I used to call out in the middle of the night for my mother when I was four or five. It was intense, sincere and frightening. When I first started this nightly pattern, my mother would rush down the hallway and ask me what I wanted. I didn’t know. I didn’t know why I had yelled for her, but I knew she had whatever it was I thought I needed. She would tell me to lie down and go back to sleep and that she was just down the hall. This continued for a couple of weeks, best I remember. I woke up many times screaming her name with tears streaming down my face. She would ask me what I wanted from her bedroom and again I couldn’t tell her. I continued crying out but she finally ignored me and it stopped.
The day before my mother died was a beautiful sunny day in early June. I was relieved to be out of school (teaching) for the summer, and the family had been able to celebrate her birthday and Mother’s Day. She walked outside and around the house early that day but by evening she was resigned to the bed. Music was my mother’s passion, her life balm. I put her favorite piano player, Erroll Garner, on the stereo and turned it up. I took her hand while she was lying in bed and danced with her for over an hour. She smiled at me and tapped her toes. She loved it. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. The next morning she was slipping away so I turned on Erroll again because hearing is the last sense to go and I wanted her to hear her favorite piano player as she eased out of this world. I crawled in bed next to her while my nurse niece and her nurse friend tended to her meds. I want to believe I felt her soul leave her body about 20 minutes before her last breath. She wasn’t afraid – she had great faith and she was ready to let go of her earthly presence. When I felt her leave, a lightness washed over the room. I sensed a huge void. I felt immense relief (mine or hers?). Unspeakable sadness. Unbearable quiet. My niece and I cleaned her up before the funeral home came to collect her. I stayed in the backyard until they left. I could watch her die but I couldn’t watch them carry her out of the home she lived in for 47 years. During the funeral I found myself completely at ease. I leaned heavily on God and my spiritual beliefs and knew my mother was where she needed to be. I honored her soul’s choice to pass at that time though I felt like a forty-four year-old orphan. I didn’t dare cry much because I didn’t know when I would be able to stop.
It has been over twelve years since her death. Recently while trying to go to sleep, I thought about the times I used to yell out for her in the middle of the night. I recalled the frightening and intense feelings from fifty years ago. I missed her in that moment like never before. What happened next both startled and comforted me. With my eyes wide open in the pitch dark room, I saw bright, tiny red and blue lights dance and swirl about four feet away. I knew it was my mother, her soul, and I watched as it was torn into two equal pieces. I instinctively understood that I was one of those pieces. I felt she was reminding me that she carried a part of me with her. We would always be together.
I knew that her earthly departure (leaving her family) upset her even though she was stoic about facing her death. In that deep dark night, I knew instantly what she was trying to tell me: to live the best life possible and that I would always be a part of her, death be damned. If I had any doubts before, this made it crystal clear. She left a part of herself with me and she didn’t want me to forget it. What I couldn’t understand as a child I could live as an adult. There’s no need to cry out for her, now or then, because she is and always will be with me.