One year ago my mother passed away. Lou Gehrig ‘s disease had won the life battle declared about a year before. My mother was no match for this dreadful disease.
Like many other people my relationship with my mother was not an easy one. And after a year I can finally sort out the mixed feelings I had around her death.
The death of a parent places you in a different time and space that are not necessarily easy to accept. If you do though, you grow. Whether consciously or not, new beliefs are installed on life purpose, on life meaning and on the interconnection of all human beings.
Until both parents are dead, it is difficult to see yourself beyond them. They are the reference point that has been there always. With this gone, one has no choice but seeing deeper, further and wider. We all need reference points to come back to when necessary. After the death of my parents I truly and freely get to choose them.
Isn’t that adulthood?
Death is not viewed the same way everywhere in the world. In Asia where cycles are part of a cultural understanding, death is just one step before something else. According to our religious beliefs what comes after death belongs to the spiritual. My purpose here is not to go there: what I just want to highlight is that these questions around death arise out of losing people as close as your parents. It is part of the grieving process to choose what you feel about that.
My philosophy has always been that things happen for a reason, that we are all part of a universal order that goes way beyond us. With that in mind I have always believed that in every challenge lies a lesson to learn. It does not make challenges easier; it makes them purposeful.
The easy route is always to fall into victimhood, and leave to the world the responsibility for everything in our lives. This is so disempowering that this is not an option I like.
What kind of power is left to you when death takes away someone you love?
I believe that it gives you the opportunity to understand what true love is about.
At the time when Valentine’s day superficial and artificial marketing gives a false sense of what love is about, it is interesting to put true love in perspective.
True love is about accepting what the person you love decides to do for her self. We all know that loving somebody is loving who that person is, and not who we would want that person to be. This is particularly difficult when you are a parent because of the guiding role that all parents have. And the line between healthy suggestions and projections of the child, then the adult we would love Junior to be, is blurry.
With death, there is no turning back, no procrastination, no debate. The living ones are left to deal with themselves and the memory of the one who left. Love is not the consequence of an interaction anymore: it is a deep feeling nested in our heart, as pure and beautiful as can be.
In my case what my mother did or did not became suddenly irrelevant. All the negative feelings I had at some point vanished and I could review my life with her with a new perspective.
One of the most challenging times in the months prior to her death was when she refused to clear some mess with her relatives. It was beyond my own understanding that knowing she was going to die, she would not want to get things straight, forgive and ask for forgiveness with those she was going to leave for good.
Reflecting back on that it is no surprise though. My mother had no capacity to question anything in her life, and her philosophy had always been absolute victimhood. Why the perspective of death, perceived as deeply unfair, would have changed that?
For the first time I realized that I could love her anyway, despite everything.
My mother chose a path that I would not have chosen for myself: she fought for the wrong things, and she did not fight for the right ones. Her end is a direct consequence of that. So many times I felt hopelessness trying to help her. And witnessing the downhill of the end was difficult.
It took me years to understand and digest the following:
Whatever her life was, it was her life.
All the choices she made were her choices based on her view.
All I had done was share the road with her for a period of time. I was not my mother: how could I know the deep reasons of her behavior?
Then this is reciprocal. Parents have little understanding of their children once these children are adults. And although it can be comforting to keep one’s reference point in one’s parents, it cannot be accurate. The true reference point is only one’s own.
As the reference point switched from her to me, I could finally love her for who ever she was with all her imperfections and all her perfections.
Women have been bread for generations to keep their reference point with their parents until their husband took over the responsibility. No wonder women are mostly so insecure! At no point in recent history they have been taught, unlike men, to be self reliant, to internalize this reference point.
For some time I felt guilt over the fact that my mother’s death was liberating for me. And in fact it is sad that any death be liberating not mentioning your own mother.
Think one second what life suddenly would be without your life partner. Imagine him or her dead and gone. Review your life with that person. Visualize him or her in front of you and see what you feel. If you feel what I do thinking about my husband well you feel pure love, that kind of love that goes beyond words and time.
When you feel this true love you will be spontaneously guided to communicate it to your partner one way or the other.
Death reminds us that life is a gift. Not only we should all be grateful to be alive, we should also bless the fact that we have someone too share our lives with.
Love is way more than the size of a bouquet or the size of a diamond. Let’s all be grateful that we have someone who cares next to us each day.