Divine place within me that is my mother

“The kindest and most meaningful thing anyone ever said to me is: Your mother would be proud of you… The strange and painful truth is that I’m a better person because I lost my mom young. When you say you experienced my writing as sacred, what you are touching is the divine place within me that is my mother. Sugar is the temple I built in my obliterated place. I’d give it all back in a snap, but the fact is, my grief taught me things… It required me to suffer. It compelled me to reach.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

It’s been another three months since my mom died. Nine months total now. I don’t know how time just keeps moving, it doesn’t make sense. The world should have stopped, it did stop in many ways. But the sand just keeps falling through my fingers no matter how hard I want everything to go back to how it was when my mom was available to me 24/7.

I’ve read many, many books on death since my mom died. As with television and movies, I have come to realize now that death is everywhere, and I never saw it so glaringly before. I’ve been making myself cry on purpose. I find that if I try to “get it out” on the way to work, on my lunch, and on the drive home (almost an hour drive each way), then I don’t have random outbursts while at work or at home. Except, you know, when you come across a random postcard on top of the fridge that your mom had sent your husband from Maui on a trip – then I do break, completely. The sheer speed of how my gut wrenching sobs come to the surface makes me feel like they’re not even deep down, they just sit right there, ready at a moment’s notice and without notice.

One of the best books I’ve ever read, before and after Momageddon, is Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. I even got my mom to read it in her last months. Before my mom died I loved it for its raw empathy and unparalleled advice. After my mom died, I cannot believe the way she is able to express what her mom meant to her and wrap the experience of her mother’s life and death, and the effect it has had and continues to have on her own life, into almost every story. Which is exactly what I want to do! Your kid learned to walk? I have a picture of me when I took my first step, my mom is laying on the couch behind me, she’d had a cold and was laying down that evening. You got a raise at work? I quit my job of almost 19 years just after my mom died and am now the low man on the totem pole again. I, too, want my mom to still be in everything. She certainly is for me, but I want her to be for everyone else in the entire world!

I had read Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild a few years ago, and I remember liking it, but thinking that she rambled on and on about her dead mom a bit much. I can’t believe my obliviousness. I reread it a couple of months ago and could relate fundamentally to everything she felt and thought and did. I watched the movie with my older daughter, and we ended up sobbing quite grandiosely.

I’m finding solace in other’s sorrow, in other’s pain. Do you have a dead mom? Instant BFFs.

My own BFFs have very infrequently contacted me. Two friends have messaged me the same amount as before, but two others are almost ignoring me. It’s painful. It’s quite unbelievable how uncomfortable people are with death. I just want to talk about my mom! Ask me about her! Tell me something you remember about her!! Please, it’s all I have left of her, those memories. Please say her name. Tell me a funny story, I beg of you.

I’ve learned that my mom is in me. I’m half of her DNA, and she taught me almost everything I know, molded my core beliefs, and nourished and encouraged each and every dream I’ve ever had. The love I have for her, and the love she had/has for me, it’s all still here within me. I know how much she loves me, I feel it. It’s bubbling up and out my tear ducts right now. It’s one of the strongest feelings I’ve ever felt, and I can tap into it whenever I need it.

The goodness that people say I have, the sparkle people tell me about, that is all from the fact that my mother took my precious, brand new soul, and let it blossom without forcing it to be anything other than what it is. I am a raw and genuine being, because of my mom.

When Cheryl Strayed said the above quote about her mother, in response to a reader telling her that they felt something akin to a spiritual experience when they read her words, she replied by saying “When you say you experienced my writing as sacred, what you are touching is the divine place within me that is my mother.” And she continued to build a temple in that place. I feel the foundation of that temple being formed within myself. I’m aware of the woman my mother helped inspire within me, and the woman that has had to stand on her own since my sense of gravity, my mom, left me.

I have found the courage she always said was there.

The wisdom I had set aside to tap into.

The love she has for me, as a thick, handmade, lovingly stitched and quilted blanket that I use as a cloak to wrap around my weary soul and comfort me at all times. I felt it settle over me the night before she died. I had just laid down at 1:00 am after leaving the hospital for a quick nap, and I must have already gone into that fuzzy in-between place, when a felt a heavy blanket being laid on me and my husband. I bolted up and asked him if he felt it. He mumbled nonsense and continued to sleep. I knew it was mom, tucking me in. I did not know she was going to die just hours later once I got back to the hospital, at 6:30 am.

I have everything I need within me, whether I relate it all to my mom’s life and death or not. She taught me that.

For now, being nine months away from the day she died, it’s all about her.

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