888

by Angeliska on August 8, 2015

Last year on this day, the anniversary of my mother’s death, I didn’t feel like writing. I just felt like living. That’s what I did, and it felt right. Every year is a little different. Stands to reason, with the passage of time, and all – but it didn’t start to change for me, for a long time. I didn’t know how to heal, or that there even was a way to. For years before that, I didn’t even know there was a wound. Or, I did – but it was kind of like having a giant sinkhole under your house that you just put a rug over. Pretend it’s not there. Everything’s fine. Back away slowly from the lip of the abyss. I’ve found that everything changes when you stop running away from your pain. This is what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How when I finally learned how to cry, I started healing. There are so many layers to this process, and where I’m at now feels like a really good place. I’m exploring it, and it’s been really interesting.

My mom loved to make her own marbleized paper. Here's an envelope she made for a letter to my grandparents in 1972.
My mom loved to make her own marbleized paper. Here’s an envelope she made for a letter to my grandparents in 1972


“This envelope looks like ocean waves to me, hence:

The ocean with its vastness, its blue green,
Its ships, its rocks, its caves, its hopes, its fears,—
Its voice mysterious, which whoso hears
Must think on what will be, and what has been
.’
– John Keats
(I’ve been very much influenced by the poetry book I got for $2 in San Antonio. It’s simply full of beautiful quotes.”

I wasn’t really able to consciously think or process much about my mother’s death until my mid-twenties. Until then, I was a hardened little shell of a girl, always struggling to keep my balance tiptoeing around the edge of the bottomless pit where I’d stowed all my grief. When at long last it hit me that the source of so many of my issues revolved around this deep loss, I realized that I might have to actually investigate what had been hidden away in the the darkness for so long. I started with honoring the day my mom left this world. Dedicating this day to understanding more about her, about myself. Some days that meant practicing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on her violin. Some days it was just laying on the floor crying. For many years, I spent the day alone. I would hang out in my studio, and read her letters, page through her scrapbooks. It helped, always – the writing, musing, making little altars. Sitting with the pieces of her I had available, trying to understand more about who she was. I never went anywhere, because I didn’t drive back then. I always did this work alone, and it never occurred to me that my partner at the time, or anyone else, would really be interested in participating in that process. But in 2012, someone came into my life who did. A very sweet man who wanted to sit with me, while I sat with that pain. A person who truly wanted to help me honor my mom’s memory. Our relationship ended up being a tumultuous and revelatory puzzle piece in my healing process, and I’m still learning from it, though we’re not together anymore. I learned a lot from being with him – about myself, about the way I love, and the way I allow myself to be loved. This person showed up for me, over and over, in some very surprising and profound ways. For the past two years, he helped me find a way to celebrate this day. He showed me that I didn’t have to do it all alone, and that it didn’t have to be a day only for sadness. He took my hand, and led me out of my dark studio filled with dusty books, and out into the bright light of Texas August. We went on some adventures.

HONEY BABE, I'M BOUND TO RIDE - DON'T YOU WANNA GO? An old-tyme song lyric markered on a plasticine envelope years ago by my mom. This is what holds many letters she wrote to my grandparents and crayoned artwork I made as a child.
HONEY BABE, I’M BOUND TO RIDE – DON’T YOU WANNA GO? An old-tyme song lyric markered on a plasticine envelope years ago by my mom. This is what holds many letters she wrote to my grandparents and crayoned artwork I made as a child.

Coming thru old Nashville,
Coming thru a flying
Studying about my little darling
Couldn’t keep from crying

Honey babe I’m bound to ride
Don’t you want to go?

Going to Atlanta
Just to look around
Times they don’t suit me
Find another town

Riding on a streetcar
Looking all around
Eating salty crackers
Ten cents a pound

If I die a railroad man
bury me beneath the ties
So I can hear old Number Nine
As she goes on by

Coming thru old Nashville,
Coming thru a flying
Studying about my little darling
Couldn’t keep from crying

Honoring my mama today. She died...

