page twenty-nine: Loving Mother Some More
It has been over 5 years since my mother passed away and not a day has gone by without my thinking about her. Although I can no longer pick up the phone and speak with her as I did (regularly, and in the months before she passed, every day), her voice, her words, her energy is with me all the time. Sometimes supportive, often critical, but always there and available as she had been in her lifetime. When I was young, it terrified me to think of the day when she would die. But as it has turned out, I did survive her loss, thanks to my immediate family, siblings, and good friends and continue to find meaning in this new reality without her physical presence.
Mother was an extraordinarily strong woman. In 2008, when her cancer returned after its first round, she refused conventional treatment and said she was not afraid to die. To everyone’s surprise she continued to live, with almost no medical intervention, for another 8 years! While admired by many and very successful in her work life (she was the administrator of a large hospital in India), as a mother she was tough. She held her three children to very high standards that none of us felt we ever really met.
Married at 18 before she could complete her education, she was more attached to the idea of our academic success than the average parent. Torn between her personal ambitions and a culture that held a woman's career as secondary to a man's, she raised my sister and me with mixed messages that both reflected her confusion and would leave us with the same legacy. So many unfulfilled dreams from her life formed the backdrop of her role as a mother. While she was always there for us, her presence always carried a censorious note that had us constantly on the defense.
But her death has changed all that. In finally allowing me the freedom to explore who I want to be, it has also allowed me to see my mother for who she was, to re-interpret her, not from my fear of falling short of her expectations but from eyes of love, woman to woman, mother to mother. I can see clearly now that both her aspirations for us, as well as her frustrations, came from deep affection and a desperate desire for us to live our lives more fully than she had or could.
Revisiting the old memories with love, not fear, has enabled an appreciation and gratitude for her efforts while releasing any lingering traces of conflicts between us. As I also now reflect upon my performance as a mother, I realize that while I may not have repeated my mother’s way of parenting, I have my own brand of imperfections, born of the particular stressors present in my life.
Ultimately our mothering another can only be as good or as bad as Life itself has mothered us. Where we are when our children are born to us, both spiritually and physically, is a big determinant of how we mother. My son was born in India when we lived with my husband’s extended family. Six years later our daughter came into this world, here in the United States, after I had gone through the growth that comes from travel and leaving family and home. I can see how I was a different mother to each of my children as a result. When I start worrying about what that might mean for their distant future, I find solace from the teachings of the Eastern spiritual traditions that say that each child is a soul that picks its family and time of birth to draw forth the parenting necessary for its chosen journey of stumbling and learning. With this view, at the end of the day, no matter how we were mothered or how we mother, it all falls in line with a larger plan for the evolution of our consciousness.
It has taken 5 long years since my mother’s passing, for me to enter a new relationship with her. Digging through many memories, both good and bad, I feel I have finally completed my excavations to uncover and appreciate the original soul that she was, beautiful and loving behind her tough personality. Interesting that the word “personality” comes from the Latin word “persona” or mask, suggesting that the defenses and appearances we often project in each of our relationships hides the real person.
Just like my mother we all have our unique masks that we believe will protect, help, and guide our children to a better future. And just like her, we are all worthy, despite our often messy and flawed masks, of having our original self be seen, received, and celebrated - on Mother’s Day and throughout life. And if this true uncovering of one’s spirit cannot be accomplished during our time on earth, perhaps our children will undertake to do their own digging to resurrect our authentic spirit beyond our lifetime. As I now know, death does not end our relationship to our mothers. It only opens the door to birthing a new one- deeper and more profound.