Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The Relentless Willow
'If there hadn't been you where would I be
If there hadn't been you here for me
I made it through times
I never would've made it through
If there hadn't been you on my side
You in my life
All my dreams would still be dreams
If there hadn't been you'
-from 'Billy Dean'
If There Hadn't Been You, Billy Dean / 1992
I know that, for the rest of my life, there will be times when I miss my Mommy. I still fall into deep sadness when I recognize she is not somewhere waiting for me to call her or visit. There are moments when it still seems this is possible to do. Like some twisted déjà vu, I am transported from within to the place where I knew she was living. I feel her as if she was suddenly near me. I miss her so.
My Mom wasn't just my Mom, she was my friend. I think it is agreeable that, in many ways, she was my best friend. We accepted each other, trusted each other and relied on each other for comfort and someone to talk to. We were very close, yet still maintained the appropriate relation. I never forgot she was my Mother, first.
My very first memory is of my Mom. I can see her climbing to the top of the stairs in our Toronto home. I see her blue dress, her long hair and her smile. I see her as she sees me. This moment, real or imagined, is the first time I realized what love was. For all my 4 years, it is a lesson I remember succinctly. It was her greatest gift to me.
I never had to wonder, no matter what, that she would continue to love me as strongly as she ever had. Everything I know about forgiveness and acceptance I know from her. Often, her love for her children was extreme and she put us all before my Dad and herself. Granted, that is what a parent is supposed to do, but I wish she had given more to her own self as the end approached. No one else I have ever known sacrificed as much as my Mom did for her children. I am sure she was not the only Mother who felt this way or acted upon it. It is hard to find an example, however, outside literature and celebrity. The other parents that I have known just don't extend their love like my Mother did.
'To think that only yesterday,
I was cheerful, bright and gay,
Looking forward to, but who wouldn't do,
The role I was about to play
But as if to knock me down,
Reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch,
Cut me into little pieces
Leaving me to doubt,
All about God and His mercy
For if He really does exist
Why did He desert me
In my hour of need
I truly am indeed,
Alone again, naturally
It seems to me that
There are more hearts
Broken in the world
That can't be mended
What do we do? What do we do?'
Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan / 1972
My Mom gave me my appreciation of music and art. She could sing like the mockingbird and paint like she was drawing a picture for God, which she often did. She taught me to cook, like a good Italian Mother should. She gave me every survival skill I possess. She gave me the permission I needed to explore my talents. She lifted me up. No matter what I did or where I ended up, she was always there for me. No matter who I turned out to be, no matter, she loved me still just like she always had.
She was not perfect and I will not pretend so in a fit of irrational idolization. Who is without fault after all? In spite of her flaws and the way she slowly became as the end approached, I never questioned her loyalty and friendship. When I wanted to die and started to do so, her plea to live for her and my Father brought me from the brink into purpose. She often was my reason to go on.
I never thought of her as a role model or hero. My relationship with her left little room for silly ideas like emulation or idol worship. She was always just Mom. For most of my adult life, she was the one person who always pulled me through. I know I would not be here now if not for her then. She was an anchor to a life tossed out to stormy sea.
'I was raised on love's foundation
The rock of ages goes unshaken
The faith and hope that was given to me
Is stronger than the blackjack tree
My mama taught me how to stand alone
She let me go but she still holds on
And I can still feel all of that love from here'
All of that Love from Here, Wynonna / 1992
She was the oldest of three children, never really close with her two brothers. I think one of the reasons she was so exuberant over her new family was the lack of relationship with her brothers. Personally, both men are complete pricks. They hurt my Mother deeply, beyond repair, and for no good reason. I guess greed does destroy.
Her relationship with her parents was fractured at best. She rose above the past, however, giving all she could to rebuilding that breach. I remember when my Grandfather was dying, constantly pulled back from rest by my Grandmother calling out for him to return to her. Quietly, she leant into his ear and told him to go to the light. You could almost feel his soul leave his body. I remember the tears running down her face as she later said goodbye to her mother. She loved them in spite of everything.
That's the thing about my Mom. You could feel all of her love from anywhere.
I still can.
She loved with such fury and such passion. I know that the reason I love as I do is a direct result of my Mother's example. It was relentless, relentless and enduring.
Her burden was heavy. She carried such emotional weight for such a shorter woman. There are those in this life who will have to answer for what they have done, remembering the effect and consequence of that to which I refer.
Those who love the most suffer the most.
Instead of looking down and walking in defeat, my Mom laughed. She laughed loudly, she laughed long and she laughed in the face of it all. Nothing ever got her to a point where she stopped laughing. I learned my trademark "smart ass" approach from her sardonic, campy and over-the-top humour. I hope she is laughing now. I saw a shooting star the other night and wondered if she knocked it out of place with a giggle.
Can you see?
Just how your life child
Shines in me
I swear that anywhere you are
Though near or far
I'll always hold you in my heart"
-from 'Mama's Words'
Mama's Words, Michel Berube / 2010
Therein the lesson:
"The willow, relentless
Stands firm and strong
Against the sun above
Against the earth below
Against the wind we know
It dances with the rain
It whispers to the snow
It thrives and grows
Only time it seems
Could end the weeping
Down into fallow
This mighty tree
I feel her in my laugh. I see her in my smile. I hear her in the joy of a song well sung. She is always with me and I do not want her to leave. I wish that everyone I had met on this voyage was more like her. God she loved. God she forged on. Never surrendering.
No matter what happened or how heavy the weight, she rose up and loved some more. I don't have to question it for it was something I already knew. I never ever doubted that she loved me, completely. I cannot imagine who I would have been without her.
'Hearts are worn in these dark ages
You're not alone in this story's pages
Night has fallen amongst the living and the dying
And I try to hold it in
Yeah I try to hold it in
The world's on fire and
It's more than I can handle
I'll tap into the water
I try to pull my ship
I try to bring more
More than I can handle
Bring it to the table
Bring what I am able'
World on Fire, Sarah McLachlan / 2004
We don't get to pick our family but I would choose my Mom, to be my Mom, every time. She knew I felt this way. Her death was expected for years, and while I may have been prepared, I was nowhere near ready. I did get to tell her that of all the souls and all the faces I have known in this world, she was my favourite. I took the opportunity to show my love, I seized the day. I envy God for He has her now.
Even in her death she taught me about love. The way she died, how she died, deeply reflected God's love and mercy. Right up until the end had passed, she demonstrated the simple, complex manner of love. I know she is much more happy where she is now. She is free from the burdens this life brought her often. This does nothing to ease my weary soul. This does nothing to pass the time without her.
"You gave me time
When no one gave me time of day
You looked deep inside
While the rest of the world looked away
You smiled at me
When there weren't just friends everywhere
You gave me love
When nobody gave me a prayer ...
You gave me laughter
After I'd cried all my tears
You heard my dreams
While the rest of the world just closed its ears
I looked in your eyes and I found such tenderness there
'Cause you gave me love
When nobody gave me a prayer"
-from 'You Gave Me Love (When Nobody Gave Me a Prayer)'
You Gave Me Love, BJ Thomas / 1979
If There Hadn't Been You, Billy Dean
Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan (live)
All of that Love from Here, Wynonna (audio)
Mama's Words, Michel Berube (audio)
World on Fire, Sarah McLachlan (live)
You Gave Me Love, BJ Thomas (audio)