If there is one truth that all parents must embrace sooner or later, it is that no matter how much they love their children they must learn to let them go. Eventually, children must learn the same thing. When a parent dies, children do not say goodbye as much as they release them.
On February 18th, we released our mother in the early morning, as the deep indigo sky released itself to rising dawn, and soft pink and yellow light streamed through half open blinds into her hospice room, across the blanket that covered her, and quietly bathed her still face with a diffused glow.
We released her from our continuing need for her love and confirmation. We released her from our ambivalence — of her successes and failures as a parent — and of knowing that the perfect parent could not exist, for no child could stand them nor get free from them. All parents hurt their children. We vow to not make the same mistakes with our children. But we do, or we make different ones. And hope they have the capacity to forgive us. The miracle is that, somewhere in the process of releasing our mother, forgiveness became reflexive; there was only love.
Her death was not easy. She suffered hallucinations, physical and psychic pain. It was nightmarish. Yet, there were quiet moments in which she knew we were loved ones, even if she may or may not have known we were her daughters. I think there was comfort in that.
Here’s the thing: the mother of whom you can say loved you unconditionally; gave you a sense of purpose and possibility in life; and showed you what it means to live faithfully, to age courageously, and to die at peace with herself, is all the mother any child could hope for.
We had that mother.