Monday, October 19, 2015

here, there, everywhere, and triumphantly so.

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While my mom was sick, and definitely in the weeks immediately after she died, I found myself longing - for the first time in my life - for a system of faith and belief. I wanted desperately to have something bigger to pin my anger on, or something greater to comfort my fears, or something better to find hope in. I wanted to believe there was a reason for the horror I was witnessing, which was the decline and failure of flesh and blood, despite the spirit still burning within, despite our desire for her to stay.

I adhered, and diligently, to self-imposed limits on thinking during that time. (It helped that I was on overnight duty every third night, which meant I didn't sleep every third night, which meant my mental acuity dimmed significantly.) Instead of losing myself in a vortex of the afterlife possibilities - heaven? physics? rebirth? yes, yes, yes? - I lost myself in Netflix, grief, and depletion. And I never really let myself turn the switch back on to wonder: Where is she now? What is she now?

I have, however, groped for the feeling I've heard about, the feeling that your dearly departed loved one is nearby, watching over. I haven't felt it. I don't sense her presence when I'm happy or sad or missing her or grocery shopping. I sometimes wonder if funny ideas or turns of phrase or gorgeous sunsets are channeled through her, but then, there were humor, eloquence, and beauty before she died. I felt...nothing.

So I was taken aback when, this weekend, I stumbled on something that clicked (for now; for here). I followed my own birthday advice and bought Elizabeth Gilbert's newest book, Big Magic, and devoured half of it (along with some lentil-quinoa soup) while sitting in Panera Bread on my birthday afternoon. Gilbert's best known for Eat, Pray, Love, but Big Magic is different - less a memoir, more a treatise on creativity and the creative process. Based on the fact that I've dog-eared pretty much every other page, it's clearly resonating with me, but more along the lines of, "That's how it feels when I write, too!" versus "Maybe that's what my dead mom's soul is up to these days!"

But then, on page 91 of my copy, Gilbert quotes her friend: "...it's just my body that's temporary. So is yours. We're only here on earth for a short while...."

That word - temporary - just shivered through my (temporary) body and transported me, like, instantly to the memory of another quote, this time by the writer Aaron Freeman. He wrote a piece you may have seen a while back, "You Want A Physicist To Speak At Your Funeral." Read that link if you're not familiar with it; I'll wait.

...Are you back? Did you read it? It's so good, right? This is the line that fit so sweetly with Gilbert's friend's "temporary body" notion, the line I was transported to: "According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen."

And for the first time since my mom died, I had that feeling I'd been groping for. Not necessarily that my mom was right there, hand on my shoulder or feet on the floor, but that she was right there - and there - and there. Everywhere. 

You should know that I have this persistent habit of conjuring quotes and lyrics related to whatever's happening at the moment. My siblings and I do it ad nauseam, especially when we're together, to the point where Thanksgiving dinner devolves into a rapid exchange of related quotes from The Simpsons or Friends, and we're all cry-laughing while our significant others shake their heads at each other. (And then we cackle at them and chant, "One of us! One of us!" and high-five each other. We're a little...awesome exhausting.) Naturally, at the moment that I could imagine my mom there - and there - and there, Beatles lyrics popped into my head:

     I want her everywhere, and if she's beside me,
     I know I need never care
     But to love her is to need her everywhere,
     Knowing that love is to share
     Each one believing that love never dies
     Watching her eyes and hoping I'm always there.

And of course they were Beatles lyrics - the Beatles were my mom's favorite. "Here, There, And Everywhere." And that concept is so like my mom, the ultimate Everywhere-Mom, with eyes on the back of her head and ears all over our community and volunteering in all the classrooms at all the schools and knowing all our friends and their parents and keeping tabs on all of us, everywhere, and there, and here.

I'm not saying - it's not like I had some religious breakthrough (or scientific, for that matter) (ha, matter - no physics pun intended). It was just a moment in a day where I was still, and settled, and knowing, and believing. There my mom was, and there she is, and she is here, there, and everywhere, and she is gloriously, triumphantly done with the temporary.

Triumphant, to be done with the temporary.


  1. Oh my gosh Cathy. This hits me in so many ways! Your GREAT writing ...words, and the way you play with them, the feelings you evoke through your writing...the wonderful way you describe your mom and the kind of person she was, is still, so much. love , love, love, this.

    1. Thanks so much, Lynn. I love to know that you love it. :)

  2. i love this. it works, it helps, and, to me, it makes sense.

    also, dang, your family is so nerd-cool. groupie envy.

    1. My family might SEEM cool, but rest assured that many of our Thanksgiving guests joined us once and then either never came back or took a few years before they returned. haha



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