|Easter eggs from the Internet|
So long ago, when I was a young girl, I loved the new dress my mother would have made or purchased for me and my sisters, although we rarely if ever went to church. We just dressed up and went on organized Easter egg hunts and visited nearby relatives or friends. I never heard anything about why it all happened on a Sunday in spring; it never even occurred to me to ask.
I wonder what my mother thought about Easter, as she was a lapsed Catholic married to an agnostic. I think as a military wife and mother, she never felt that her thoughts mattered to anybody but herself, and maybe a few female friends. I knew there were times when my mother wasn't very happy when we were growing up, but she was a hard worker and created a beautiful home and yard wherever we were stationed. We lived in Fairfield, California during most of the 1950s, and I remember our huge back yard, with fragrant geraniums along one side of house, where Norma Jean and I would play with our dolls in the green and red forest. Mama bought and planted a weeping willow tree in that back yard, and I can still remember watching her from inside as she hoisted the young (but not small) tree upright with ropes until she was satisfied. I think we were kept inside for safety, but who knows? It was so long ago. I hope that tree is now huge and strong and making shade for everyone who gets to enjoy it. I just had a pang of missing Mama in my life, and she's been gone since 1993.
Easter. I'm resurrecting my mother's memory as I write, thinking about who she was to me. When she was alive, we sometimes had difficulty with each other, but all that is now long gone and all that remains to me is the love I have for her, which lives on long after her departure from the planet. I see her in my sister's face, and in my own now and then, but in my memory she was much younger than we are now and very pretty. When we were little girls, she liked to sew and would make us matching outfits. Norma Jean and I are a little more than two years apart, and my sister PJ was born when I was seven, so the two of us were often dressed alike, with little PJ in a different outfit. Now that I'm thinking back, I wonder if my mother actually enjoyed sewing, or whether it was just what she was expected to do. I never thought to ask.
Yesterday was the first day of the Death Doula class I'm taking. Remember awhile back when I went to the memorial service for my friend Beth who died? I learned about death doulas then, and decided to find out more about them and now find myself halfway through a two-day-long training class. Today, another sunny beautiful day, I'll spend part of it learning how to prepare a body for a three-day-long vigil, and about other duties of a death doula. The word "doula" is Greek for a woman who assists other women and is usually used in the sense of assisting with childbirth. Now the word is also being used for those who assist the dying person through our final transition out of life.
Who dies? All the little deaths I face every day, all the emerging changes that I remark upon in my body, in the world around me, it makes me wonder about this thing called Death. We all know it, and we all know that it comes to everything that is alive. But my mother is not in those ashes that lie in the ground, and here I am now an old woman who remembers her own mother as a young, vibrant beautiful woman with long flowing hair. Nothing seems to hold still long enough to name it and say that is what she is or what she was. But today, this Easter Sunday, my mother has been resurrected in my memory and is as alive as she ever was. When she visits me in my dreams, she is always beautiful and loving. In my waking thoughts of her, there are plenty of other aspects of her personality that come to mind. But, in a sense, I have resurrected my own ideal mother and who is to say what is real and what is not? I know she is alive to me today.
It's unfortunate that it isn't until we are ourselves old that we begin to appreciate what it was like for our own parents, our ancestors who traveled this same journey through life that we are on. It's a one-way trip, and now that I am old enough to have gained some knowledge of my life's purpose, I realize that every single day of it is precious and to be savored. I learned yesterday that there are many ways to assist our fellow sojourners through the doorway, and that if done with awareness and heart, it does not need to be a difficult journey. I am reminded of something Cicero said: that when a young person dies, it's like an unripe fruit being pulled from a tree. It takes effort. But when an old person dies, it's like a ripe fruit that falls naturally off the tree with no struggle at all.
I'm glad I will learn these new techniques to help others, so that when it comes my time to fall off the tree, it will be on my own terms, with others who will support me in my final journey. We are beginning to rediscover that which has been lost in the nursing homes and hospitals: that death is a natural part of our living and not something to be feared. This was well known through millennia before modern medicine came to the rescue, taking us from the natural to, for example, the unnatural attempt to resuscitate a 90-year-old.
I've got a full day ahead of me, and it looks like I'll be gazing out the window at the budding trees and flowers while I remain inside. You might think it's not where I would choose to be on a beautiful day like this, but you would be wrong. I'm actually looking forward to spending my day with these other people who are learning along with me. It looks like spring has finally arrived, and here I am on Easter Sunday, sitting here with my mother enjoying a spot of tea together.
I hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday, wherever you are, and whatever you choose to do with the day. If you are fortunate enough to have family with you, remember to ask those questions you might have about their lives while you can. I think I'll ask Mama those questions I forgot to ask when I was little.