On August 8th, 2013, I had stayed up late the night before writing about my mother. I was glad to have gotten it written and out of me, early that year – so that the day could be spent out in the world, in experiencing life – not just dwelling on death. I wanted to go visit some of my mom’s old stomping grounds, her old neighborhood where some of her favorite places still are. I had intended to do this alone, not expecting to have company. But my boyfriend showed up at my kitchen table that morning with a fancy breakfast he procured – and in his hands, a bouquet of roses, fiery orange with red tips. He knew I liked varicolored flowers, but he chose these for the name, too: HIGH AND MAGIC. He showed up for this, for me – even though I didn’t ask, or expect it. Even though I didn’t necessarily even think I wanted him to be there. I didn’t know what to think when this golden haired giant turned up bearing roses on a morning I had prepared myself to be sad for. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to be there out of obligation. Unlike me, he is a person who loathes most of the rigmarole surrounding holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries – but this was different. I could tell that it came from an honest, heartfelt desire to help me honor that loss, my biggest wound, in whatever way would feel best. I asked him if he wanted to read what I had written for my mom, the night before, and he said yes. He sat very still, reading it intently for what felt like a long time, and I sat, trying to be still, trying not to watch him read. When he had finished, his eyes were glittering and wet with unshed tears. The way he looked at me was so full of love, and I was taken off my guard as he stood suddenly and took me by the hands, pulling me up to my feet and into an embrace. When he kissed me, there was so much in it – all the feelings he couldn’t convey in words, expressed in that touch, that connection. I’ve never felt anything else like it. Swept up, soul deep – that’s what it was. The kind of moment it feels impossible to try to write about or describe because it went so far beyond what could ever be spoken. It was the single best response to anything I’ve ever written: that beautiful, incredibly loving and totally overwhelming kiss. That anyone would be so moved by what I had written there. That this person I loved so much would respond to it with such passion. We stood in my hot kitchen gazing at each other: our faces shining, our eyes streaming, our lips beaming. We went out into the world, and had a very good day. I wore a dress my mother made for herself: red corduroy with little flowers. We were in love, crazy cascades of hearts pouring out from our eyes. Things between us were not always easy – but when we were good, it was beyond amazing.

Last year, he wanted to be there with me again. We got tacos and coffee and drove out of town, taking the long way out. An unfamiliar road through the hill country – pines and shadowed valleys, dry creeks with stands of sycamores surprisingly still green for August in Texas. Bumping over the backroads, in my beloved old beige Volvo station wagon, all the windows rolled down. We hit estate sales and antique stores for most of the morning, bright sun burning through the haze. Pawn shops, bomb pops. We made it out to Llano by late afternoon – to the house in Lone Grove where my mother died. I wanted to hear stories, to be able to better understand, and hopefully write about what had happened on that day. I wanted to ask the hard questions, and even hear the hard answers – but my favorite aunt, my mom’s sister, didn’t seem to want to go there. Instead, she regaled us for hours about trying to help a lonely old hoarder who lived in a trailer down the way with a bunch of guns and dozens upon dozens of feral cats. People aren’t always going to be able or willing to walk down that road with you. Zach squeezed my hand under the table, seeing how disappointed I was. I’m still trying so hard to remember and understand that period of my life. There’s a lot I just don’t remember.

Went to see my mama at...

It had been years since I had been out to the cemetery where my mother and grandparents are buried. The man I spent seven years with and nearly married never saw it. He never asked, and I never thought to take him. I think I had been a little scared to go out there, myself. It felt like a terminus, an ending place. There’s a finality to the grief there that goes beyond what happens in our memories. There’s nothing but nature, and enduring stone. The bodies are all dust and ashes. It was good to not have to go there alone. We walked over to where the my family’s graves lay nestled under spindly oaks, in the tall dry grass, holding hands. Coming to that place, standing on the earth containing the bones of the people who made me, laid out in a row, I felt suddenly awkward. What else is there to do, in that instance, but make introductions? “Well… Mom, this is Zachary.” “Zachary, meet my grandparents” It hit me like a bullet, the stark realization that this was the only way they would ever meet. There’s a song by the folk-singer Scout Niblett, called “Do You Want to Be Buried With My People?” and I thought of it then:

Do you want to be buried with my people, dear
was the look in his eyes
we can rest our bones side by side
in the dirt of yonder high
it’s so fun to see me being me alongside you
that’s how I knew the answer dear
to the look I got from you
we can rest our bones side by side

We cleaned up her mosaic grave marker, cleared it of grass and dirt, and put a succulent friend into the stone planter. M.C.P. R.I.P.
M.C.P. R.I.P.

