Saturday, June 6, 2009

June 6, 2001

At precisely 6 a.m. in the morning, on this day exactly 8 years ago, I held my mother's hand as her heart beat for the very last time. She died from her excesses; cigarettes, alcohol and a mangled heart. When she died, my mother took with her any guilt, shame and remorse she may have felt for the way things were so long ago. There is no doubt in my mind that the alcohol was her way of numbing any of those feelings out. As I sit here reflecting on these things now, I think of the burden she carried within her heart. A burden my father long ago dismissed from his consciousness in the same fashion he dismissed his responsibility as a parent.

I cannot speak for my siblings nor will I as I have not spoken to them in many, many years. As a child, you endure. You do what you have to in order to survive. What you don't know is that you are causing a certain amount of self-inflicted wounds that may or may not be treated for years. But as you grow older, understanding, empathy and forgiveness are not part of your vocabulary. Why would they be? In your young brain and heart you felt abandoned and unloved. So, as you grew older, you wanted to pay back in kind the same feelings of neglect and rejection, real or imagined. The complete lack of understanding and communication probably prevented any chances of reconciliation and healing. Pride certainly played a part in these events as well as my defiant thinking. In my head it was, " Why should you be the one to extend the proverbial olive branch".

I am older now and have spent some time reflecting on my life and the life my mother led. When I think of this, I believe my mother new at a certain level that this was retribution from her children and she accepted it. Albeit not without adding to her own suffering by turning to alcohol. I wish I could turn back time and help to change the way things were. But I know that I can't. All I can do is accept it. I realize now that it did not have to be like that. But when you are living in the moment, the consequences seem unimportant at the time. When you realize how precious few days we have on this earth you wonder why we do the things we do to each other.

My memories of my mother have softened and I remember more of the good things about her. The times I did visit with her she treated me as her son. Not as a guest who stopped by for a visit. I remember her generosity and the way she loved to laugh. Her laugh was loud and piercing almost like a scream. One funny story I will always remember was during one of our early Christmas visits. My mother lived on the ground floor of this particular apartment building. You walked into the foyer up the steps and off to a small corridor on the left hand side to her apartment. The layout on the right mirrored that image. So my mother and her neighbour shared a common living room wall.

Well, the night we came to visit, the neighbours were having a huge gathering. They were celebrating the festive season and I'm sure a fair amount of alcohol was consumed. As the hours wore on, the din coming from the other side of the wall did not subside so my mother at first began to bang on the wall. Without success, she decided to pay the neighbours a visit and see if they could come to some sort of amicable agreement. Nothing doing. Huge mistake on their part. You see, while she went over to have this discussion, she noticed that there were better than 20 pair of boots lined outside the neighbours apartment. So, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she called forth her little army. That would be my brother, my sister and of course moi!

Well, the 4 of us snuck across the adjoining hall over to the neighbouring corridor. First we began to collect the winter boots which were lined up like little soldiers. We then marched them to the steps where we began to fling them into the lobby throwing them every which way. I can't be sure whether any of them made it out into the middle of the street. Anyways, we returned to my mother's apartment turned off most of the lights and waited for the fireworks to start. If didn't take long and the angry outbursts emanating from the lobby caused us all to shriek with laughter with my mother leading the way. I know it wasn't right but it's my memory and I want to look at it from the funny side of things.

As I age, I am sure that my memories will continue to soften and I will have put all of the pain aside. Once it is out, it doesn't make sense to hold onto it as tightly. The way I look at things now is that everybody who reads this carries a little piece of this for me so the burden doesn't seem to be as harsh as I do for you. While waiting for the viewing to be prepared, I went to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montréal where she lived. I walked thru the opulent shrine and found my way to the gift shop. I saw these tiny Rosary Beads with a small Crucifix. The beads were like an Emerald Green, my mothers favourite color. I bought three of them and then headed back to the funeral parlour. There I met the Priest and asked him to bless the Rosary's which he did. I gave one to my sister and one to the funeral director. I told him that after the cremation was completed I wanted the Rosary placed in the urn with her ashes and then buried. The picture above are the ones I keep hanging on my desk. From time to time, I hold them in my hand and make the connection with my mother and know that she is now at peace.


Sarah Lulu said...

Such a beautifully told story.

May God bless your Mother.

I'm honoured to have read the part of you that was her.

The rosary beads are also lovely.

Natalie said...

