Monday, October 27, 2014

Once Upon A Death

Mom left this for me to find after she was gone.
Last night, my mama visited me in my dream.

I don't mean I got some divine message from her or anything, but last night my dream was of an old wooden house, filled to the brim with activity - kids, family, chaos, lost socks...The place seemed new, and perhaps unfamiliar, but we were settling into it with the intention of letting it become a safe place for us.  And mom was there, too - it was a dream beautiful in its banality, we were just spending time together, like a family trip home for vacation.  With one notable exception: we all fully acknowledged that mom was dead, but that just added to how wonderful this brief time we had together was.  I think we knew it was just a day or so, and it seemed implicit that this would happen every so often, these visits... It was so surprisingly nice to get to talk to her about how hard this year has been, and how much we miss her...the same old comfort from mother's counsel that I could always count on.  No drama, just an acknowledgment of "Man this sucks.  It's really hard.  I'm so glad I have you to talk to about all of this." Plus jokes and laughter, and...it was just such a nice visit.

Up until today, I have been able to explain away my forgetfulness, my wistfulness, my loneliness, my tears. "My mom just died." But now there are only a few hours left wherein her abscence is "novel." Moments in the turning of the seasons that I have not previously experienced without her. Starting in mere hours, the time will begin to overlap. I will have experienced this moment in the cycle of time without her once already... Just last night, the darkness fell without her on an October 26th for the very first time. But tonight, the darkness will fall on an October 27th for the second time.

And somehow I find this one even harder to fathom.

The first year was somehow built into the event of death; you lose someone, part of your heart goes with them, and you spend a year mourning in an emotional darkness. 
But what do we do now, at the advent of the second year? 
Another trip around the sun without mother? This is no longer the fresh wound, understandably bleeding. This is now the old injury that doesn't fully heal, aching under gray skies, no longer obvious to passers by. A silent, private pain, devastating, but to the outside eye, invisible.

Mom's amazing laugh
I am used to invisible pain, though. All through my teenage years, I struggled with a chronic pain disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.  While it is (thankfully) mostly in remission now, I learned a lot from my experiences with it. One of the hardest things I learned was that sometimes, the things that hurt the most are the very things you need to do in order to continue on as a whole being.  Giving in to the pain can lead to atrophy and eventually the loss of the limb...or worse, it can spread and consume your entire body.

And so I find inspiration here.  I know that hiding from this pain won't help me find a path through it, and I know that the world at large isn't going to hold my hand while I try to find my feet, and so I dive into it on my own in the dark, quiet nights when my family is safely sleeping.  I write, I sing, I imagine, I explore, I cry...

Earlier this year, I performed an aerial silks piece that I created in honor of my mother, about the experience of losing her.  I haven't shared it because it was underrehearsed and not at all up to my own standards, but last night's dream really drove home that she would be saddened by my decision not to share it, and if I really want to honor her as I meant to, I should put it out there anyway.

So this is for you, Mom:

This song hit me square in the gut last fall as we prepared for your departure. Everything about it spoke directly to how I felt.  And though I knew we were heading towards goodbye, I knew that I would never stop wanting you back.  That there will always be a huge place for you in my heart. It spoke to the little kid in me that will always be looking for you out the window, waiting for you to come home.  It was very clearly written about a lost lover, but that didn't matter, the sense of loss and longing at the point of departure, the calm acceptance that this was happening even if we didn't want it to, the sense of strength in the face of huge change, and the preservation of the love...it all hit so close to home.  The chorus became my wish for you to have an easy, peaceful death, and no more promises became my way of releasing you from feeling like you were letting us down by leaving too soon.  And never loving again was simply never getting over this loss.  The song became the anthem of that time for me, and helped me, hugely, to grieve.

"The sky looks pissed
the wind talks back
my bones are shifting in my skin
and you my love are gone.

my room feels wrong
the bed won't fit
I cannot seem to operate
and you, my love, are gone

So glide away on soapy heels
and promise not to promise anymore
and if you come around again
then I will take, 
then I will take the chain from off the door.

I'll never say
I'll never love
but I don't say a lot of things
and you my love are gone.

So glide away on soapy heels
and promise not to promise anymore
and if you come around again 
then I will take the chain from off the door.

Then I will take
then I will take
then I will take
the chain
from off
the door."

I took that song and used it to create this piece.  I was going for a disjointed feel, where things seem backwards and upside down, at odd angles, and things that should be beautiful seem somehow awkward...all while looking skyward in search of something that is missing.

Unfortunately the video didn't come out very well.  It's dark, and all of the shape work I did in the fabric at the start is totally lost, and because it is in closeup a lot of the vertical dimensions I was playing with don't translate, so I consider this a poor documentation of it on top of feeling like it wasn't the homage you deserved...So it is only with the understanding that this is just a first step, and I will be holding you in my heart in everything that I do that I am putting this out into the world now. It may be flawed, but it is for you, mama, with so much love.


Maybe the chain is on the door to that old wooden house in my dream.  Maybe, every so often, you can come around again, and I will take - I will always take - that chain from off the door.

Love always,
Kate