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Archive for the ‘Death and Dying’ Category

Say the Thing

Thursday May 12, 2022 was the last time I saw my mother alive. It had been a rough week for us. Mum was struggling very hard with the fact that she had died briefly in the hospital. She couldn’t understand why there was nothing and no one there waiting for her in the afterlife. I think she felt terrified and completely abandoned. She kept asking me all sorts of hard questions for which I had no answers. She also kept asking me about the phone call from the hospital telling me, “Your mother had a hard night last night.” Hard indeed! The proof was on her chest which was the most horrifying mix of black and blue from where the nurse basically stood on her while performing CPR. What Mum didn’t realize was that every time she brought that up, my own trauma around losing her was reignited. So we were both at each other that week, traumatized, feeling alone, reaching for something we couldn’t find, and aggravating the crap out of each other in the meanwhile.

But that Thursday was soft, or at least that’s how I need to remember it. Mum finally made it back to her beloved Thursday morning Yoga class. She was standing in the upstairs hallway after class (I had the privilege of teaching beautiful souls out of my mother’s house.) wearing a blue hoodie, jeans, and her funky opalescent blue Birkenstocks. I stopped as I was coming up the basement stairs and caught sight of her in the doorway. In that moment, she looked so good. She looked calm and at peace. She looked stylish. And I said, enthusiastically, “Don’t you look sporty?!!!” She sputtered and chuckled and replied, “I’ve been called a lot of things but I don’t think ‘sporty’ has ever been one of them. But thank you.” That may have been the only time my mother ever accepted a compliment from me. It was awesome. And then we parted ways, me continuing to tidy up before I left her place to come home to mine, Mum to contemplate what to have for lunch.

When it was time for me to leave, Mum saw me to the door, as she always did. She walked carefully sideways down the stairs and crowded me in the front foyer. I grilled her about how she was feeling. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? You’re not having any weird symptoms? You’re sure you’re feeling okay about being on your own? Because I can stay. You’re not lying to me, are you?” She assured me she felt perfectly fine, offering me her wrist so I could feel her strong and steady pulse. No more arrhythmia. It felt reassuring. As she leaned in to give me my kisses on the cheeks, I could feel her whiskers poking me. Then came the warning, “Watch out for the idiots on the road!” I told her I would, I promised I would try not to be one of them myself, and I walked out the door.

My family never said, “I love you.” We knew we loved each other, we would write it in cards, but we would never say it out loud. Such was the family dynamic. But when my mother left the hospital, I made a point of saying, “I love you,” whenever I left her.

Except that day. Except for Thursday May 12, 2022.

I could feel my mother’s presence at the door behind me. I could feel the words “I love you” burning in my throat. I could hear a strong inner voice saying, “Tell her you love her!” I even felt a desperate urge to turn around to rush back to the door and blurt the words, but I didn’t. I choked. I let a long, weird history get in the way.

I broke my own heart that day. I think I even cried a bit in the car on the way home. Why, I asked myself. Why did I become paralyzed? The truth is, I don’t know. If I had known, though, that I would never see my mother alive again, if I had known that the next time I walked through the door to that house I would find her dead, I would have thrown down my bags and run back to her full tilt, awkwardness be damned. I would have held on for dear life. I’m not sure I would have let go. I would have memorized her smell, the sound of her voice, even the pores on her skin.

And I absolutely would have said I LOVE YOU!!!!

So I’m here today to say this: SAY THE THING! Not the crappy things. Lord knows we say and hear too much of that. Say the soft things. Say the things that scare you to say. Say the things that make you feel vulnerable. Say:

  • You are my everything.
  • I’m scared of being here without you.
  • I’m sorry.
  • I love you.
  • (Fill in the blank with your own heartsong.)

Just follow the whisper of your pure heart and say the thing.

I love you,

Tabitha

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Fave Picture of Mum and I – Christmas 2020

Never in my wildest dreams, as I sat down to bang out a speech for my mother’s funeral, did I ever imagine the reception it would get. To this day, just over 2 months later, I still have people quoting it to me!

There are so many reasons why I haven’t been on here in a long while, offering things from my own heart, beyond the quotes of other people. My mother’s sudden death, however, is certainly one reason. Losing her has taken up so much space, equal to the enormous amount of space she occupied in my life and my heart, that I haven’t an ounce of creative energy left. But I have this, this speech, that I would like to offer as a tribute to my mother. And if it inspires you in some way, all the better.

