This week I am making final preparations for my upcoming solo exhibit in December.
I am also preparing for my mother’s passing. Four months shy of her 99th birthday, her functions showing signs of wear, she has decided to return to being a fleck of dust, as she puts it, after a lifetime of achievements and the uncanny ability to turn adversity into a springboard for emotional and intellectual growth.
The two events are not mutually exclusive. My mother supported my career switch from family therapist to figurative painter, taking an active interest in each canvas produced, offering her interpretation of it and praise that warmed my heart, punctuating her statements with a reminder that I was–and would always be–her “filly.”
My brother and I are planning a memorial service to honor her memory, in which her life will be celebrated rather than her passing mourned.
Two years ago, my mother said to me on the phone: “I get the feeling you think I’m immortal.” To which I replied: “You mean you aren’t?”
That started a conversation on the advantages of being prepared for a loved one’s departure. At first, I resisted the idea. Envisioning the day when my mother would not be at the other end of the line when I called, which was often, disturbed me. Then, one night, as I gazed at the moon, I thought: Maman sees the same moon! That revelation inspired me to write a poem acknowledging my mother’s mortality. I thanked her for being a wonderful mother and gave her permission to go.
That was the first step. For the last two years, my mother and I covered every topic relating to her eventual passing. We spoke candidly of death and its rituals; she reiterated her belief that we are all dust particles, part of a much greater universe than our little planet Earth; and more than once she mentioned that her preferred way to leave would be a fatal fall while hiking in her beloved Alps.
Now here we are, at the intersection of our respective journeys: for her, the end of a physical life; for me, the realization that she will always be with me, particles or no particles.
Dearest mother, rest in peace.