Mama’s body betrayed her. The organs inside her skin held her hostage and eventually forced her limbs into submission. One day last year we watched passerby’s walking to their destinations with a perceived level of lightheartedness. Their legs following commands and instructions with thoughtless ease.
“I wish people knew how lucky they were to have their health. I wish I knew how much it meant when I had it,” Mama said as we sat beside each other on a bench.
I can’t write about all the ways my mother’s body broke her heart. Or rather, I should say that I will not write about these things. If we do not have sovereignty over the stories told about our own bodies as women, then what do we have? I know that as the war raged on within her flesh I saw her spirit get further and further away from her body. I could see it.
“Please promise me you’ll go and lay this tobacco out by the tree and call your spirit back to you, Mama. Please,” I said when I visited her in Mexico where she was doing alternative cancer treatments.
What I was really saying was: You’re so far away and I’m scared. I don’t know where you are.
People who have surrendered to their body’s and Creator/God’s will have a different look about them, you can see it in their eyes. You can tell when people have the look of being gone from themselves. Trauma, from a traditional understanding, can cause the separation of parts of your spirit from your body. I cannot think of anything more traumatic then when the uncontrollable events are happening within your own body. When the war is exactly where you are, and you can do nothing to make peace must be a scary thing indeed.
Her spirit was gone somewhere. It was wandering the stretch of cement where her last fall in a public place was, or perhaps it traveled home back to the river valley without her. I don’t know what lost pieces of ourselves do when they are away from us. I don’t know where her spirit was. I do know that Mama wasn’t able to reconcile her will with her spirit and body.
It has been six months exactly since Mama left this physical world. For the first three months I wasn’t sure if I could survive the weight of her absence. I am always the first person to say things like, “struggle creates depth” or, “if we heal the wounds will open up new possibilities”. I can tell you that at some point in my grief I stopped believing that. I can recall thinking that my sorrow and sadness was so thick that it was tricking me into believing that the ache and abyss was all there was and all there would ever be. There were days and sleepless nights when the heartbreak felt like an endless horizon of nothing that blotted out the promise of tomorrow. I was taken over by the illusion that I would never be okay again.
There were moments where suicide and addiction shared my bed with me or sat crowded in my bathtub while I cried in it. I teetered on the edge of self-harm and self-destruction for weeks. Oblivion seemed to be the only thing that could dull what I was feeling.
The only thing that brought me out of it was the decision to do this: I would let myself cry as if Mama would be there to hold me and put me back together.
Often she was my only safe space to break down. It was in her arms or with my head on her lap that I felt like I could be my most vulnerable and trust that world wouldn’t be able to sucker punch me while I did it because Mama was there. She was the keeper of sacred space. When I decided to cry like she was there, I wailed and screamed and sobbed for almost an hour. I pulled out sounds from deep in my belly and body. Snot went everywhere. My dad called and I couldn’t even form words, I just howled into the receiver before I hung up. I dragged my sadness out of me. It was painful and scary but after I cried like this, the dark thoughts of suicide and relapse slithered away and left me some space for myself. It took another two months for the illusion of “nothing will get better ever” to lift from me.
I don’t think there are words that can accurately describe the devastation of deep loss. I can only say that daily I faced the realization that no one in this world has, or will, love me like my Mama loved me.
I can’t believe I have made it six months. The time in between feels both excruciatingly long and incredibly short. It makes the years ahead without her stretch out into infinity. All the days, months and years ahead until I am with her again in the spirit world feel like mountain ranges and oceans. There are landscapes between us.
My mother was my first home.
This world without her is something different.
I am going to be okay, I believe and trust this.
I know every time that I reclaim the ability to laugh, smile or dance my Mama is rejoicing.
I am realizing JUST NOW that I am still loved the way Mama loved me because that love hasn’t gone anywhere it has only changed how it shows up, this truth both breaks me and builds me up.
When I break down and let myself be vulnerable, she is likely in the wings still holding the world at bay so her daughter can resurrect herself.
This is all that I have to say for now.
Thank you for sharing your grieving process. Your ability to capture your experience is truly breathtaking. I hope you continue to find strength in your love for your mother and in her love for you. ~WB
Hi Helen. I don’t know you but I have read your book. So sorry to hear about your mother. Sending love and strength.