How long has it been?
Sometimes it seems only last week that my mother died, tho it’s been over 18 months. But the ache comes back at times with such intensity that I feel it may never go away.
Just this morning I was reduced to tears and sobbing by the simple act of pouring cream into a glass of iced coffee. My mother loved iced coffee. With cream, but “only if it’s not stirred!” she always said. She loved the way the cream swirled into the dark coffee.
Watching it swirl in my coffee this morning, I could remember her sitting at my kitchen counter, holding her glass up to admire the cream swirling among the ice cubes. I’ll never see that again, except in my mind.
Why that creates such exquisite pain I can’t explain. Grief is such a complex thing. It swirls through one’s life like the heavy white cream lazily drifting around the ice cubes in the black coffee, slowly, ever so slowly blending in, settling at the bottom over time – until you pick up the glass and tip it to sip, then the swirling begins again. And only after many tips and swirls does it finally blend in totally, becoming part of one’s life.
Meditation practice, particularly Vipassana practice, helps with the process.
As I felt the stabs of pain brought on by the recollections of my mother this morning, I was able to move to that quiet place in my mind where I observed each level and layer of sensation: beginning with the constriction of the throat, the sting of tears, moving on through the ragged breath, the pressure inside my head, the tightness in the abdomen, the contortions of the facial muscles, then sobs shaking my body.
I was home alone, so I could just release, accept, not resist and supress. I sat down in the window seat and just held my face in my hands, letting it roll through me. It was not a fun moment, not one I would invite back in, but it was — well, it was just sensation.
And somehow, though I was certainly experiencing it fully, and the tears were real, there was in that quiet place the ability to focus on each sensation with the understanding that it was all gonna be okay. I don’t suppose that made it hurt any less, but I think it made it pass more quickly and not leave any scars on my morning.
I think it was the many hours on the cushion, many hours in simple life situations, practicing being aware of sensation that made me able to be aware of those sensations. And each time I go through one of these experiences, it seems to get a bit easier. The sankharas there are eased a bit.
One day maybe I’ll be able to remember those moments and just smile. Ah, Mother, I love you so much!
Oh John that’s so moving. I do empathise. It’s just over 2 years since my Dad died and our beloved dog followed shortly afterwards, 2 years ago this coming Tuesday. We all have our own ways of grieving. I came across the following passage which helped me enormously. Hope it helps you too:
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
Thanks Maryanne! I appreciate your comments, and the bit about the physicist is great! Love it! Amen! Was just at my aunt’s funeral on Tuesday, so guess I’m sensitized to this part of life at the moment.
I’m so glad you liked ‘the physicist’. To be honest I was a bit scared after I’d sent it that you might have found it offensive. I love to think that my Dad is all around even though I can’t see him. So sorry about your aunt.
I could see Dixie when you were describing her at your kitchen counter. I love your mom too and sometimes feel her beautiful energy with me and I smile!
Thank you for sharing this and I am grieving myself and trying to live it consciously as well. Life is a wonderful journey!
Thanks Bettina! I’m honored you’re reading this! Thanks for your perspective… hope things are going well for you! I think of you often!