At the end of my last post, Taking 32 Years To Answer My Call: Part 2, I said that I would devote the next part to my mother and how her death further shaped my spiritual path. That was two weeks ago. I’ve been trying to write this post for two weeks. It is still not written.
Thirteen years have passed since my mother died and I am still not ready to do this. What is “this,” you ask. Well, that’s a hard question to give a clear answer to. Part of it is that I am still not ready to talk about my mother’s death and what I see as my failings as her daughter. So many negative emotions are still part of my memories of that time. Feelings such as regret, shame, anger and longing. It’s funny how the platitudes that are expected to bring the most comfort are often the most insensitive and angering. I can recall being told that “time heals all wounds.” What a crock. Time gives distance and sometimes perspective, but it does not always heal. I can testify to that.
I recall a favorite scene from a favorite television series. In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena is trying to tell Gabrielle, her friend/sidekick/soul mate, why she dedicates her life to trying to atone for who she was in the past. They are standing by a lake. A stone is thrown into the lake as a metaphor for the damage Xena has caused. Gabrielle notices that the lake eventually becomes smooth again but Xena points out that it is permanently changed now. The rock is still there under the surface. Deep pain is like that. You learn to live with it, maybe even push it to the edges of your consciousness, but it’s still there.
I do wonder what mama would think of this journey I am going to undertake. I think she would not understand. She was not a religious person. She wasn’t even an atheist. If she believed in a God, she hated him/her/it. One of the (many) things that sent me into a blind rage at her funeral was the statement by the officiating minister that my mother had “accepted” Christ on her deathbed. A lie. I wonder how many non-believers and believers of other Truths get re-Christened like this when they pass and can no longer object to such distasteful practices.
I think this is one of the things that planted the seed of my call to chaplaincy. My mother and I did not share the same belief system but I wanted hers to be respected. What she felt was legitimate. It was real. It was her right to feel that way. I understood her anger at God. And I think God would have as well. God doesn’t need people to white wash or sugarcoat the truth of things. Maybe the people left behind need that, but this is not about them. It is about the inherent worth and dignity of a person. I want to empower people to feel what they feel and believe what they believe without apology or fear. Even at the end. Especially at the end. Because if not then, when?
This is not the story I planned to tell. But. It’s the story that I *can* tell. At least right now.