Wednesday, January 7, 2009

very much alive

His mother passed away in August.

After living with a cancer that started in her breast and would eventually make its way into her bones, and, ultimately, the space between her bones, she was dying of cancer very quickly, and you and the rest of the family had left only a space of weeks. Weeks in which to assemble and remember and plan. Weeks in which to come to grips with something you knew was on its way, but weren't quite sure how it would look when it finally arrived. Weeks in which to celebrate one life, and, by extension, every other life that flowed from it.

Now that she is gone, you know what happens after you die. You live. You love. You look after those you have left behind.

His mother is very much alive.

You see her name in the label on a jacket in the chair next to yours, saving a seat during intermission at the theatre where her granddaughters were performing, and you know she is there. She watched them dance as little girls, laughed like a little girl herself when they would wiggle and squirm on her knees in time to music, long before they could stand on their own, let alone dance. She is watching them still.

You see her in the ladybug that lands on your shoulder and stays a while at the precise moment when you are missing her, and you know that this is her way of winking at you, letting you know she is there. You get it, because when she was healthy, she would visit nursing homes dressed as Ladybug the Clown. It was her way of staying in touch with those who might otherwise find themselves alone. She still stays in touch.

And you see her in the legacy she left behind. Growing up, she did not have it easy. While the world outside struggled through the Great Depression, her little world was ruled by a woman whose own arguable great depression raged, undiagnosed. But, to the extent that she could, she left both depressions behind, choosing instead to raise her six children in a world of creativity and spontaneity and laughter. Mostly laughter.

This legacy, it's very much alive in her youngest son, your husband. You see it in the way he treats you, the way he treats your daughters. Before you knew his mother, you sensed her legacy. You saw signs of it in the bond he shared with her, a bond made of respect and friendship and love, a bond unlike any other you had seen between a mother and son. Sensing this in the early stages of your relationship with him, before children and mortgages and the day-to-day details that come with putting a new family together, you knew you were going to be okay with him.

She was not perfect, and you often butted heads. She introduced your children to Ho-Hos and soap operas (and the occassional soap opera ho) at a time when you would have preferred to curb their intake of sugar and mainstream media. But none of that matters now. What she gave to them, the time she spent with them, that's what lingers. That's what they miss, what you miss, too, as they pass their first Holiday season with her not here, at least not in the old sense.

In the new sense, you know -- they know -- she is here. Eckhart Tolle once noted that the opposite of death is not life, but birth. Life goes on. Her life goes on.

She is very much alive.
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