(Note: I took the liberty of editing Mum’s imagined conversation with God so that it is now accurate. One simply does not drop an F-bomb in the middle of a funeral. 😉 )

So much love,

Tabitha


What am I supposed to say to tie together a broad 75 year life?  I think this is the point where I come up with something profound, or offer a cute anecdote to lift spirits, but I’ve got nothing.  You have the amazing stories right now, and profound can be left to the philosophers.  What I have, and what I think you may also have, is a broken heart.  So let’s work with that.

There are 3 questions that have come up consistently as the story of my mother’s passing has been told:

1) Was she sick?

2) Did she suffer?

3) What happened?

My mother always relied on me to face and speak to the uncomfortable things, so I will do that now.

No, she wasn’t sick.  Not in the way you’d think.  Not in a doubled-over, barely moving kind of way.  My Mum had a broken heart, the child of a long line of people whose hearts were broken.  My mother lived with angina for 30 years without incident.  It was quite remarkable.  But lately she had been struggling with dizzy spells.  Having also lived with vertigo from time to time, she thought nothing of it, until the night she almost blacked out.  That night scared her enough to take her to the doctor who directed her to the hospital, which led to an admission, a battery of tests, the placement of 2 stents, 1 cardiac arrest, a quick resuscitation, recovery and back home.  All within a week.  I told my mother, who loved musicals, that I appreciated her skill at skipping off-Broadway and instead going full Broadway with her performance.

I was hoping that all of this would inspire my mother to bust out and do the things she had been putting off for too long.  So, to answer question number 2 – Did she suffer?  Not physically.  But living in a Covid world started to take my mother down.  She lost her volunteer positions.  She lost her sense of purpose.  She lost her connections.  And she lost her ability to talk to God.  She had too much time on her hands, too much time in her head, and fear started to creep in.  She started to fear everything – wind, poverty, declining health, inevitable death.  All very reasonable fears but they prevented her from living, from truly connecting to the pulse of life.  So in a deep, spiritual way, my mother suffered dearly.

Question number 3 – What happened?  This part I will keep short.  My mother died in her sleep.  Peacefully.  When I found her, she looked more peaceful than I had ever seen.  Finally, she had done something easily.  Finally, she surrendered.  She just let go.  No struggle.  No argument.  She just went to sleep and let go. 

That’s a remarkable thing.  Many of you will know that my mother didn’t always take the easy road.  She waited a lot for “perfect”.  She waited for the perfect time.  The Wednesday before she passed she said to me, “I look forward to walking the pier again.”  She loved the pier in Port Credit.  She’d go and look out over the lake, stopping to admire any and every baby within eyesight.  But….BUT….the weather had to be just so – not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, no bugs, not too many people.  The Tuesday before she passed, chatting with her friend before Yoga class about books, she mentioned how much she was looking forward to reading the newest book by one of her favourite mystery authors.  THIS book right here.  She held on to this book for months.  MONTHS.  Why?  Because….it had to be read on the back deck, in the summer, at about 6:30 in the morning, with a cup of tea ONLY if there were no children around, no leaf blowers going, no lawnmowers, no construction.  The spine on this book has never been cracked.  She never read the book.  And don’t even get me started on the trip to Newfoundland, a dream trip of hers that never happened because “perfect” never happened either.

I think if my mother returned to us today she would say this:  DO THE THING!  Eat the cake.  Read the book.  Ride the motorcycle.  Take the trip.  Call the friend.  Reflect on the past but don’t get stuck there.  Just….do the thing!

I imagine my mother now, free of her bodily confines, sitting, legs crossed, in God’s office.  Mum is smartly dressed with perfectly coiffed hair, as always.  Make-up just so.  She is looking at God with those piercing eyes and she says, “I have some questions for you.”  And as God starts to speak, she says, “Just a minute.  Just a minute.  I need to take notes.  Now where the FUCK did I put my glasses?!!”  Because only my mother could boss God around.

There’s a big hole now, a hole that was uniquely Christine’s, one that will never be filled again.  But maybe, just maybe, if we listen closely enough, we’ll be able to hear her incredible, infectious laugh, carried to us on the wind.  Or maybe a Baltimore Oriole, her most beloved bird, can remind us of her love of vibrant colours.  And if we’re really lucky, out of the corners of our eyes, maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of her spontaneously dancing anywhere, anytime.

