And My Mom Spoke to Me
This should not be remarkable, but it is. After multiple surgeries to remove a recurring benign growth in her throat, she has gradually lost her voice over the last 30 years. I believe that one’s sense of self is connected to one’s ability to tell your story. Because she has lost the ability to speak, her self, her stories, and her memories have also gradually faded over the last 30 years. When I visit her in person, there is a window of time during the visit when she galvanizes her mom persona and I connect with her. But I don’t visit very often – fraught with old patterns – so most of our interaction is via telephone. It is difficult to have an in-depth conversation with her in person and even more so on the phone, without eye contact and body language. She hoarsely whispers and frequently doesn’t finish her sentences. Our conversations usually consist of me glibly describing my activities and my kids’ activities, a little small talk about the weather and whether she can get outside for a walk, and an attempt to engage with her over whatever book she is reading. Usually she is reading a book I gave her, because books are where we have always connected and reading together has always been a favorite shared activity. I am never sure whether she is just going through the motions of reading or whether she is really taking in what she is reading. She can’t find the words to describe the book to me, other than to tell me that she is enjoying it.
Last week, when we spoke and we completed our routine weekly conversation, she said, lucidly, “I am glad you are doing okay.” She said it in a way that knocked the breath out of me. I hadn’t told her anything deep. She doesn’t know about my writing. She doesn’t know about my therapy. She doesn’t know about my midlife search for spirituality. And yet, she knows? I shivered. And wondered if those were her last words to me. A gentle maternal benediction. After 51 years, I am doing okay and she can tell. Perhaps there is more going on inside her than I realize. Is that what she needs before she dies? To know that her only child is okay? I shivered. That week I dreamt.
There is a dying withered being, like a malnourished starving child. My mother? My self? My inner child? It is almost as if she has no skin. Her eyes are slits. Oozing. Tears? Toxins? My teacher is there. She says: Touch her. Use Reiki. But don’t touch her tears, it could make you sick or kill you. She leaves. I am alone with this dying creature. I can’t do this! I don’t have Reiki power! I am not a healer! I am sure she is going to die. I place my hands on her. She looks at me through those oozing slits. She has no voice and cannot speak. I muster all my compassion and healing energy to comfort her. It is not clear to me that she will survive. I wonder if she will die and feel honored to be the one with her if she passes on to wherever one goes when they die.
This week when we spoke, she was again lucid. Her voice had some strength and she completed her sentences. She could tell me what her book was about and that she hadn’t tackled The Goldfinch yet but it was next on her list. (Same here.) I told her about my amazing day with my daughter, playing hooky for her 18th birthday. And then the conversation took a turn:
Mom: “This is a big year for you.”
Me: “Yes. I am trying to spend as much time with my daughter as I can before she leaves for college. I am going to miss her.”
Mom: “More than you know.”
Me: “Mom, did you miss me?”
Mom: “Oh yes. So much.”
Quiet pause. Because neither one of us knows how to take this conversation to the next step.
Mom: “I am thinking about living to 100. It’s only 8 more years!”
Me: Joyful laughter.
Me: “Mom, is there anything you want to do before you die?”
Me: “Just be?”
Mom: “Just be.”
Quiet pause. Because neither one us knows how to take this conversation to the next step.
Me: “Bye Mom, I love you.”
Mom: “I love you too.”
I wonder what we will talk about next week?
Image: Visuddha, The Throat Chakra