Living Memories ~ Mom’s Birthday

As many know, today is my Mother’s Birthday. This day always feels strange to me. A yearly reminder of how young she was when she died. The last birthday that was uncelebrated. A another year gone by without her. It is not the hardest of the anniversaries, but perhaps one of the more complex to share. There is the joy of knowing that on this day, many years ago She was born. The awareness that for 50 years on this day – was one of great celebration across a few generations. Mom always loved a good get together. Bonfire if it was nice after riding horses. A scrumptious dinner of her favorites. Sometimes friends, often just family – always a party. Only to be changed on one day forever. Now its infinitely more complex to try to share. The love is shadowed by loss. The joy is held in grief. The smiles tempered by tears of pain that have no end.

Yet it feels significant to share.  To hold the awareness of these particular dates. To actively live with the loss and pain instead of it locked away in some deep corner of our minds. Many Red Maples were planted on the Farm in Tennessee and around. We watch these trees (and many others that she loved) grow each year. A reminder of how powerful a Life is even after death. The far-reaching tendrils of love no matter the denseness of the darkness. Her Children growing into adults. The stories told of her passed down as they become Myth. What a Life to have known.

Bittersweet this day of living Memory. To have such joy born from the love of a Woman so strong and beautiful – that even as children we knew we were truly privileged to call her Mom. To have such terrible grief that deadens life itself with the enormity of its weight, the awareness of what humanity is willing to do to one another and in particular, to those who shine the brightest for us.  Can we love enough to feel the joy within the pain? Can we stand with integrity of ourselves, to allow us to claim the grief that is there, to not shy away from a pain that is soul deep? I choose to remember as much as I can. To have this ongoing dynamic living memory of her now, and not just then.

~Joannie.

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Joy in Grief – Mom’s birthday. 

This day arrives as it usually does for myself and I believe most of my siblings, quietly with grief and memories of a time when we had celebration. While it was and is in subtle ways a joyous date, there is great sorrow. Today is my Mother’s birthday. And she is not here. No phone calls to be made. No cards to write. No meals served with love or visits to be had. Not even Grandparents to call on their daughter’s birthday. It is sad, this day. It is lonely. It is also full of memories of when it was bursting with life. This contradiction we live in. It could tear one apart. 
I don’t feel overwhelmed by this date. Once, I believe I did. Now it arrives with a quiet awareness of what is and what was. I am painfully familiar with this Place, where the deep bottomless well of grief resides. Most of the external world cannot see it. I rarely bring these notable dates up within my day to day life. I wonder at that. How hard it still is to share. Within the context of my siblings and a few close friends it is almost always acknowledged and never forgotten. This feels good that outside of our crazy external world, there is still connection of what is real. What continues to move us.

I cannot find happiness or peace on this date. I also do not feel that I need to. For I can find joy – not in the traditional sense of ‘happiness’ but in the upwelling of emotion that has flavors of gratitude, delight and appreciation for the years we did get. For the context of this grief is to have known the other side of pure joy. I may not smile much on this date, but I can feel the love that is still present even after these years of sadness and despair. I don’t know what it looks like for everyone, but rare it is that I have seen a Mother so wholly loved as mine was and very much still is. How can this not bring tears of joy and not just sorrow? 

This pain we feel, it’s very real and soul deep. Words skip along the surface like stones on a stream, never sinking below the easily seen shallows and ending up on the other bank. Being told to only remember the good times is dismissive of our pain. I cannot say in place of my siblings, but for me, it is okay if you cannot connect with my pain, my grief, my reality. But do not ask me to separate from it. Do not ask me to smile for your sake. Not all of us can run from a lack of comfort, please do not burden me or my family with an inability to be uncomfortable with loss and grief. 

If I could- I would gladly hug each of my brothers and sister and tell them that I know the joy in the pain on this day. And that it is okay if they do too. That whatever it is they feel, it is okay. These feelings and emotions do not need to define you. Instead I am 4 time zones away and hope my words will reach them. I hope they find something in the ways I am able to be there for them. 

I have love on this day. I have grief and acute sadness. I have joy and a bittersweetness of memories. I have appreciation for those who see and a lack of patience of those who cannot. I don’t know what else I could give my Mother on this day other than just being me. For that is all she ever wanted for every one of her children – to have peace, love and purpose in their lives. To find joy. And mostly, to be who we are. And to grow. 

Happy Birthday Mom.

This grief, it tears apart my heart, just as the love around you keeps it going and strong. This contradiction I live in. 

~ Joannie