Updated: Nov 5
Photo by Dennis Hearne
My mom Flicka is a beautiful force of nature. She is one of a kind, a blustering energizing talent of creativity, wisdom, and plain old fun: industrious conga drummer, dedicated piano player, committed San Francisco Bay swimmer, dynamic painter, quiet writer, inspired jazz singer, playful gramma, soulful cook, fierce mom, avid kayaker, casual cyclist, adventurous foodie and dynamic business entrepreneur. To be with her, is always an opportunity for profund expression, regardless of flavor. Over the years we have laughed, cried, yelled and shut our lips tight as we, very slowly, learned that family is the only structure needed to carry us through.
I tried to escape it, my family, a few times along the way. There have been many periods where I believed I could live without it. Daredevil moments, bold assertive acts fuelled by my belief that I didn't belong. My quest for more has been with me since birth. Coming home is a recurring theme for me. Inherently, I carry a knowing, call it a truth, that within the folds of our parent/child/sibling/business family dynamic lies the heart of my purpose. My understanding and growth are planted here. I happily admit, those exit moments offered me a pause during my immanent education. Necessary in some ways, surely. Proof that my fundamental work would be found within our family circle, the heart of my being.
Part of my challenge has been to let go of old stories, the patterning I developed from childhood. Easy to say. Getting easier to recognize. Harder to do. Habits can be nasty little critters, specifically the ones that no longer serve. They hang on, demand attention and promote denial. I am talking about the ones I can't release because on some level I believe I need them. It's tricky. One of the stories I've been carrying with me, for so long, is that my mom doesn't like me very much. I spent much of my life trying to earn her approval. A friend offered: "Are you holding onto the story or is the story holding onto you?" That is a worthy ponder. I know my mom felt the same way growing up, disliked and unwanted. Maybe her mom did too. And regardless of the history, I am eager to live a new tale. My mom is one of the most important people in my life and I believe I am the same for her. We possess a power together that is unique, ours alone. We are lucky.
Two weeks ago my mom had a massive heart attack. It brought all three of us, her kids, to our knees. We've been with her ever since. Unconscious, she called us forward and we came, without hesitation. We showed up and braided our family together, unwilling to let go. Heavily sedated and intubated, we held her hands, brushed her hair, rubbed her feet, and played music; bringing to her bedside the vitality she wears daily. We cried, we prayed, we waited. The three of us are in constant communication throughout the day, loving support sounds like "Hi, just checking in, how are you doing?" On day one, I kissed mom's forehead as I cradled her face in my hands and whispered "What do you need, mom?" Hers is a big personality, loud and boisterous, strong. Not an easy task for her to let go, willingly, of something she has been holding onto for a long time. I suspect we are here because something needs to change.
I feel the weight of worry, that nagging little concern that captures my breath. It carries me toward other looming thoughts like Who would I be without her? How can this be happening? I keep bouncing back and forth between my fear and my faith. I don't want to get sucked into the depths of my despair, I would rather feel into the shift we are experiencing. It is so big. I drag my scared with me, and move forward. Being in acceptance is freeing. I am unburdened and open. In resisting the truth of the moment, I cause myself tremendous pain. Disconnection is treacherous. Feeling into my sadness, letting it flow, and being with her at the same time is good medicine. This gives me energy.
Her disinhibition, a temporary loss of the feelings that make her self-conscious, has shown me a side of my mom that is soft, gentle, kind and openly loving. For days now I have been swimming alongside her, with all the emotions she generates. This is not a familiar expresssion of our connection. We are usually guarded in our support of each other. This new version is precious amidst the unknown, and I am enjoying every little bit of it. She is a font of information, reliving her past in details I have never heard before. She grew up with a cat named Faustina. She says "thankyou" to her dad and asks SirGoose, our family dog, "Where have you been?" A friend tells me this is her soul speak, her true nature, unbridled, coming at me with armor down. Mom puts her hand on my shoulder, pulling me close, "Meighan, are you happy?" She phoned me yesterday, from her hospital bed, to tell me she was concerned for her grandson Zander, going to school in Denmark, so close to Ukraine. "I know you are a good mom, I trust your decisions," she says to me. She reached out this morning as I am driving her granddaughter Ocean to school, "I just wanted to let you know where I am," she says. We laughed about her 4am text and I let her know that I will happily receive her anytime of day or night. This afternoon she offers: "I don't want to bother you, but I really want to get out of here. I love you lots, come visit soon."
Sitting with the possibility of my mom's death, holding it close, gives me clarity. I can see my own cause centered around a sense of abandonment; a need to lay blame and play victim, the same one I generated when my dad died in 1984. It is comfortable and familiar. And it no longer serves. I can easily step into a space where my need for her to be alive, for me, will drive me to misinterpret her death, to take it personally. Today I am on a different path. I choose to be in service. Rachel Naomi Remen writes: "Serving makes us aware of our wholeness and its power...Service is a relationship between equals: our service strengthens us as well as others." This intense situation is not a story of scarcity or worth or something I didn't get. It is one of love and life. I am filled with joy and happiness. I can feel our appreciation for each other, abundant and seemingly endless. Her innocense is inviting and playful. I am in complete surrender. Our bond is healing. We were laughing yesterday with my sister Lei as we spoke of the 2023 family vacation mom wants to take in Europe. "Let's just go for a month," she says, "we'll fly over there, then rent a car and drive around. Capri is so much fun."
I trust her body will carry her through, at its own pace. There is no rush. None of us have been here before, we are in uncharted territory. I prefer to love her just as she is, now, it's easier than wishing. I follow her lead, simply, without question. This works for me. I want to embrace the opportunity delivered here, a chance to reevaluate how I participate in my mom's life and what it means to me. I am not operating out of a sense of duty or obligation, I am tapping into a heartfelt desire to nurture. It could be a redesign of sorts, for both of us. It also feels like a bold acknowledgement of how I value this relationship.
Mom is super grateful for our attention. She smiles as she states: "I raised you all so well." She did indeed. In two weeks time we are closer and more connected, all of us, together. I do not doubt any of it, this is where we need to be. I welcome what is to come, palms up and heart full. I want to appreciate the mystery of it all, to grow and expand. Her recovery is filled with "Flicka Gestures", clapping her hands, raising one arm and pointing a finger, shaking her booty, dancing steps, and singing moments. She is overflowing with life and expression, hers alone. I was quick to jump on board, to ride this wave with her, completely, wholeheartedly and not waste any of my precious time consumed with what is not here.