How does one begin to describe a relationship between two human beings? It cannot be done without story. Thousands of stories. Stories of waking up to the smell of breakfast being prepared, lunches made, dinner served. Dessert every night because how could father live if there was no dessert? Made us kids happy too.
Visions of chickens being killed with their heads wacked off with an ax, plucked and cleaned in the backyard. Memories of a garden the size of a village being weeded and tended so there could be food for the winter months. Visions of rows and rows of golden peaches, green beans, red raspberry jam standing in jars along the counter. Memories of traipsing behind her fearless figure through cougar and bear infested trails as she carried loaded arms full of ferns, moss, pussy willows and other greens for the weekly welcome nature display at the Harrison Gospel Chapel. The sound of her own personal swearwords ‘ grrr, hmmph, achhhhh’ when she didn’t like the rules, when things didn’t line up in the sewing room, when someone got in her way in the kitchen.
My relationship with my mother was not always a simple or an easy one. I wanted to be seen and understood by her, but I could not always feel that in the deepest part of me. I am an artist, a poet, a song-writer, a mystic. Mom is practical, a doer, a nurse, a thinker. She didn’t understand me. She wanted all of us girls to be nurses – not out-rightly, but the hinting was strong! As the final daughter of 3 girls and with an overwhelming desire to please her, I took all the high school requirements for the nursing program and was half-way filling out the application for nursing school in grade 12 when I felt sick to my stomach and could not complete it. It was one of the best decisions of my life! But it also brought confusion and a sense of being lost. I think I wanted my mom to know me, to figure me out, to help to proclaim my identity.
I didn’t know it was my own task. To know myself, to figure out my place in this world, and to in fact love my own being. When I was 18 I realized my feelings towards mom were negative. In fact highly negative. I was shocked at what lay within me. Was I not a ‘nice Christian girl’? How could I have such terrible feelings inside of me – and now that I was aware of them, what in the world do I do?
The feelings I had towards mom I realize now were perhaps a tremendous gift in my life because they served as a catalyst for tremendous growth, insight, personal development and healing.
Part of this healing – which would continue to evolve over the next 28 years – was to go on an adventure to really discover not only who I was, but who my mother truly was as well. My mother was the oldest of 4 children, one of who died in infancy. She loved her parents, but often as she grew older took on the role of caretaker for both parents as well as her younger two brothers, one who is 5 years younger and one who is 10 years younger. When she was in nurses training, she would work hard all week in studies and then come home on the weekends. What would she do on the weekends? Would she rest and recover? Enjoy home-cooked meals and be taken care of? No – it was the other way around. Mom cleaned the house for her mother, made food for the whole family and nurtured them so that she could then return to her studies on Sunday evening. Her mother was often sick in those years and stayed in bed with migraine headaches. Mom saw what needed to be done and took care of those around her. It became her DNA – her natural way of being. She carried this with her into her marriage and in service to the communities where my father pastored. She fed, she clothed, she created, she served and served and served and served.
Sitting still, pondering, and dreaming were alien concepts to her.
Imagine then, to have a daughter that did just that.
That was me.
She fed me, she clothed me, she provided for me – but she didn’t fully know me or understand me.
But as I as an adult investigated her story, it helped me to understand who my mother truly was – her greatness, her compassion, her sense of calling, duty and fierce determination even in poverty. Her sense of hospitality and generosity. Her awareness of providing practical gifts and warm food. Her fierce determination to will things into being.
To sit still was a sin. To rest was to betray the self.
Imagine the title of my first CD – ‘rest’.
Imagine that her daughter is going on a ‘silent’ retreat.
The question that mom would ask me as I discovered myself and found myself on my own unique path of discover – is
WHY would you CHOOSE silence?
WHY would you like labyrinths?
WHY would sing those Taize songs?
WHY would you do any of those things?
WHY? With a look of perplexion…
Her WHY questions pained me. It caused feelings of not being known or understood. At worst, not being loved.
But as I put myself in her shoes, looking at me – I could understand that I was a little outside her comfort zone.
And I had to find peace within myself. It took a very long time.
I have journeyed this journey for many, many years.
I came to a place of knowing that I am made exactly how God wanted me to be made – and that God delights in my artistry, creativity, dreaminess, and abstractness. I came to peace with knowing I am celebrated for the woman that I am in all my complexities and idiosyncrasies. And the more I learned to deeply love myself, the more I was able to love mom in return. I loved her fierceness, her strength, her determination and zest and I realized those qualities lay within me as well. For the first time, I could embrace the beauty of those qualities without diminishing my true nature.
One of the gifts of this journey was to realize that as I was able to bring my healed self to mom, even though she did not always understand me, she began to treat me more as an equal – another woman who could hold her own and stand for herself. I felt her respect for my decisions even though they were often perplexing to her.
And so we journeyed side by side these many years – discovering more of each other and living into the reality of our lives, our differences, our similarities, our care for each other.
I grew to look forward to my times with mom – especially treating her to get her nails done or buy some new clothing. These are things she wouldn’t do for herself but I realized how much she enjoyed someone else taking charge. I enjoyed bantering with her and teasing her and prying out her fierceness so I could tap into her lion’s roar. I grew to love her as she is and celebrate the woman that she had become in her life.
When mom entered hospice, I was in the beginning of recording my second solo CD album which is being released this fall, i am she…a soul’s journey home. I chose to be more vulnerable with mom than I normally have been in my creative ventures. I began to share with mom all the songs for this upcoming album in their ‘pre-production’ version…recorded personally on my MAC computer. For an 11 day period I sent her a song a day with the story of each song behind it. I was a little nervous doing so, but wanted to risk my heart. She began to listen to the songs and read the stories.
To my surprise, the songs touched her deeply and she told me some things she had never told me before. Especially of the longings to sing that her own father carried that largely lay unfulfilled. The harmonies that she heard on my songs reminded her of her own father and his singing with his brothers. It evoked something profound in her that she was able to express to me perhaps more fully than she ever had before.
I no longer ‘needed’ her to see me or to understand me. But perhaps more than ever before, she did.
She lay her hands on me and blessed me. She celebrated my songs, my creativity and passion. In one of our final conversations as I shared my longings and dreams for the days ahead in my own life, instead of responding with her past response of ‘why’?
She said these two words I will never forget:
Thanks mom….missing you