Ja kocham cie, Mamus.  I love you.  As do so many others.  And you will be missed so much.

But it’s your turn now.  Be free.  Fly!

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The new years’ wishes are starting to flow in. Most of them hold a tone akin to, “Fuck you, 2020. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” I get it, it’s been a harsh year, but I have a hard time giving it the finger. Here’s why:

We seem to have some sort of mistaken idea that teachers come primarily in human form, and that they are wizened and wise, soft and kind. Anyone who has any relationship to the Dark Goddesses and Gods knows that this is only a small portion of the overall picture. We know that teachers also arrive who are wretched in personality and form. They are traumatizing, brutalizing, terrifying, and they burn the place down. They are people like Number 45 down South, or any of the madmen and women who are in positions of power around the globe. They are members of the police force who blow people away for the colour of their skin. They are forest fires, cyclones, tornadoes, and a virus, invisible to the naked eye, that has forced the entire planet to its knees.

Welcome Teacher. I bow to you.

And why? Because sometimes we humans need a good, stiff kick in the ass. We are creatures of comfort. We love our snuggly zone where we can hunker down and pretty much go to sleep right down to our bones. We will hold our comfort around us like a warm blanket, even if that “blanket” is our own trauma, because it’s familiar. Because we like familiar. Because unfamiliar is too scary. But the longer we hunker down and stay blind and silent, the more out of balance things become. And the more out of balance things become, the more likely we are to encounter The Big Guns, the darker side of the Universe, the ones that smack us in the face to WAKE…US…UP.

I’ll bet you’ve been pretty awake during 2020, awake, aware and uncomfortable. I know I have. There hasn’t been much chance to fall back asleep. 2020 has been relentless. It has been raw, bleeding from the eyes raw. It has been loud and gory and obnoxious. It has had most of us sitting, jaws hanging open, starting at screens and asking, “What the fuck is going on?”

Our Shadow, people. Our Shadow is what the fuck is going on. Ugly, innit? Our rape of the land. Our overconsumption. Our disgusting selfishness, as individuals and as nations. Our disregard for the health and well-being of others. Our inability to handle ourselves, or quiet time, or stillness. Our addiction to shopping at all costs, and busyness, and distraction. Oy!

But here’s another truth – darkness does not exist on its own. Where there is Shadow, there is Light. Such is the way of the Universe.

In the midst of all of this chaos, we’ve caught glimpses (or bold images) of beauty. We’ve witnessed the bones-deep commitment of so many people on the front lines who are working to keep us safe and help us heal. We’ve seen an entire nation say “NO!” to an insane megalomaniac who sees nothing but his own desire. We’ve watched neighbours helping vulnerable neighbours who can’t get out to get food and supplies. Artists and creative events have become more accessible as they move online. Performances have been offered for free so people could feel like they were helping somehow by lifting spirits. Families have had a chance to do more together. People are cooking, painting, walking, dancing, writing. We now know the value of a hug, a smile, a touch, a maskless face, a human life. We understand the privilege of being able to roam freely throughout this world.

For myself, the preciousness of my loved ones has been even more deeply impressed upon me; I want no harm to come to them. I’ve come to know just how much I love my students, and how much I miss them when they’re not around. I can better feel how much I love my work. I have been forced out of my comfort zone and into the wild unknown of the online teaching world. But in so being forced, I have been able to connect more often with loved ones I would normally see maybe once a year. Students who have moved away can come back to the community to learn again. All of this has helped me to feel bolder, more confident. Maybe I can take some of those hidden ideas and bring them forward? And I’ve been able to be still the way I need to be still, with no pressure to go anywhere, do anything, or see anyone. As a child of the winter who often finds her Magic during the dark months, this has been a blessed relief.

So, how about you? What has come forward for you? What has become illuminated? What has necessarily died?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish for a constant diet of Harsh Teachings. We can’t thrive in a state of perpetual destruction. But we need to remember that some seeds are sowed only during forest fires, that beautiful things grow out of piles of rot. This is not the end of the story.

My prayer for 2021 is that we continue to wake up, to grow, to evolve, but that we have the chance to do that in a softer way. I pray for ease. I pray for a chance to breathe and to integrate. And I pray for healing. May we all heal in deep and lasting ways, as individuals and as nations.

2020, my Harsh Teacher, I bow to you for all you have revealed. 2021, the Teacher yet to come, may you have mercy on us. May it be so.

All my love and so many blessings to you all.

Tabitha

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