July 2, 2012
Twenty-nine years ago today, my mother died.
I was holding her, knowing nothing about dying except not to fear it.
Death, for her, was a release from the pain of broken relationships and breast cancer.
She was an artist and we celebrated her life with a hanging of many of her paintings, creating an art gallery in the local funeral parlor. A scholarship for artists continues in the high school my parents and their children and grandchildren have graduated from. She would draw circles in the night sky with the sparklers that I light tonight, in her honor and to celebrate what I continue to learn from her.
I was 30 years old when she died, a refugee from Indiana turned pastor of two small churches in rural Oregon. Even there I lived out her commitment to creativity and hard work.
My young adult idealism and judgments about alcohol and living bound to an unhappy marriage got in the way of my being able to say then, with integrity,
thank-you for being my mother,
please forgive me for all of the above,
I forgive you as well, and I love you, mom!
Luckily, it is never too late to say these four things, and listen for them in return.
Please forgive me,
I forgive you,
and I love you!
We never know when the gifts will come. We always want them in neat little packages. And we always want them now. But sometimes time and distance is what we need to be able to see more clearly.
“Time heals what reason cannot.”
Some of us experienced growing up with parents who were dealing with their own issues, engaging in unhealthy lifestyles, and making choices that didn’t put us first. We found ourselves embarrassed, hurt, rejected and/or abandoned, thus carrying a lot of negative emotional baggage when we left home. Some of us ended up rejecting our parents in order to protect ourselves and set limits on what we were willing to continue if we were to have any relationship with them at all. Some of us even did things to hurt them as a way of getting back at them for taking away our innocent childhood.
So what happens when a problem parent dies? No more opportunity to repair a difficult relationship. But also no more need to be angry. No more need to protect oneself from the pain and rejection that was connected to the relationship.
There is freedom in that death. And with freedom forgiveness may also come. Forgiveness also allows the whole picture back in. You no longer have to paint yourself as a victim in order to justify your position. You no longer have to only remember the bad. But there still might be work to do.
I am grateful for the gift Brenda gave to me late last night by sending me a copy of her new insights into her journey with her mother. She didn’t know that I was waiting for that gift. My mother is still alive and now lives with me. Every day I think about her impending death and what it will be like for me. I long for an uncomplicated relationship with her where I can lay all that baggage aside and just remember the helpful and even happy times we had. But for now, because she lives with me, I have had to build some walls to protect my soul. I hope she will forgive me. I forgive her and love her.
“When I stopped seeing my mother with the eyes of a child, I saw the woman who helped me give birth to myself.” Nancy Friday