That’s the kind of love I want, when it comes down to it. The kind of love who will come willingly with me, to meet my family in the only way they can. The kind of heart that would want to put down roots in the earth where I come from, to graft their family tree with mine, entwining around each other, and joined: in life and death. I don’t love lightly, and I’ve learned that I won’t bother unless I know the answer to that question. I felt it all then, rising and building in my chest like a pressure – all that love and all that sorrow running down my face, as I watched this kind and beautiful man kneel down the earth, pulling a pocketknife out and using it to cut away at the weeds that had overgrown my mother’s tomb. He cleaned it up, made it look as nice as he could – all the while incurring fire ant bites and sticker-burrs in his knuckles. I planted a succulent in the cement urn covered in pottery shards, and watered it from my glass bottle. We wandered through the graves, old stones, telling stories of Indian attacks, pieces of mica embedded in old stone, families who lost all their children, soldiers buried at home. The sun was starting to set as we drove away, making an angelic chorus of light in the clouds, heavenly cascades of golden rays, looking like benedictions from seraphim on high. One hand on the wheel and the other around me, the sun on his face as we rolled through the hills, looking at me, both of us in lit up in wonder. “It’s all for you,” he said, “For you and your mom.

On the way home, the sky erupted into such a glorious celestial jubilation of angelic rays that we couldn't help but wonder if my mama wasn't smiling down from the heavens... I don't actually believe in a place called heaven - but sunsets like this make m
On the way home, the sky erupted into such a glorious celestial jubilation of angelic rays that we couldn’t help but wonder if my mama wasn’t smiling down from the heavens… I don’t actually believe in a place called heaven – but sunsets like this make me wishful.

So this year, that man is not here. He called this morning because he knew what day it was, and we talked for the first time in a few months. I do miss him, but it’s okay. His not being here doesn’t have to echo that old hurt, the old loss. I’m on my own now, and I feel strong in that, most days. I thought about going out into the world, and doing some rambling, but today I’m feeling pretty under the weather and so I’m just resting. Writing this in my beautiful bedroom, and thinking about what it really means to care for yourself. Not just because you have to, not because everyone who you thought was supposed to do that has gone away – but doing it because you can, because you want to. For so many years, this day was just about honoring my mom. I still want to do that, but even more – I’m learning how to honor myself. How to take care of myself like a loving mother would. There’s this stubborn part of my heart, the sad little kid part, that kicks the wall and throws a tantrum about this sometimes. She stomps her feet and keeps persistently reaching out for the people that can’t be there anymore. My mom was an amazing person: an incredible artist and musician, and an all-around renaissance woman and an inspiration to everyone who knew her. I’ve come to realize, though, that even before she got sick, she wasn’t always up for being a totally present and emotionally demonstrative mother. She suffered from depression, and was often consumed with stress and worry, or by her creative passions and obsessions. She had a lot of stuff that she was super interested in doing, and, well – I think that paying attention to me (at least as much as I wanted or needed) was maybe not always one of those things. She tried really hard, and did the best she could. I know that. But the way she showed me love seems to have helped to create some neurological patterning that makes me very attracted to people who are only intermittently available. I’m working on looking at that, changing that. Today, I’m thinking about the fact that I know I am loved. Even and especially by some very wonderful people who also were or are very hurt or ill, which impacted their ability to consistently show that love. That doesn’t make it any less real. I’m realizing very clearly that the most generous thing that you can do in and for this world is to seek out your own healing. To lovingly face your pain, and find a way to come through it. To show up for ourselves makes it possible for us to be there for others. There is no other way. I think about this quote all the time:

I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.
― Ram Dass

My mama in a sunbeam. It's always something when you find new/old photographs of someone you lost. Little windows into a time when they lived in that body. Tomorrow is her death-day. 8.8.86.
My mama in a sunbeam. It’s always something when you find new/old photographs of someone you lost. Little windows into a time when they lived in that body.

