Elegy for Mom
My mother died today And the world Put on a shroud Of thick dark Clouds and keened As the heavens Opened and rain Poured heavy and Cold for a summer day. My mother died today And as we gathered Around her deathbed We held our own Wake of remembrance As we laughed Through tears Telling our own: do you Remember the time when… My mother died today And I sat in her room Surrounded by things She held dear like Her favorite book The spine cracked from Multiple readings Each item a recollection A placeholder for her fragments. My mother died today And my thoughts scattered Like wind-blown ashes Hers were the hands that Wiped away tears Her voice touching me As only the first voice You ever hear could Her smile shining out from her eyes. My mother died today And I feel her essence already In the memories I share Stories I tell The love and kindness I pass unto my daughter I honor the examples she left Living as good and full a life Knowing she will always be.
Every year the anniversary of my Mom’s death (June 11) brings poignant memories of her and some introspection.
Both my parents were storytellers in the oral tradition. When we were children Mom’s stories were almost entirely created using people she knew as a child, some of the animals living with us, or those animals and people she had read about. Her stories mostly ended with a moral, but she softened those endings with her active telling of the stories—the animals spoke, had an uncanny awareness, animals and people had a sense of humor or were quirky in some way. We laughed as she told her stories and were still laughing as she concluded with a more serious ending.
She laughed easily and always had an optimistic outlook that could be annoying, but one that I miss very much. So now I tell my own stories, sometimes with her voice in my head.
Mom firmly believed she was going to her Maker, and was calm and accepting of the end. Looking back it was a beautiful death, made more so by the grace and dignity she imbued. I might not believe everything she believed, but I try to live my life as well as she lived hers.
Mom wanted cremation not only because of cost (frugal to the end) but because she thought it would make it easier for us, her loved ones, to handle her remains and make arrangements. With cremation some of her atoms now circle the globe, mingling with the earth’s atmosphere and some others farther still, into the cosmos. We are, after all, filled with the same elements as the stars, all threads in the cosmic tapestry woven together in a beautiful and intricate pattern that is nothing short of miraculous.
I picture stardust twinkling in laughter at her stories as her atom-sized particles whirl through the cosmos telling and retelling her tales.
After Mom’s cremation we were left with her ashes, which are scattered in the waters of the Cayman Islands, the place she was raised, where she lived for many years, and where she called home. It was her wish that whatever remained of her physical body be returned to the sea, to dissolve in the briny waters and mingle with the sand.
My brother and I and our families wish she were still here with us even as we acknowledge that she couldn’t live in this world forever. Mom’s essence, her spirit lives in our memories.
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. —Lao Tzu
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