Hmm... That has me revisiting some thoughts I had during the week.
Great post.x

Anonymous said...

Bogey your story was such a lovely tribute. I agree with you that as time goes on, the hurts and worries of childhood do diminish, but it takes a good man to acknowledge that his parent was doing the best she could with the skills she possessed. And I am really happy that you a) have some funny memories of that time; b) that you chose to honor her is such a loving way and c) that you shared this with all of us. You are right - if you portion out the emotion, we can all carry a bit of it for you! Have a great weekend Bogey! Hope that you are not getting the snow that we are expected to receive on the prairies! That's it - I'm moving back to the West Coast!

lakeviewer said...

We do have a different perspective.

Lori ann said...

Dear Bogey,
there is a buddist practice called tonglen, a meditation where you breathe in the pain and suffering of others, taking it as your own,and then breathing out happiness, compassion, peace. I do this alot, I believe just what you do, that by sharing the load it's lighter. We are all one.
I am glad you have the good memories of your mother, I'm doing the same thing with my father.
Have a lovely weekend.

ms toast burner said...

That's some heavy reading, Bogey.

My memories seem to be getting the opposite. The more I become aware of the side effects of childhood, the more angry I've become.

Perhaps that's just how it goes and maybe one day I'll be cool with it all... but it will not be today.

You're very good at expressing yourself, Bogey. Your posts help me think. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

This post touched my heart. I like lurking on your blog.

James said...

Thanks for sharing Bogey. Your Mother reminds me a lot of my grandmother who died over 30yrs ago.

Bogey said...

Thank you Sarah LuLu, I'm sure she is where she needs to be.

Is that a good thing Natalie?

Thank you Audrey. It's just something I start to feel when I read what others are going thru and I know how it rests in my heart and conscious. Perhaps the reverse is also true. As for the snow, like I said, been there, done that, put away the shovel.

Rosaria, I think getting older does have some advantages. Now if it just didn't take so long.

Thank you Lori Ann, I will definitely do some investigating on that one. I used to know a dog that did that for me all the time. Hope you are settling back in from you trip.

Marnie, life is a heavy read sometimes. I sensed that you have lived with something painful inside of you. There are many stages of healing and there are aspects of that journey that we don't control ourselves. Only you will know what is right for you and when. I am happy to hear that this makes you think though. It may help getting it to the surface instead of keeping it bottled up. I remembered your comment on a poem I wrote awhile back. You said something very similar. Take care of the inner you too!

Hello Queen of Phrump! Lurking hmmm! There is plenty of seating, you don't have to hide in the shadows and we are a friendly bunch! Thank you for your comment. You are welcome anytime.

Thanks James. I hope you remember your Grandmother with fondness!

Cynthia said...

Hi Bogey. What a strain it is to hold on to the pain...and then letting go sometimes becomes another chance for experiencing anger...the emphasis of release changes to anger. I also practice what Lori Ann suggest...breathe in pain and breathe out joy, that there is no preference between the inhalation or exhalation. It supports the practice of Loving Kindness...and so we are all connected and sharing the burden for each other. Your memory is funny...only we are on the cliff hanging...did the neighbors know it was you? Did it turn into another huge argument?

I love the green-peace you made with the rosary and blessing. Thank you for your lovely comment on Oasis Writing Link (OWL). You are the reader that blogger love to engage.

May your life be filled with abundant joy. <3

Anil P said...

A touching tribute.

If pain didn't linger it would not hurt as much but as with most of us it is after the hurt has lingered for a while that it numbs us to the pain we 'nurtured' and a different perspective takes hold.

I suppose some might say it is 'healing'. I'm not so sure.

Like you rightly said life is too precious, and it is only right we embrace what opportunities it brings out way.

This was a deeply moving post and the little act of fun was delightful, memories are made of such moments.

Bogey said...

Cynthia, thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts, they are truly appreciated. I always love to visit your space. You always present something captivating which requires a certain amount of thought. I try to always be conscious of what I am reading and present my true feelings. Oh, and by the way Cynthia, the neighbours had their suspicions but it didn't go beyond that. I think they too were aware of their disturbance.

Thank you for your visit Anil. Your words are thoughtful and kind.

Winifred said...

For some reason I don't seem to be getting your postings notified so I've been looking back on them.

This is a lovely one, such a beautiful tribute to your Mum. I loved your story about the boots. What a sense of humour. Gentle payback. You must have been crying with laughter.