I talked to my father and the phone last night, and he gave me some things to think about that really blew my mind. He’s a wise man, my dear old dad. We discussed some radical concepts in self-love, in receiving love. I think for a long time, that little kid part of my brain just thought that gone is gone. And that if you were gone, your heart was gone too – so that meant there wasn’t anything to love with anymore. If you were gone, it was because you didn’t love enough to stay. If you really loved me, you wouldn’t leave. You’d want to stay here with me. These complex equations the childish heart makes: since you left, you must not love me, and that means that I must be very unlovable indeed. I realize all the ways I’ve been playing out that faulty kid logic, and for how many years. Too long. My dad tells me that my mom still loves me, and that she wants me to feel good and be happy. That I can mother myself as her proxy, giving myself everything that I need. I can always tell when my dad says something very true, because my throat will get real tight, and I’ll feel like crying. It’s hard to think about. I realize I’ve had a block there, for a long time. Maybe in dreams or visions, in alternate dimensions, I’ve seen my mom. But most of the time, in regular, every day reality: she’s not here. Or so I thought. Gone is gone. I always scoffed a bit internally at the well-meaning people in my life who would assure me that my mom was still here with me – because in all the ways that I felt really counted, she wasn’t. She never saw me grow up. She doesn’t know what I look like. She’ll never meet a love of mine, or my children, if I ever have any. Or can she see, somehow? I feel my grandparent’s spirits around me, and know they’re there. I trust that the souls of my pets that have died, my animal familiars, are still with me. So why not my mom? Why have I been so resistant to imagining that she might be my number one guardian angel? What if every time I’ve had a close call on the highway or tripping down a tall staircase, and felt a magnificent force swoop me to safety – it was her? Who knows, really – but it’s fascinating to me that I’ve never even really let myself imagine it until now. What if every person who ever loved you, still loves you? You can be gone, and still love. Your body can be burnt up to nothing, your bones just dust, and there will be some part of you that can still go on, loving. People might physically go away, but that doesn’t mean that the part of them that loves you is doesn’t exist. Maybe this is obvious to most people, but I think for anyone that’s lost a parent at a young age, it’s just not.

The lemniscate, or infinity symbol, ( ∞ ) is a variation of the ouroboros: a circle curled in on itself, doubled, and continuous. Today, August 8th, 2015 is known as 8-8-8, as 2015 adds up to another 8 (2+0+1+5=8). Triumvirate lemniscate, and my mama's de
A good day for Strength. The image is a detail of that card, from the Zerner Farber deck.

The lemniscate, or infinity symbol, ( ∞ ) is a variation of the ouroboros: a circle curled in on itself, doubled, and continuous. Today, August 8th, 2015 is known as 8-8-8, as 2015 adds up to another 8 (2+0+1+5=8). 888 is triple fortune, and considered very good luck in Chinese numerology. The triumverate lemniscate. So, I’m thinking about eternity, and about how nothing ever really dies. There are no endings. There is no death. Our lives are so short, because we are constantly regenerating. When we love consumed by the fear of loss, we’re forgetting that love never dies. It just transforms. Love is all around. You’re not alone, kid. I get that today, even though I’m sitting here by myself – I do feel completely surrounded by love. So many kind friends and family have reached out to me today, and sent sweet messages to let me know they’re thinking of me. I know that if I didn’t want to be alone right now (though I actually do!), I absolutely wouldn’t have to be – that there are plenty of people who would be thrilled to go get ice cream with me. I didn’t always know that. Or, rationally, a part of me did – but on a soul level, I could never absorb it. The fear of being totally alone and abandoned was once the hollow thing at my core that motivated so many of my interactions. I’m working on being able to receive love – from myself, and from the people who love me. I didn’t realize that there was a part of me that didn’t really know how to do that. That didn’t feel worthy of it. It’s taken some time, but I do feel that being healed. I’ve had some pretty incredible experiences recently that have shown me that, so powerfully. For the first time, it occurs to me that maybe the date of my mother’s death was no accident, or coincidence – that she left this earth on the day that a portal of light opened up, and that every year, it opens up again, so she can shine to me.

