Around this time of year I remember my mother, who died on Thanksgiving right after we gathered as a family from around the country to sit together at the table with our parents. It’s not as grim as it sounds, to mourn someone on a holiday. Actually, it’s life affirming.
My last effort to ‘save’ her from the cancer that had diminished her to what looked like 60 lbs, diminished her fierce spirit and love for life, was to wave a spoonful of whipped cream near her mouth. She hadn’t eaten in days. “Stop it,” she whispered.
I love that she half-scolded me about trying to force something sweet into her. To this day, whipped cream is one of my favorite foods.
Now I know she was preparing for her death. Now I know that her physical body didn’t need nourishment for what she was about to accomplish in the next hour after dinner, her dying.
Around this time of year I honor everything I received from my mother’s mothering and in turn, passing on the best parts to my two daughters. It’s a privilege to thread this love through our generations.
The nourishment I receive every day from my family and friends, this I don’t need a holiday to feel grateful for because simple daily moments make for long-lasting gratitude. A note from my daughter, for example.
Last night after a late return home from an evening with friends, I discovered this note at the top of the stairs outside one of my daughter’s bedrooms. She reminded me about how nourishing it is, the power of vulnerability to open our hearts and say – I need…, I want..
This is what feeds me when I mourn my losses. Authentic vulnerability, and I admire it—in children, in friends who hold the courage to discover their vulnerable selves, even when I recognize it in myself. Surrounded by vulnerability and finding it in myself, this is when I know all is well.
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One of my favorite poems about loss:
Death is Nothing at All
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
-Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral