She wouldn’t be who she is without her garden…

I didn’t want to write this. I’ve been back and forth, afraid to post it. But I have this feeling I Have To. Know what I mean? Not for me, but for Someone Out There. I hope it somehow brings you peace, whoever you are.

So to preface the story:
It’s been a hair less than half my life now, since my ma has been gone. For the first five years, I was so pissed at her for dying that I couldn’t — wouldn’t — grieve. Never shed a single tear. Never said a word.

Yes, I have written about her before, but nothing like what happened today. I guess my new habit of getting up early and writing in the raw early hours every day has allowed me to reach depths I wasn’t able to get to before.

Because suddenly today, 38 years later, the wee-est hole in my stubborn, selfish brain cracked open, and it was so obvious — she had never chosen to die! She was too strong, too wayward, to determined, to want to leave. Something had to have creeped in and sabotaged her cosmic ship for her to give it up.

So now I think I might be ready to write about what happened the day I left for home after visiting her a mere 6 weeks before she left this world.

We hear people tell us to be grateful. Why? What’s so important about that? No one thinks to explain to us that the very root of the word, the concept, the i-dea — the I, god — of the word ‘grateful’ — is Grace.

That unfathomable force that envelops us with the lightest sweetness at the most unexpected times. That gigantic ocean of Something — beyond kindness, beyond compassion — that sweeps through our beings when we most need it.

And let me say, right off, that anyone who experiences life to any depth at all and who still denies the presence of grace — well, you’re thick as a brick. Whether or not you believe in god, divinity, or whatever, has nothing to do with it. It’s here, all around us, at all times. I know this for a fact. I’d have been long gone, many times, otherwise, by my own stupid, blind hand. I bow to thee, Grace.

I had that, writing this story.

I was sitting here, typing away, grief pouring down my cheeks into pools on my lap and hands quaking at force 8, when suddenly a stillness climbed down over and into me. I had to just … stop. Feel. Let it immerse itself into my entire being.

This, THIS, is what I have wanted for 38 years. The cessation of better-not-write-that-or-you’ll die-of-grief. The opening of you-KNOW-it’s all-OK,-right-Angela? I had to laugh, then. Such a relief. Mark one up for Grace. Again.

So I’m thinking about how I was about to get on the plane to go back to Hawaii after my 2-week visit. Except for two flashes of Real Truth, she played the denial card, the I’m-going-to-heal, I’m-going-to-beat-this-thing-you’ll-see story, our whole time together. She just didn’t have the emotional space to be able to deal with the immensity of emotions involved with her impending death.

On the first Truth Day, she just looked me straight in the eye and said, I can’t do this anymore. It hurts too much. And even if it did heal, I don’t have the energy to keep up in this new world going on.

This, in 1985, just as computers and tech were becoming mainstream. Heck, we didn’t even have the word, mainstream, yet.

The following story is the other incident. We are standing at the gate, my plane’s last passengers boarding, the flight people beckoning me to come on, get on, we have to close the damn door!

“Bye, Ma,” I attempt to whisper, the words refusing to form on my lips. They sneak and slide out soundlessly into the thick, buzzing universe, swirling and tripping around me, dizzying, clobbering me with their unseen force.

I grip her shoulders, arms-length, my knuckles cracking with the effort not to crumble her, crush every crumb of her into me, grasp every inch of her being, stuff it whole-cloth into the deepest strongholds of my heart.

The edges of her tiny fragile shoulder bones seem to slice my palms. I release my hold and pull her in. I feel her sink into my chest. I wish I could press her past my skin, flatten her into me like a windshield bug on a 100-mile an hour highway.

We both know we’ll never see each other again. We will never admit it. Never let It know we know It will soon conquer. “I’ll fight this thing,” she mumbles into my soaked shirt. “I’ll fight it and win, dammit!”

I just shake my head slightly, her weak little courageous fib almost making me donkey-guffaw.

Her trembling rocks me, this rock of a woman who never surrendered to any battle she ever chose to fight.

For a moment, it seems possible. I picture the nasty amorphous foreign destroyer within her, shrinking back, fearful of her tremendous vibrating immensity.

We both know it’s not gonna happen. Too insidious, too destructive, its hold on her body. That strong life-filled garden body, that one she she taught us how to sail in, that one she glibly drove through blizzards to make sure we rode home from school safely in, that one she traveled around the world alone at 68 years old in. That one that birthed all four — no — five — of us with.

She was so strong she ignored it for too long. Just carried about her day, oh this little pain, she’d say, flapping her hand like a silken-clothed, limp-wristed tea-sipping aristocrat.

She never found out what it was until too late, its tentacles wrapped too tight around her very heart.

I hold her away again, and look at her. Look and Look and LOOK at her. Feeling the skin of my eyeballs stretch out to the ends of the universe, SEEing her with every atom, every cell, every bone, every hair on my body. I will never, ever let you go, my body declares — even knowing that that, too, is a lie.

I’m gasping, reeling. I can’t bloody breathe.

I want to swoop her up, carry her brittle, riven body away, my own treasure, stash it in the soft velvets and puffy pillows of my hiddenest, hidiest place.

I want to carry her, myself, right up to heaven, deliver her to the one place she will never suffer again, never want for anything. Transport her to that blessed realm in my own flesh and blood arms, my precious burden.

Of course, one week there and she’d probably be bored.

At that thought, my heart exploded, and I shattered into countless shards. I was pure energy. I didn’t know if I was crying, screaming or laughing.

Grace, seeping in, said, this is just life.

My soul Knew it was right, but still wanted to cling….

We die, Angela, the Voice in my head croons. I felt my body simmer down.

We die, Grace said. It’s not such a big thing. It’s a movie, and when it’s over, we stand up, go out the door and leave the theatre, gather up our friends and go to the next show — and the next and the next.

No! I don’t want her to go! I never got to be with her enough! No!

But yes. Let go, Angela, let go. She’ll be OK. You’ll be OK. Never the same, but you’ll be OK. I promise.

Grace prevailed, way more powerful than my puny selfish desire.

“Bye, Ma,” I whisper, the words finally fill with real sound as they come out of my mouth.

The original meaning of the word ‘goodbye’ — god-be-with-you — filled my vision with implacable tears. God be with you, Ma. God be with you.


image: MA’S GARDEN
text and image: © Angela Treat Lyon 2023
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