Two weeks ago I watched my mother die. She was 87. Old people die, but this terminal diagnosis burst out of nowhere. She had 18 days between diagnosis and the very end. The bone cancer shattered her plans; the surprise and unfairness made her angry. We had known her hot temper for years. We expected she would rage at death, striking out at the doctors and at us.
But instead, with soft, powerful grace, she yielded. I sat close by, like a two year old, watching her eyes and mouth.
I read her face. Nothing speaks to a child like her mother’s expression. After all, it is the first language of our hearts.
Love overwhelmed her. Her grandchildren flew in from everywhere and sat close for a day. She let herself soak it in. She allowed herself large, non-specific pride at the off-beat energy of her miscellaneous descendants.
All four of her children tended her. We sat close, reading, knitting, working on laptops. We played our instruments and sang. We fed her and dressed her.
In return, she let go of her self-denial and allowed herself to feel the tenderness. She had been a strident, take-charge person. But this time, she smiled softly, shook her head and said, “Who knew there was so much love?” We knew it was good from the look on her face.
Her intuition recognized the bliss, and she opened to it. She was intellectually astute enough to know that intuitive knowledge just smacks a person over the head. This was the poetic part of her, the part that used to run outside to stand in thunderstorms and wept at the beauty of the Taj Mahal. For years she had deferred to her husband’s intellect, but now, as a widowed old woman, she was free at last to blurt out the truth.
The truth she saw was bliss, the divine, the other side. God.
One day, about four days before she died, she looked around and said, “It’s so odd. Everything is connected – even things that seem to be discrete, with no relationship to each other at all – they’re all related, all one.”
I was bending over her bed, and I grinned. “That’s it, Mom! You’re seeing it! That’s where you’re going!” Always questioning, she looked at me suspiciously. “How do you know that?”
“I’ve read about it – but you’re actually seeing it!”
“Humph!” She thought a moment. “Well, you should tell your sisters and brother then. They should know.”
She saw beings too. Several times she peered intently over my shoulder. “Who is that huge man standing behind you?” “Who are those people?” She saw my father, dead eleven months, and her sister, dead twenty years, holding out their arms to welcome her.
Later, she raised both her hands, in blessing or in amazement, and gazed ahead. “How lovely! How lovely!” Beauty had always thrilled her, and that was what she was seeing.
I sat two feet from her face and watched. Her eyes were curious. What she saw surprised her.
Just as a lake’s bright water must answer the sun by shimmering, she shone. Radiant, she faced her sunrise floating on the living water.
Her last breaths were like butterfly kisses. We could read her mouth, her cheeks and her eyes. “There is peace, joy and love. Everything is one. God is real. Be kind to each other. And don’t be afraid.”
After death, her face was exquisite. All we had to do was believe it.
Thanks, Mama. See you later.
by Jean Gendreau
copyright © 2016 by Jean E Gendreau