written by my wonderful sister, Lynne
to comfort my brother,
the year before the passing of our mother.
I don't for one minute believe that the body in the wheelchair is my mother. It is my mother's shell. It is the thing she used in this life to move about, to hug us, to walk us to school, to attend our concerts, to clap for our performances. That body still reminds me of my lover for her. But, it is not that body that I ever loved.
When we are young, and seeing the world through our automatic eyes, we think – somehow – that we are our bodies. We are not our bodies. We are something much more than that. Our body is the container for who we are. That "who we are" can not be seen. The miracle of the body is that it gives us something to hold on to in this dimension. Something that feels real and concrete.
But, oddly enough the body is not real and concrete. It is the part that will decay and pass away. What feels real is the temporary carcass, the suitcase of the soul. What we loved is the soul itself – the energy of goodness, love, kindness, and generosity. I do believe that the human spirit is something we know exists. However, we can't see it or touch it. If the spirit is not of this corporal world, then it does not disappear when the body is gone. I think the empty eyes tell us this. That the spirit is free already and that her loving goodness is still all around us.
I am not one for religion. I despise what religion has done to this world in the name of God. However, religion and believing are two different things. I believe that there is more to the human spirit than just some chemical/electrical impulse. I don't have any idea what our spirit is like, or where it resides, or how it gets expressed, or where it goes when we sleep or when we die. I don't know where it came from or how many lives it has lived. I don't know what happens when we leave this brief experience on what we call the earth. I don't know anything about anything. And, what's so interesting about that, I don't care that I don't know anything about it. What could I do about it anyway?
All I know is that in each and every life there is an opportunity. The opportunity of a lifetime is to find a way to express your spirit in this plane. In this lifetime we have a brief moment to create something and to be it. We can create a life of love, kindness, and generosity or we can create a life of anger, resentment, and war. We can choose to connect with others or we can choose to keep ourselves separate from others. We can choose to live in joy – the result of sharing and building relationships with others – or we can choose to live in glee – the adrenalin rush that comes from dominating and destroying others. Glee diminishes our humanity. Joy expands us.
Our mother represents the complete expression of Joy on this planet. Through everything, she kept her loving, her laughter, and her generosity alive. She kept pouring it out even in those moments that it did not make any sense to go on with it. She gave it to those who "did not deserve it". She gave it when it was not returned. She didn't withhold from anyone. This is her legacy. This is why we miss her: because we feel the void that is left when that kind of spirit passes out of the world around us and into whatever existence is next. I really feel sorry for the rest of the world. Most humans don't get to live in the same house with that kind of possibility for loving.
Missing mom is missing the possibility of loving completely, unconditionally and with full abandon. So, in her honor, find a way to bring that to your daily living. Find a way to bring that generosity of spirit into all your conversations and relationships.
It was in the void created by the absence of mom's passion for life that we discovered something new. We discovered a much quieter version of unconditional love and the ability for raw persistence against all obstacles. We saw a new kind of generosity. A quiet willingness to get up every day and do the things you do not want to do because you are who you are. We saw what it is like to keep your word to another person, even when the world would find it reasonable to let you break it. We saw something in our Father that honors integrity at a level most people are even afraid to think about for fear of finding themselves so lacking. It was there – all along – for all these years. It was hidden behind the more obvious giving away of coats and attending parents' night. It was there in the miles he spent on his knees earning prom dresses, haircuts, piano lessons, trumpets, baseball mitts, and keeping a roof over our ungrateful heads. It was there when we expressed our obvious teenage distain for parents and all things parental. It was there when he picked us up from school, took us to concerts, dropped us at the mall, retrieved us from jail or some other place we should not have been. It was there when he took our furniture from home to apartment to home to apartment, from city to city, state to state. It was there when he saved us from those who would abuse us. It was there when we didn't follow life's rules and did all kinds of things to embarrass the family name. And while mom got all kings of love and honor for her more obvious version of generosity and goodness, Dad kept to the background, quietly keeping up his commitment to fulfilling his promise. I'm not always sure if he really knew what it was he had promised. I can often imagine him thinking: "How the heck did I get into this mess?" But, question or not, he kept doing whatever was needed. He just kept moving forward.
There are many mornings I wake up and I don't want to do what I have to do today. I try to honor my father by living a responsible life. I try to work hard, to do the best quality work I can do, to honor my agreements, to keep my promises, and to live with integrity. I keep working even when I am tired of working. I keep going on even inside the question: "How the heck did I get into this mess?" I just keep moving forward.
That is the lesson I have learned late in my life – that all there is in this life is love and integrity. And, you can't really have one with out the other. Love is the emotion we feel. Integrity is the action that brings love into being.
Thank you to both of my parents for these lessons.