A cell phone rings in the early morning hours four days before my twenty-sixth birthday; I’m sound asleep. This particular call was one I could sense coming before the phone even rang. I had a bad intuitive feeling as to the news that would accompany it, which is why at 3:35am, I silenced the ringer. Ten seconds later the urgency of the matter would ring through, and this time I had no choice but to put the phone to my ear and accept the news. Something had gone terribly wrong.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, a complication in my mother’s initial chemo treatment resulted in a sudden onset of Sepsis. Sepsis, a word unknown to me before that day, had suddenly taken center stage in my life. I was told she wouldn’t make it through the next twenty-four hours. But my mother fought hard, beat the odds and survived that first day, only to be left a sharp mind in a destroyed body. We spent her last year living together before she passed away on a beautiful March morning. On this day, my life was turned upside down. Like a newborn child, I desperately tried to make sense of my frightening and unfamiliar new surroundings. Only this time I was on my own, crying alone, wondering if there was any way she could hear my call.
Overcoming a mother’s death is a journey into the unknown. After losing my mother, life itself became an unknown. I was lost, adrift in a turbulent world trying to get a hold. How was I to overcome the daunting task of sailing forward in life through these emotional tidal waves of pain, sorrow and uncertainty without her? How could I move on when the very foundation on which my life was built was robbed from me? How could I find my way after the light that had lead me my entire life was suddenly blown out? From that moment onwards I was forced on an inward journey to redefine my life, and rediscover my place in it.
My mother’s death was a sudden and overwhelming shock, yet present in her last breath was an audible sigh of sweet relief. Her suffering over, mine would endure as long as I allowed it to reign over me. If I was to survive, or ever thrive again, I had to reinterpret everything I thought I knew about what it meant to be alive. I started this journey by enrolling into complimentary hospice grief counseling services in my local community and there I began drafting a new definition of life and death. There I found the courage to be vulnerable in my emotions, learn from loss and ultimately redefine our relationship together. In honor of my mother, I set out and forged my way through this dark absent abyss and re-emerged on the other side full of wonder, gratitude, and love for all she taught me from the great beyond.
I know now there are no shortcuts through grief, it takes time to console a wounded soul. Two years later, still riding in death’s transcendent wake, I had a revelation. A newfound perspective provided an opportunity to restore an ethereal bond with my mother. By taking a deep look within myself, I came to see how our relationship existed beyond the illusory walls of our physical reality. After considerable spiritual and scientific study, I came to understand that our universe is made up entirely of vibrating particles of energy. All matter, including the bodies we occupy along with the spark that animates them, is immortal, passing through infinite transformations as we travel the seasons of birth, growth, decay, and death over and over again. I discovered that nothing in this universe ever dies, and that at the core of her being my mother continues to exist as an extension of pure radiant eternal consciousness. Present in this new awareness, my grief gradually waned.
Overcoming loss is something we all have to experience. Ultimately, it comes down to the acceptance that death is a necessary catalyst in the creation of new life. I may no longer have a tangible physical relationship with my mother, that pain will always ring true. But what I do have is an intangible spiritual connection that cannot be broken by the cycle of life and death. Beyond and within the reach of my physical senses is a world in which the spirits of those we’ve lost are alive and well. From this enlightened interpretation I was able to finally decipher that sigh of relief present in her last breath. As she escaped her physical form, so too did she leave behind all the pain and suffering associated with her body. After years of endless struggle, she was finally free again.
Her loss taught me to recognize the precious gift of life present in every breath. Yet, at the same time, it showed me that our essence is not defined by what we have, but by who we are, and who we will always be. Thank you, Mom for teaching me such an important lesson.