I looked up today and it hit me: it’s been one whole year since I last spoke to Mom. Now you might be thinking, “Wow. A whole year, CJ? That’s a long time not to talk.” And you’d be right. Except Mom’s been dead for more than forty.
Let me back this up a bit: Last summer, something strange happened. I was hangin’ with a New Age-y kind of group, about six of us, of which I only knew one person. Natalie. A few hours into the evening, Natalie, always smiling (which both annoys and inspires me) clasped my hands, and announced in an ordinary sort of way, “Your mother wants to talk to you.”
She closed her eyes. Suddenly, I saw a prism of light, gold and silver shooting out from the right side of her head, just above her shoulder. And then Nat’s voice changed. It became fainter, older, sadder. A deep, haunting sigh emerged from her mouth. She dropped her head, her long brown hair hiding her face.
“It’s like she doesn’t want to look at herself,” Nat said in her normal voice. “She’s afraid she’ll see a monster.”
Then she released an exquisite, painful sighhhhhh. I shivered.
“I’m sorry baby I hurt you so much.” Pause. “I didn’t know how to love you . . . will you . . . forgive me?”
I was fifteen when my mother died. My home life was physically and emotionally brutal. You could say the odds of me surviving were grim.
I’ve spent hours upon hours with healers and books and psychics to try and seal up that psychic wound. I told myself that I’d forgiven her. Because: a) I felt it was the right and noble thing to do; and b) I wanted to impress anyone who was telling me to let it go and forgive her. I wanted to be evolved. And free. Free of the physical and emotional pain caused by the abuse.
But the next words out of me came from an honest place.
“I’m trying Mom. I’ve been trying for so long . . .”
She expelled another sigh. Pain swept across Nat’s thirty-something face — a face that didn’t look like it belonged to her. Her head was still hanging. “I didn’t know how to love . . .” She seemed to be searching for the right words.
I filled in the empty space. “I know.” What do I say next? I wondered. Oh yes, there it is . . . “Did you ever love me?” Another deep sigh from her, this one more raw.
“Yes baby, and I still do . . .”
My heart ached to believe it. “I know, Mommy. You suffered so much.”
In an instant, my mind scanned the pages of her life, of the little that I knew: the beatings she got from her alcoholic father (I only discovered this twenty years after her death); her teen pregnancy; the grueling factory jobs, and the decimating cancer and mustard-gas treatments.
She sighed again, this one softer. “Yes, I did. I did suffer.”
What she said next I’d never have imagined in a million, billion years. “I am learning how to love — from you. You are teaching me how to love . . .”
My heart soared, a caged butterfly released. “I forgive you, Mommy.”
“Really?” she asked, hopeful but unsure.
“Really,” I said. And I meant it.
Nat lifted her head, pulled back her hair, eyes still closed. “I’m so proud of you, baby, so proud. I watch you all the time, watch over you . . .”
“I’m sorry you had to leave the planet early to save me, Mommy,” I cried softly.
Another deep sigh, but this one as if all between us was finally understood. “I had to honey, I had to go . . .”
“I love you, Mommy.”
Then I said something I’d never been conscious of — until that moment:
“I need you to forgive yourself. Because every time you keep hating yourself, you hate me, too; I’m a part of you — so you’re still hurting me. So please forgive yourself, Mommy.”
A pained, awed smile spread across Nat’s face, and the deepest sigh of all melted into, “Okay.”
“I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you, too.”
Nat opened her sweet, smiling eyes. My mother was gone. And I thought to myself, And so it is.
You might think this is where the story, a true story, ended. But there was more. Next week, I’d love to tell you the rest . . .