I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

This picture is hanging in my bedroom, painted long ago by my grandmother of my mother and me. Mama's hair was red from henna. I remember when I was a little girl watching her put henna onto her long luxuriant hair. First she would mix up what looked to me like mud and slather it into her hair in big globs, working it deep into the roots. Then she would wrap her head in a big old stained towel she reserved for this process. And finally she would dab some of the "mud" onto her eyebrows. For hours she would read or cook while the process went on. Lastly, she would wash it all out and towel her hair vigorously until her shining, abundant mane was dry.

Mama at one time had the most beautiful hair, and the henna gave it a reddish cast (nowhere near as red as in this painting) and I can still remember her brushing it. Norma Jean inherited that same luxuriant hair, but mine has always been sparse. When I had hair long enough to put into braids, they were always anemic looking. My mother at one time would plait her hair into one long braid and coil it several times around her head, making it look like a crown. She secured it with bobby pins (remember those?).

Memories are funny, aren't they? I remember these things so clearly, but they don't exist any more, except in my head. Where did they go? What is this thing called memory? I remember long ago wondering where the little girl I once was went. If we do indeed survive this life of the flesh in some afterlife, what does our spirit look like? The baby I once was, the young mother Mama once was, do they still exist in some form?

I find myself wondering now, in retirement, having done all the things I can think of that might be on my "bucket list," what's next? Is the next great adventure the one where I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, confronting my fears and letting go of all I know? Part of the gift of life is its ephemeral nature. Poof, six decades of living: gone. A couple more ahead of me, maybe, just a moment in the temporal scheme of things.

Sitting here, contemplating my two sons who died before me, but still giving me motherhood as a permanent state; my mother and grandmother who still live radiantly in my memory, where are they now? In my dreams, it seems so natural to hug and kiss them all. I wrap my arms around them and feel their warmth, solid and real as life itself.

One thing I do know: as I pass through the stages of life and ready myself to leave late middle age and enter old age, I feel less fear about the future and more equanimity and serenity about the way things move and change. I think I am preparing myself for the next phase. I can't yet work up any excitement about it, but fear and dread also seem to be fading into the distance.


Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Very nice philosophical post. It's hard to get enthusiastic about some aspects of aging, for sure. But if a person can move into it without fear, that's got to be a huge advantage! (Not sure where I am on that continuum yet.)

CiCi said...

Very good explanation of living in the moment, the now. We do have memories of the past and we surely do wonder about the future but the present is forever leading us into the future so is constantly changing and moving. I like how you embrace the two sons who are no longer living in this world but who made you a mother. You are a strong and lovely woman and your mother must be proud of you from where she is now.

Far Side of Fifty said...

What a vivid lovely memory of your Mother.
I think they call it Peace, DJan..you are at peace with others and yourself..that is a good thing:)

Lucy said...

We live on.
Your memories of the women who have gone before you are only a smidgen of who those people were, but was it what they would had liked you to recall? It is obvious that you were loved and loved those women back.
But do you wonder what tiny bit of ourselves people will remember in thirty years? How our hair is or how we could smile do you think? I bet if we knew what that trait or characteristic was that they'd remember, we'd be surprised?

We work and toil and as with our blogs, try to create to leave our marks on this world.

What will they remember?

The Retired One said...

Very introspective blogpost, DJan...I often wonder those things too...I cannot believe we don't exist anymore after we die...I know our "shells" won't but our spirit must live on in another form. I also think we will see others "as we want" on the other side and that they will appear to us as we choose to remember them by. It will be quite an adventure, will it not?

gayle said...

This is such a lovely post!! I so wish I had your memory!! I want to remember so much more!!

Whitney Lee said...

I don't think of death as an event where I let go of all I know so much as a crossing at which I get to embrace all I didn't know. I take comfort in the belief that all my questions will be answered and all the concepts I never could quite wrap my mind around are clear.

I read somewhere that dreams are merely the way our souls travel. If that is true then you truly are embracing your mother and sons, you're just slipping free of your body in order to do so.

I have thought of you today, on this day where we celebrate our mothers. To be a mother of absent children must be difficult, and I am sending you a hug and a thank you. While your children may not be here to celebrate you, I am. Happy Mother's Day.

DJan said...

Just a quick comment on my comments. I had a wonderful Mother's Day and Mother's Night. Chris came to visit me in my dreams last night, a first since he died that we visited on Mother's Night. I hope we can make it a habit. It was a very realistic and comforting dream. Thanks, Whitney, for your comment, maybe you made it happen! And thanks to all for your thoughtful and moving comments.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Whitney's comment is well put. Aloha from Hong Kong! I always look forward to your Sunday posts, DJan.

Stella Jones said...

What we will always have while in this life, is hope. We can hope that we meet up with our loved ones when we visit the Summerlands. For me, I want most of all to meet up with my dog, Jacko, who I idolised as a young person. He was the one, true, faithful soul in my early life who brought me much joy and stability in an otherwise unstable existence.
Blessings, Star