The Connecticut River is far beneath me right now, the rails screeching underneath, cars swaying from side to side as we cross a bridge with no rails. Underneath the bridge, 2 large boulders covered in white jut out of the water, tall black birds with round bellies are perched. The train lurches again, startling the birds, they rise into the air, leaving us as we leave them.
Summer is at its peak now. The sun beats down on the metal roof, thick folds of heat engulf us as we step out to watch the engine change at New Haven. The engineer disengages the metal footings from the diesel engine to the cabin cars. In the distance, the horn calls, our electric engine approaches. From diesel to electricity, we are on the grid again.
1 year, 11 months and 28 days ago, my son woke me and said, “Mom, why do grandmother’s have to die?” I had been taking a nap, having started that morning at 5, a 40 day meditation for a group of people around the world on love. His dad’s mother had died 3 months before, yet something about what he said gave me goosebumps and a sense of foreboding. “Honey, we all must die, even those we love.” Robbie, “Mom, where do we go when we die?” Mom, “Only our body dies baby, the rest of us lives, sometimes even stronger than we can imagine. We become the wind in the trees, the rivers, the oceans, the sky, the earth, yet we are all of it at the same time connected to everything.” He ended our conversation with, “I won’t have to miss anyone because they will always be in my heart Mom.” He reached out and stroked my face and kissed me, as if comforting me. And then in the typical way of a child, jumped out of bed and ran for his toys.
2 hours later, I received a call from my father, “Your mom is in a coma, she had an aneurysm at 300 this morning.
They had been driving across country and stopped over night in St. Paul, Minnesota. They were doing what they loved most, driving across the country side, taking in the sights and sounds, listening to classical music or in Dad’s case, international news, and in mom’s case, yelling at truck drivers who threatened even a millimeter lurch as they passed. I say this with a little humor as Mom’s last message to me the night before was of her saying, “Hi, just calling to say…heh, use your horn! Let him know we are coming! @#$#%$%” My mother was an elegant woman, AND it was her way and her highway. Everyone knew she was coming, and in some ways, she let us know she was also passing.
Mom did not see nature the way I did. I am not sure she could. For her nature meant jungles and beating back insects that reminded her of terrible times when young. For me, nature is in some ways everything. Without my feet on the earth, a hand trailing in the water, and a sense of the wind on my face and skin, I am disoriented in this city and suburb of Washington, D.C. The seasons, the cycles of sky and earth give me an attunement to what is here that I otherwise cannot understand with people. I love people, my driving force is to connect more than anything, yet as a healer and someone who merges, I must seek refuge in nature to come back to what is the true connection of us all.
Sitting on a train allows for this connection in a curious way. I wonder that being in the car on long car trips gave Mom the same. Looking out the window, I can see the light change across the sky. The beauty and magic of life evident as we cross into the underbelly of the city. Trash heaps, burned buildings, trees growing from gravel by the tracks, immense stones and the architecture of tunnels and bridges illuminated in a way that would never otherwise be seen. There is a man strumming a guitar, singing ballads several seats back and the hum of travelers talking about yesteryears behind our seat. Traveling by train is to me more magical than any mode of transportation because it allows for this balance of human interconnectedness and the observation of nature.
At another water crossing, yachts gleam in the sun. My son Robbie says, “Mom, why do those round things sit on the water? Mom: “Oh, those are called buoys, they let boat owners know when the water is shallow or there is an object like a rock to steer around.”
Mom died 5 days later in the hospital. I continued the 40 day meditation on love, although somewhere around the 30 day mark I went away on a retreat and had a friend take over for several days. I could not find my internal buoy, not even in nature.
Love is a curious thing. It is a sustaining immeasurable expression of the force that governs the universe. In a sense, something that I have learned in the last 2 years, it is the gift of the life force and in some ways is the life force. We “Hallmark” it, which objectifies and separates us from the very force of sustenance it provides. Love is the very thing that connects us, our humanity, that gives rise to life and creation even under the most difficult and excruciating circumstances. We all have baggage we come to the planet with, we don’t have to look much past our DNA to know we have extra luggage independent of our societal conditioning. So it is important to recognize in all our human interactions to try and come back to this sense of love, to remember that we come into relationships not just to connect, but to learn, and in my belief system, to awaken, to come back to the source that animates us so that we can make the world a better place, more aligned with love.
With Mom dying, the “barrier” against the world and humanity dissolved. The sense of connection to humanity has grown and with that an extraordinary and deeper merging with the “cosmos”. There has been great disassociation from pain, there has been merging with others’ behaviors and taking on other people’s issues to the point of forgetting who I am. And in a deep sense, “who I am” is really no longer relevant. Two years later, I am having to “relearn” a filter, a way of being in the world, to not take on the world’s suffering and to find a new way in relieving suffering: of mine, of others and the world’s. Coupled in there was losing a baby earlier this year, something which I am only now getting to, and with this is a flavor of just starting to see what grief looks like in this persona and seeing what grief looks like in another; a shaman that has died another shaman death. This is territory Mom could never go to, her legacy was to pave the way for me to the be the healer I am now. She opened the gate, a gate she could not step through except through passing to the other side, and from that other side has said, “my love, my daughter, I am here. Take my hand. Live.”
The light changes across the landscape. The sun streaks with purple, with oranges, the light crystal and golden as I sit in appreciation of my new found friend sitting next to me in the seat, our children playing behind us. There is glory shining through her hair, in the laughter of children, in the changing landscape, the earth streaking by underneath our feet. We cross another bridge into New York City, the mass of humanity pressing at my heart.
I am this healer. I am this lover. I am this mother. I am this teacher. I am my daughter, my son, my mother, my father, I am you. We are all this train streaking across the landscape, hurtling through each other’s lives, engaging in our environment whether we want to or not. Life and death before us, love as the only constant. May you in your day find your purpose, find a meaning that you can breathe into and live it fully. May you be well, may all beings be well, may all those who have gone before us and live now inside us be well and have peace.
i#lovingmymother #lovingthemotherinme #lifeanddeathasone #loveistheonlyway