures still.
Her love was a fierce and protective love. And it transcended family. Kindness and compassion transcend family: the underdog, the less fortunate, the lonely, the isolated, the shut-in and the shut-out.
Compassion and kindness remain. It remains in my sister, our children, and in me.
That, too, is her legacy. Her remains.
The Tao’s principles include cyclical growth and principles of harmony and balance: birth and death; all or none. The balance in life does not exist – unless there is birth, there is no death.
Joy and laughter; sadness and sorrow. I am learning that the two states are not exclusive of each other. They are interconnected …my last year’s post https://thegiftsthatweshare.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/migratory-geese-and-lessons/
I see my mother in everything. My mind says she is gone. She no longer exists. But my heart and spirit (and my body) still see her, smell her, and hear her. Last winter, in a dream, I felt her. She was in the form of a young woman, and I sensed the comfort before she came to me and embraced me in one of her Gwen bear hugs that surrounded you in love. When I awoke, I laughed out loud. Classic Dream 101, I thought. (But here’s the weird thing: my sister dreamt of our mother that very same night and she, too, was enveloped in a Gwen hug.)
On my way home today I watched a flock of swallows form a mumuration-like dance– the swallows swirled above me in endless circles – undulating in the late afternoon sky. I parked the car; mesmerized, I thought of mysteries, sweet mysteries.
I still do not understand the meaning of life or death. I only understand this: my mother’s life mattered: in small ways, in small moments. And that her remains endure.
I no longer grieve her absence as I once did. I rarely cry when I think of her. But I often smile, and laugh out loud. Her presence gives me great joy.
In the hours of the day, I feel her presence and I instinctively know that her life mattered, and when we are gone, our lives will endure, too – in small ways, in small moments.
I see the continuity of life in all. I am beginning to understand…Oneness. (Not with my mind, but with my heart.)
And in these moments throughout my day I pause – to fully accept the Now. I honour those moments.
One cannot be both unhappy and fully present in the Now. Eckhart Tolle
I have learned that to honour my mother I must continue her legacy, simple as it is: Love my family. Serve others. Be kind. Express my love (deep and lasting hugs). And dance with joy and gratitude. Honour her by acknowledging that I’m still here.
The peace and love in my heart will ripple through my circle of influence. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of this in Peace is Every Step:
Working for peace in the future is to work for peace in the present moment.
Dementia, dying and death are great teachers. As I remember and honour my mother’s death, I am grateful for that. All gifts.