On Loving and Dying
My mother passed from this earthly realm on Thursday, October 8th. While I’d like to think that I have an objective acceptance of death, the void that she left is unmistakable. She has guided me through a life journey that is as full and as colorful as she was. This picture was the last hug I received from my mom. I now remember that grief washes over you in waves of varying impact, but the grief that comes with losing a parent who was a significant presence in your life is a cavernous echo of sound that drums in that empty space. I miss her.
One of the most important lessons I have learned is that we shape our idea of love through our parents. While my mother never modeled a successful romantic relationship, I now know that she was teaching me about love, all this time. Even in her death, she is still instilling in me valuable ways of being in this world.
You see, love is not the infatuation you feel at the onset of a new attraction. It isn’t even the giddy admiration you have for your beloved. Love, like light and sound, is a wave. The highest peak of that wave is gratitude. The lowest arc is forgiveness. And true love, the love that stays with you for a long time, is a constant roller coaster ride between gratitude and forgiveness.
Gratitude allows your heart to flower into acceptance, to sink into the feeling of deserving what is being bestowed upon you, to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge that something offered to you is actually an enhancement, even if only for a moment. Forgiveness is your transformation, your emergence from trauma, pain, and suffering towards a greater capacity for compassion. You have not known love until you can find the humanity in someone who has caused you pain, you have not known forgiveness until you are able to be compassionate towards someone who pushed you into a dark emotion. Only when you allow your heart to be softened can it really grown into its infinite capacity for love.
I know now that my complicated relationship with my mother was just me, learning how to really love. Ultimately, my forgiveness of her allowed me to see what it is about our lives that made me extremely grateful of her. I am so happy that this hug was memorialized for posterity, and that I hugged her as tightly as I love her.
May your spirit expand into the divine void, Mommie. Thank you. I forgive you. I love you.