Nestled in the warmth of my bed, I wake slowly to the sun’s cool, gentle rays. It is cold and gray outside on this Easter morning, yet the rain seems fitting and good. After all, today marks the one year anniversary of my dear mother’s death, and I wonder if the skies are not crying for the loss of her light. I listen quietly as the light rain falls with its gentle pitter-patter. The whisper of the rain soothes me and comforts me; it is a friend on this unfolding day. I snuggle more deeply into the soft haven of blanket and sheets, yet I feel the day calling. Stretching, my arms and legs reach long, and I am ready to bound out of bed. Tucked in the warmth of my robe I move about the kitchen, smiling as I notice that my footsteps seem to follow the steady, gentle rhythm of the falling rain.
The rain continues to fall as Pup and I wait at the base of the Spring Lake path. My eyes search for my sister and niece; Pup’s eyes search for dogs and rabbits. My hair, still wet from my morning shower, gets wetter still as the minutes pass on. I am chilledPup normally runs from the rain, but he is different today. With the spring air so alive with wild scents, he doesn’t seem to notice the raindrops dancing off his fur. Impatient to begin his jaunt, Pup pulls me ahead. I follow, happy to chase away the chill with our fast-paced trek up the muddy path. I feel certain that we’ll intersect with my walking buddies along the way. My sister and I have walked these paths together before, and she knows my delightful, meandering route. The raindrops begin to pour with increasing enthusiasm, and I smile into the steely gray sky. It is good to be out on this Easter morning, to move, to watch, to feel, to be alive.
I anticipated that today would be filled with melancholy tears, for the past week had been touched with quiet spurts of weepy sadness. Recollections of the slow, torturous process that led my mother into death’s arms had snuck in to haunt me now and again. Silent tears had trickled down my cheeks whenever they would. I asked for no explanation and allowed the tears to come as I meditated, walked, cooked, and pondered. I knew the root of my tears. I understood their source and purpose. I missed my mother’s presence. I grieved her passing. I longed for her and cried for her, but I had come to accept her passing. Yet now, under the cover of the sky’s wet display, no tears appear. I pause to stare out over the lush hillsides of the beauty I am blessed to call home. I close my eyes as raindrops pelt my uplifted face. What do I feel? I am not dry or closed inside. I am receptive and curious. For now, I am at peace. For the moment, it seems, my spirit wishes to be still and serene. Still, I am unsure where today will take me. Pup and I move onward, and I continue open my heart and my thoughts. Let them take me where they may. Two geese call stridently as they fly overhead, and their trumpeting turns my gaze skyward. I realize the rain has turned to soft, comforting mist. It is, indeed, a gorgeous day.
Turning the bend, I see my sister’s small frame and the shining face of my precious, beautiful niece at her side. Pup and I are delighted to see them, and he bounds forth with his tail swinging in welcome. It is good to chat, to share the morning, and to know the pleasant ease of being with ones I hold dear. We talk of the simple and not-so-simple things of life. We share thoughts and stories of family, Easter, and friendships. There is nowhere else I would rather be, and I cherish each step, knowing that such sweet times are often too few and far between. We follow the last undulating path away from the lake, and I realize that our time together has passed far too quickly. We saunter down the hill to the roadside path, and the mist turns again to rain.
My windshield wipers keep a happy beat with the rain. The swish-swish of my tires on the wet asphalt, the water splashing the road, and the hum of the engine all meld into a soothing melody. The heater bathes us with its warming flow, and Pup and I are happy. As I wait for a red light to turn, Pup leaves his perch on the back seat to nuzzle his wet nose into my cheek. I laugh and kiss his beautiful face. The look in his copper eyes, so knowing and warm, bring tears to my eyes. I am blessed to have Pup, to know the power of his steady, true friendship. It is a good, good day.
Though the cemetery where my mother’s body rests is miles away, I see its rolling hillside perch every morning from the highest point of my early walk. There are times that I almost feel as if I can reach across the wide space to touch the grassy knolls. I visit that spot rarely, for cemeteries are strange to me. I have never liked them but have learned to respect their meaning. When I was too young to understand, my most treasured older sister was buried in the Pennsylvania ground. I wanted her back, I wanted her love and her stories, yet I was met only with the sight of a cold, gray tombstone. Something in my young being believed that it was an illusion or hoax. I knew that my precious sister did not truly rest within that long, thin box. Since then, the bodies of others whom I love have been lost to graveyards. I retain the same simplistic belief I had child: The cemetery may have the body, the remains, but the soul—the essence of life and love—has not been lost or contained.
I’ve known that I would visit the cemetery today; I have felt it calling to me. A dear friend has offered to make the journey with me, and I am ready. We walk toward my mother’s resting place, and I pause to watch a young family eating lunch, picnic-style, by a graveside. Though the clouds are thickening into a dark, stormy sea overhead, the two little ones cavort on the grass under their parents’ watchful eyes. I walk on, eyes to the ground, as I wonder who they might be visiting. I pass a glorious mosaic of Mother Mary with baby Jesus in her arms. Mary’s rich, golden gown and the bright azure accents seem especially cheerful and welcoming on this gray, somber day. I pause in appreciation; my own mother would love this mosaic, for she loved Mother Mary and found solace in her. I hear thunder, wild thunder, and look overhead. The clouds are rolling and gathering in a threatening mass. I smile, for it is a perfect day.
Tears do not come as I visit. I am tranquil. I know my mother is not in the space of this cemetery. This trip was for me, not for her. My mother is not behind marble or stone. She is not held within a box that is far too small to carry all that she was and all that she did. Oh, no, for hers was a life force too strong, too formidable, and too precious to be bound or constrained by physicality. Such was my mother. Such is the fierce power of love, grace, and integrity. I kiss the air, knowing that she feels my love. I kiss her in gratitude and in unending love. A wave of peace washes over me. I feel honored to be here, to feel her presence. I am blessed to be her child. Serenity, boundless and heavenly, pours through me. The awesome voice of thunder rolls overhead and around me, calling my attention to earthly space. I look out over the hillsides, across the wide expanse of this pastoral town that has been my home since I was barely a teen. Memories swirl, floating inward, outward, and upward. I breathe out and let them go. Some of them linger, and some seem to return. They are mine, they are ours, and I smile.
The rain has begun its warning, pitter-patter beat. The thunder robustly growls again. I am peaceful and ready to leave. I walk toward the car, my heart light and full. I notice a balloon bobbing in the breeze. It was left by the young family I had seen earlier, and I am curious. I turn and walk back. The simple headstone speaks of love and the loss of a young child not long ago. This year he would be two. I think of the lovely, sweet family who came to share time and a meal with their loved one, and I think of the two little ones who do not know their tiny brother. I linger for another moment, acutely aware that I had a lifetime with my mother. A delicious sweetness fills me, a sense of being one with everything. The thunder rumbles, its gruff voice bouncing off the mountainside. A raindrop plummets onto my cheek. A second hits my nose. And I smile.
Afterword: Now I cry as I write, for the black and white of these words is a stark reminder that she is not physically here with me, either. I wipe away my tears. I feel her spirit, her love, and her strength. I feel the surge of her graceful life force within me. This feels good and right, yet the hole from the loss of her physical presence remains. In truth, it will always remain.