Dear colleagues on the Interior Mythos Journey,
I think the language of the new mythology will be crafted out of words and images from our own life experiences. The death of my mother is like a stone lodged in the river of my consciousness. Everything that happened and is happening in my life has been shaped by the currents set in motion by the life and death of the woman who birthed me.
The Night my Mother died.
My sister called from Yuma, AZ in the middle of the night. I was in London where I was directing a project on the Isle of Dogs. She was trying to keep her calm as she held back her tears.
"Donnie, our mother is dying. Mom is having a hyper allergic reaction to penicillin that had been carelessly prescribed. Her organs are starting to collapse. I got here just thirty minutes ago from Seattle. Dad is with Mom. She is trying to hold on, waiting for you to come."
I got the first flight out of Heathrow. My flight was spent in silence. I could not stop the flood of memories, each bathed in tears as I thought about how Mom shaped my values, my life.
On our homestead in the deep woods near Mount Rainier she heard my sister scream: "MOM! Donnie's hurt, come quickly!" Mom slowly pulled the manure caked tine of the old, broken pitchfork from my leg. She had to sit down and placed both hands on the handle and both feet on my leg to get it out from her sobbing five-year-old son. Sis opened the ironing board and Mom laid me on top of her makeshift operating table. She cleansed my leg and then poured iodine around and into the puncture, wrapping it with a clean rag, its ends tied in a knot.
With the stamina of a pioneer facing the possible death of her only son, Mom gathered my sister and slung me over her own shoulder like a young calf. She walked briskly the half-mile through the forest, laid me on the bottom between the legs of my older sister and paddled the dugout canoe across the river. She hailed a ride to the hospital, fearing the ravages from the Tetanus toxin. "You are going to be alright, Son." Her patience and matter of fact-ness calmed my crying to a periodic whimper.
On another occasion Dad and a couple of uncles in our extended family had just killed, scalded and butchered a large boar hog. Dad grabbed the severed head, ran to the house and stuck it up so that it glared into the kitchen window where Mom was fixing dinner. She screamed in fright and then grabbed a double bit axe and ran out the door, chasing Dad across the barnyard yelling, "I'll Kill you George Eugene Cramer." As she got near him she dropped the axe and he dropped the head. They embraced like the young lovers they were. They couldn't stop laughing. Uncles and aunts who had gathered for the butchering party joined in the laughter.
I remembered when Mom agreed to have me bring my college roommate, Sam, home for Thanksgiving. I had told Sam about my parents and we discussed various scenarios of what might happen. Sam agreed to come, whatever.
When we arrived Mom stepped out on the front porch, gave me a hug and then warmly gave the young black man a hug and said, "Welcome to our home." Then she called for my father to "Come meet Sam, Donnie's roommate from college." He came out, shook my hand and said, "Hi Son. Glad you got home for Thanksgiving." He turned to Sam and did a double take on the young man in front of him. He was flooded, I suspect, by his racially ingrained preconceptions. When he started back into the house Mom said, "George, shake Sam's hand then all of you get washed up, dinner is almost ready." To my delight, Dad shook his hand.
We sat down to a dinner that included conversations about where Sam was born and raised, his parents and family and how he liked college. After dinner Dad suggested that he and Mom take us for a drive up to Mount Rainier. Dad drove and asked Sam to sit in the front seat for the best viewing. When we left to go back to school both Mom and Dad thanked Sam for coming. Sam was the first black man either of them had interacted with.
When I came into her hospital room she opened her eyes, smiled and wept as we hugged. Dad and Sis left us alone, having already said their goodbyes. She stroked my hair as I knelt with my head on her arm. I held her other hand firmly. All that counted to either of us was that I had made it. Telling 'Remember When' stories paled in the midst of her pain. It was time to go. She was grateful for the life she had been given.
Her eyes were losing their sparkle.
"I love you so much, Son. Thank you for making me so proud just to be your mother." These were her last words.
My eyes were tearing. I fought for appropriate words.
"You have been a wonderful mother, Mom.
Such generous love and without conditions.
Thank you for being my mother."
Her grip on my hands relaxed and her eyes went blank.
The life force that had birthed and nurtured her, left her body. Her life giving wisdom, the sacrifices she made, her generosity, and the love she embodied, remain with me.
Mom, I still grieve your passing, now over 35 years later. I remain grateful for the gifts your life has given me, again and again. You will always be seated at the head of my meditative council.
Thank you Mother, Thank you.
Footnote: A Meditative Council is made up of those you choose: a parent, relative, mentor, friend or hero --- to visit with, consult with, and to share your journey. Some members may be cantankerous. They are a stone in your stream of consciousness. And some such stones are jagged.
I invite you to pick a member of your council and tell their stories ... about how they shape(d) your consciousness, your values, your mission. Share one of those stories with us.
My mother's name is Frances. You are welcome to invite her onto your council.