Each of us owes a death. This may at first sound a bit morbid. But in fact is illuminating, freeing and empowering. The acceptance, even better a personal experience or confrontation with, one’s own mortality is the single most powerful and illuminating experience one can have. But more importantly, how we respond or react to the realization of our own inevitable mortality, how we integrate this knowledge, awareness or experience into our world-view, is what sets the boys apart from the men, the princesses from the goddesses, and the disillusioned from the enlightened.
We can learn a great deal from death. My mother is now facing her own mortality. Yet, in spite of the natural fear we all have of our own death, and in spite of the terrible pain she is enduring as the cancer spreads through her body, my mother is showing remarkable strength, remarkable courage and has fully accepted the reality that she has very little time left on this Earth. She is upbeat, looks forward to each time we visit and just loves to reminisce and share stories or laughs about happier times, especially when we are going through old photos. I truly admire and respect the stoic, noble and courageous manner in which my mother is dealing with her own mortality.
What follows are some recent events, thoughts and emotions around some of my own struggles with family, abuse, estrangement, reconciliation and mortality. What follows is also a testament to the courageous and noble manner in which my mother is responding to her terminal illness. What follows is also my commitment to do all that I can to ensure my mother leaves this Earth loved, respected, cared for and most of all, happy and content. What follows is the start of what will be many more articles and stories about this courageous and noble woman – my mother – my own First Goddess.
Wednesday, March 28th 2012 began as a day filled with hope, optimism and excitement anticipating what the future may hold. I had an interview (which I believe went very well) with a large technology company which I have admired in the past. So I was feeling pretty good, pretty proud of myself and excited about the opportunity. However, a simple phone call at the end of the day, reminded me of the fickle, impersonal and indiscriminate manner in which the universe unfolds before us and shapes our lives. First, a bit of background. As a result of years of violent abuse from my mother I left home at 16 and although there were a few attempts to maintain some sort of relationship over the years, on March 30th 1992 I ended all contact. On Wednesday, March 28th 2012 (two days from the 20 year anniversary of my last contact) I heard from my brother that our mother was dying from cancer.
In order to psychologically regroup, and try to regenerate the courage and focus needed to get me through the next few months, weeks or maybe even days, I temporarily put aside my thoughts, my feelings, my pain and watched a movie (World’s Greatest Dad) with my love. As it turns out, a movie about a man who strives to recreate a fictional, yet dignified story and noble legacy which honors the image and memories left behind of a recently deceased loved-one. A loved-one, a family member, whose true life and real character were marked with pain, suffering, malice, cruelty and likely regret and shame. Given the plot of that movie, what that phone call signified, my childhood experiences, the decisions I now face and the inevitable and terminal reality of future events, I see now that the universe does indeed have a sense of humor. At the very least a twisted sense of irony.
Many years ago I was in the (regular) habit of placing myself in situations where I had the privilege, the honor, the good fortune of experiencing and realizing the inevitability of my own mortality. There is NO EXPERIENCE or ILLUMINATING AWARENESS more powerful or beneficial in the shaping of one’s perspective on life, than the one gained through the honest, non-judgmental and unmistakable realization of the impermanent nature of all things – particularly one’s own brief, fragile and mortal existence. Those experiences gave me, continue to give me, a truly honest, sincere and indifferent attitude towards my own mortality, free of judgment. One’s own mortality neither is, nor is not, an inevitability deserving of judgment, anxiety or fear. No more an inevitability deserving of judgment, anxiety or fear than the certainty of the rising sun, the color of the sky or the sound of the falling rain on a tin roof. It is what it is, we ALL owe a death. This is an EMPOWERING REALIZATION and not something to be feared or ignored.
My life could end at any time and if I had a moment to reflect, I believe those existential and perspective-gathering experiences in my life would absolve me of all fear. I would like to believe that when I am once again faced with my own mortality, I would sit tall in the saddle, secure my hat, snap the reins and charge headlong towards the Ocean of Transcendent Reality, riding a steed empowered with Perfect Courage and True Grit. But that would be how I believe, how I would like to think, I will face my own inevitable mortality. Now that I am facing the mortality of my own mother, I have no steed, I have no courage, I have no True Grit.
Fortunately I am a fighter. I am unafraid of a challenge. I am always willing to develop and expand my own capacities and move beyond failure, beyond seemingly insurmountable obstacles and beyond my own limitations. I hold in my hands, in my intentions, in my words and actions, the ability, the opportunity, the potential to show unconditional love, unlimited compassion and hopefully, a few more moments of unbridled joy and happiness for the First Goddess in my life. She may not have begun or lived a filled with much joy, much love or free of regret and shame. But I WILL BE DAMNED if she doesn’t leave this world surrounded by love, embraced by compassion and imbued with the nobility, grace and dignity she deserves!
NOBODY exists, if not by WOMAN FIRST. We are ALL preceded by our own First Goddess. For this alone, each of us owes a debt of existence to our mothers. I only hope I can find the strength, the courage to give due justice, due payment and due respect for my own First Goddess – my mother.
Why is Mom Laughing?
You might be wondering what I did or said that made my mother laugh so hard in this photo on the day we reconnected after being estranged nearly 25 years. I told my mom the story of when I was around 14 and I was catching the bus to Ambleside Beach in West Van. I was at a bus stop sitting on the ground in my swim trunks and a t-shirt, with my knees pulled up to my chest. There were these three young girls across the street who were looking at me and giggling. I never had a girlfriend, or even any girls that liked me before so was feeling pretty popular, feeling like “the big man on campus”. “Look at those girls checking me out“, I probably thought to myself. “Maybe I am not such a dork after all“. Well, I might have thought that until I realized my testicles had slipped out of my shorts and were prominently displayed like hairy purple golf balls for all to see. Well, you can see my mom’s reaction to the story. It pleased me immensely to be able to make her laugh like that.