It sprang from a sort of vision my sister had during a yoga relaxation a month or so after our mother’s death that came through so heartbreakingly clear she found herself sobbing, unsure if it was real or a dream.
What she did know was that she was centered square in the cold, unwelcome ache of loss and yet, the love-filled moment was a gift of peace.
This memory came to me after an old friend’s recent death, and also after word of another’s illness. I wondered if writing about it might somehow help.
In the image, my mother was standing just out of reach on a windswept beach, which, after Symphony Hall in Boston, was her favorite place in the world. She wore a loose, white blouse and white capris, and she was standing barefoot in the sand on the far side of a low snow fence.
With sandals in one hand and an ocean breeze softly ruffling her hair, my mother was young and beautiful, freed from the pain that had twisted her last days. Her smile was as radiant as the water drenched in sparkles that sent a thousand sunny shimmers into the horizon and maybe beyond.
My sister was transfixed. How wonderful, she thought. But how can this be? She somehow knew she couldn’t cross the line of the small rose-covered fence, and still my mother motioned to her invitingly.
Come on, come with me! she seemed to say. But my sister hesitated, shaking her head. I can’t, she said. Not that she didn’t want to. And my mother nodded. She understood, and gazed at her as if memorizing her face.
She was saddened, yet not sad, if that is somehow possible. Maybe yearning for the past, but intent, too, on what lay ahead.
How I wish you could come, she said, as she turned away. In life, my mother would have stayed with my sister, or with any of us. But this was death, and the path was a twinkling gem that only she could see.
I’ll never forget you, she said, turning her face to the sun. And then, she was gone.
The tenderness of the image reminds me of a moment my mother described in the days before her death. It came after she failed badly and we believed the time had come. But then she revived for a few days, and later described that “death” as if she had cast off a heavy black robe and then soared weightlessly upward.
“It was all white light and unstoppable,’’ she said of a sensation so joyous, so unfathomable, yet still so enticing, and so comforting, that I conjure it often when I am missing her.
If, like on the beach, the leave-taking is bittersweet, yes, but gentle, then I like to believe that we really don’t have quite so much to be afraid of, in the end. The one thing I do know is that when souls are linked so inextricably, love never dies.