the rainbow comes and goes, and lovely is the rose, the moon doth with delight look round her when the heavens are bare, waters on a starry night are beautiful and fair; the sunshine is a glorious birth; but yet I know, where'er I go, that there hath passed away a glory from the earth.
An old school friend of mine lost her mama this week. Her mama was Clara, a lady whose life converged with my family’s history and made our story better for having her in it. She was a beautiful, gentle, loving person, a special friend to many; but to her children she was the beginning of love itself. To not have her here with them now must be so hard to come to terms with.
Losing your Ma is a journey I know well. It’s the trip you never want to take, the inevitable traverse through times that test and trouble the very fabric of our identity. Because, who are we without our mothers? Can we walk through life without them? Can we possibly take the torch of their wisdom in our families and communities… are we even ready for that?
I remember how Mum’s death was a relief and also a shock. We’d been with her as she battled seven years of cancer. So it was a relief to know the pain was gone, the struggle ended. But I wasn’t prepared for the finality of death. The absolute ‘gone’ of death. No more smiling waves and see-ya-laters. No more one-more-times.
The strongest feeling I had the day of my Mum’s death was a feeling of being little girl lost. I remember being about four, lost in the shopping mall. It was a terrifying feeling; an empty wide chasm of fear and abandonment opened up in my little heart.
I retraced the way we had come, hoping to find her back in time. She was nowhere. The tears obscured my vision, I sat down and howled. A nice lady took my hand and led me to the mall head office. I was placated with a lollipop and the loudspeaker called my Mum. When she found me there, my relief was complete.
Losing her to death reminded me of that feeling I’d had as a child. I didn’t know if I could do life without her. I didn’t know how I could carry all the weight of my love for her, now I couldn’t give it to her anymore. I wished there was a Universal loud speaker system that could bring her back to me.
In some ways, there is. I see her in the beauty of life, even in the peonies that are slowly fading in the vase. I feel her when I am mothering like she did. I hear her words coming out of my own mouth and I see her expressions in my daughter’s beautiful face. I didn’t know if I could do life without her, but I have. I didn’t think I could carry all that love, but I do. Sometimes, I give some of it back to myself. I mother myself because she can’t do it anymore.
I still cry a lot about losing my mum. Things set me off. Like trimming our Christmas tree, or a song, or seeing a mother and her grown daughter meandering together through a mall. Sometimes just talking with my siblings or hearing a laugh like hers can do it. Seeing my children do something my Mum will never see them do. Watching from afar as Clara’s family gracefully carried her through her final days. The triggers are everywhere. The sudden upsurges of grief never far from overwhelming me.
I will always miss her. I will always yearn for her to be here with me still. That’s the nature of love. There’s no time limit on grief, it is just an ever present part of life without her.
This poem meant a lot to me during the early days of Mum’s absence. I return to it, days like today, when we are remembering the beautiful woman that Mum’s friend Clara was. She will be so missed.
Daniella, Geoff and all of the Tabor/Ila clan, my heart is with your hearts. It is so hard to travel the days without your Mama. I know you will find strength in what remains behind. But I wish she hadn’t had to leave so soon. I imagine in heaven, our mamas will be together. It’s nice to think of them together.
Love to you all from my family. Clara was one in a million. A truly beautiful soul.
we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind; in the primal sympathy which having been must ever be; in the soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering; in the faith that looks through death, in years that bring the philosophic mind.
The poem is ‘Intimations of Immortality’ by William Wordsworth.
The flowers are my vase of peonies that I can’t bear to throw away; every day they seem more beautiful, even as they draw near to the end.