|My beautiful mama with her firstborn (me)|
It's the way the world works, the direction we all travel from birth to death. Last week I mentioned how comforting I find it to think of one's life as a series of chapters, from our earliest memories to the present day. Few of us really know how many chapters we have in our Book of Life, and I hope I have many more Thursdays to hike with the Trailblazers, enjoy the company of the others, and to push myself in order to come home tired and content after having spent a day outdoors exercising. When I was a kid it happened naturally, but now I make an appointment every Thursday to go out and play.
That is what I was going to write about today. And then, that visit from my mom. She's been gone from the planet for more than twenty years, having died in 1993, but yesterday my brother Buz sent all of his siblings a copy of a poem that our mother wrote. He ran across it while going through some old papers; it had been sent to him after it was found between the pages of one of the books that were donated to the Mansfield library, where she was a frequent visitor. As usual, Mama made friends with everybody she came in contact with, and one of the librarians thought that Buz might appreciate having it. It was written in her handwriting, and I was fascinated to learn that she spent a fair amount of time thinking about her life after she had died. Here's an excerpt:
In this excerpt, her spirit senses, sees, and hears the beauty of the natural world. I love the "tangerine and rustic red" line especially. My mom loved the written word: the reason she was so well known at the library is that she probably read more than half the books in it. I know that sounds like an exaggeration; maybe it is, but I remember her coming home from a visit to the library with boxes of books to read. And read them she did.
I didn't know she was a poet. I didn't know she thought about things like this, because she certainly didn't discuss it with me. She told me many times that she was not afraid of death, not afraid to cross over to the other side, and in her poem she is still here, still sensing and seeing and hearing it all. It's such a comforting thing to know about my mom, that (in her own words) she would "fly and soar and dip" in the sky long after she had drawn her last breath.
Mama died at the age of 69, the same as David Bowie and Alan Rickman this past week. I tend to think of it as being premature, but it's not, really, is it? The Bible gives us a span of three-score and ten (70) as representing a full lifespan, and also reminds us that if we manage to keep going after that, it's not going to be without travail. Things are changing, moving toward stasis, toward the inevitable demise of our physical selves. But yesterday, I received a missive from that still-extant spirit of my mom, one that fills me with so much joy and love that I woke several times during the night to realize I was smiling in my sleep. She reminded me, once again, that there is nothing to be afraid of, and nowhere to go.
I'll wait content, to stir in sleep****
The hour the earliest violets peep.
For with them all the wood will rustle
Under the west-wind's old-maid bustle,
Lifting perhaps, a speck of me,
And bearing it, due south, to sea.
(P.S. I was informed by one of my commenters that Mama did NOT compose this poem. She copied it, almost word for word, from the book Diana by R.D. Delderfields. You can see the poem in its entirety here. Mama didn't sign it, so she must have been very moved by it to copy it. I'm glad to know she wasn't a poet and I didn't know it!)