‘Facebook memories’ let me know that my mother, Joy, died 18 months ago this last week. Thanks Facebook.
Now there’s an anniversary I wasn’t planning on marking. Why? Because my grief had finally got to the point of not counting. I had stopped counting the months and grief had stopped being the driver in my life and there had been many consecutive days where I had not once remembered those hours my mother took to die in her hospital bed.
I am not foolish enough to expect that I will ever forget every detail of those days as if I was there again now. But I am wise enough to know it takes time for grief to settle from the raw heat left by the immediate loss, to the slow ember of an almost burnt out fire so easy to re-ignite, to fossilised charcoal that leaves it’s final mark on the earth. A reminder that the world forever changed once this person left.
My mother doesn’t speak to me anymore. Of course not, she’s dead, you say.
But those first few months I was convinced she was talking to me from afar. I saw or imagined ‘signs from the other side’. Signs that led me to pack up my whole Australian life and book a one way flight to Colorado. We see what we want to see and real or imagined those signs were a catalyst for some serious change. Either way, my eyes were open and I knew what to do for the first time in a long time.
There was one unexplained phenomena that did happen the day I was moving out from my Avalon beachside home dubbed ‘the house of the healing heart‘ and heading to a land I was sure my mother had sent me by way of a car registration plate seen on a rainy day. I was driving to my house for the final pick up of belongings when my iPhone randomly turned itself on and started playing a song on loud speaker. A song that had forever signified my mother’s year of death to me, Xavier Rudd’s ‘Follow the Sun’.
My phone was not connected to my car stereo, it was not near anything that could have bumped it in the car and I had not played that song in a while so it was not on the iTunes recently played list. I can’t explain it but I know it was my mother. Perhaps for the last time.
I have been in Colorado 8.5 months now, in another two weeks I could have birthed a child, a new life and in a way I have. I haven’t seen or heard from my mum during this time except for one moment in the woods on my beloved Cherry Picker hike in Vail my first month here when I was struggling with the mammoth life adjustment I had made. I sat in a clearing surrounded by aspen glades and breathed into my sorrow and the leaves started brushing against each other with a sudden gush of wind, the same wind my mother said to look for her on.
But since then, nothing. She got me here and then it’s all been up to me.
I came here to write a book, Kiss Me Like a Cowboy – searching for Joy in Colorado. I think there was a part of me that thought I would find that joy in the arms of a man, any man. Ha! I haven’t, though I have in nature and friends.
There’s no way to avoid grief. The grief you feel may be the loss of hope of a potential new relationship, the loss of a friendship, the loss of a job, the loss of a home, the loss of a marriage or the loss of a fellow human who died.
It is easy in grief to fall back on old patterns of behaviour to get you through but there’s no self discovery down that route and once you’ve lost your mother you have to mother yourself whether she did or didn’t mother you when she was alive. Sometimes it sucks being an adult but life truly exists in those moments that you say no to the tub of ice cream, you say no to texting your ex, you say no to compulsively spending money you don’t have.
Life exists in those moments when you stay, with yourself. It is in the discomfort that growth occurs. When a cicada breaks away from it’s old uncomfortable shell to expose vulnerable new skin and enter a new phase of it’s life.
Facebook reminded me last week, after six weeks on the road with amazing friends and good times in California, Wyoming, Canada and Colorado that I remain vulnerable and that while life has moved forward and changed for many, including me, in the absence of my mother’s life on this planet, that her life and death still hold impact on a gloomy end of ski season day when I am alone with nowhere to hide.