I was very grateful to find that MYSTIC MAMMA had gathered up some interesting channellings about this special day: 888: August 8th 2015

This past Mother’s Day, my writing group, Revolution Writing Workshop, participated in a special reading at Malvern Books. I shared something that came from the writing about my mom that I’ve done here:

And, if you’d like to read more about this journey, here you go:

WILD BLUE YONDER

NO ROOM IN MY HEART FOR THE BLUES

FAMILY VACATION – HANK WILLIAMS’ GRAVE

STAR-CROSSED TROUBADOURS

Foxes in the Rain

Triumvirate Lemniscate

Gustav + Mama – August 8th

12 comments

This is so beautiful and honest. Thank you for sharing a bit of your mama with us.

love,
Erin

by Erin Orr on August 8, 2015 at 8:05 pm. #

i wish we could talk someway, somehow. so many words tumbling and cascading in clumsy cartwheels around my head. but, in the meantime, i love you. thank you for your words, and these pieces of your mama (of you). our mama’s anniversaries are seven days apart, and it has always helped me to navigate my own feelings of loss and fragility to find your words here, at this time of year.

you talked about your conversation with your papa, about love and how it remains. i think so. i do think so too. i think that if anyone’s love could transcend death, maybe most especially of all, it would be a mama’s love. there is a way that a mama knows us, ways i know that i know my own daughter like no other, that no one else can possibly know. a being-a-part-of kind of portal that can’t be closed. i read an article a year or so ago that said fetal cells migrate into the mother during pregnancy. essentially, a little part of us remains and is a part of them always, just as their own stardust makes up the part of the fabric of the universe inside us and they are forever a part of us.

it’s hard to trust the signs and messages, especially when you want them so, so much to be real and true. but i think you can. i don’t think she ever stopped nudging and poking and guiding. <3

by annie on August 8, 2015 at 8:57 pm. #

Thank you for reading, sweet Erin… I sure do miss you!

by Angeliska on August 8, 2015 at 9:09 pm. #

Oh, Annie – I wish so much we could talk, too… There are ways! I have skype now! Maybe we could talk on there sometime? I would love that. You know, I hadn’t really cried today, and I was beginning to wonder when or if I would. Your words were what finally broke the seal, the magic key to unlock the tears that needed to flow. Thank you. I love you so much.

by Angeliska on August 8, 2015 at 9:12 pm. #

You are so special!

by Andrea on August 8, 2015 at 9:59 pm. #

Maggie is so proud of you!

<3

by BruceDavid Johnson on August 9, 2015 at 4:42 am. #

it’s so strange these journeys that those of us who have lost parents go on, all so different, and in some ways, so similar, as we try to pick up the pieces of the wreckage and loss that they left behind.

i always think about how my dad never got to meet dave, and vice versa. how he’ll never know my kids, if i ever have any. and how he decided to leave me, and what that all means.

i love you. thank you for writing about this pain so eloquently and beautifully and honestly. it helps those of us that share a similar loss more than you can ever know.

by lau on August 9, 2015 at 10:07 am. #

Thank you for this. It means so much, and helps me with my own process more than I thought anything could.

I love you, always.

by Logan on August 9, 2015 at 3:25 pm. #

This is such a beautiful tribute to your mother. Thinking about your writings here makes my comments feel so flimsy, but what could a mother want more than an introspective child who tries so hard to interpret and understand her life as well as intuit what her feelings would be after death?

My mother is neither dead nor estranged from me, but we are so deeply separated by resentments and divisions that I feel pangs of familiarity when I read about your feelings of loss. Maybe you’re above this, but I feel so jealous when I see friends, family or lovers with positive, close relationships with their mothers. I think it’s one of our truest needs, and when you see someone with a truly functional or even beautiful relationship with your mother, it really drives it home.

Thank you for sharing. Your writings are so true and honest that I feel centered even reading them. Please keep writing.

by BB on August 9, 2015 at 8:36 pm. #

hugs and more hugs and all the hugs. skype, yes! i am on there, and would love to talk. whenever, whenever, whenever. tomorrow, the next day, next week or next month. i’ll always make the time somehow. <3

(sentiment extended to a certain lau, as well!)

by annie on August 9, 2015 at 11:01 pm. #

glad yer back…you’ve been missed…

by brian on August 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm. #

so beautiful. thank you.

by teresa on September 6, 2015 at 9:42 am. #

Leave your comment

Required.

Required. Not published.

If you have one.