My eyes fluttered open at four o’clock in the morning and I found myself waking to the awareness of the brevity of life, my mortality and the mystery of it all. A slightly uncomfortable feeling washed over me, a sadness. It was then that I remembered that it was the ten-year anniversary of my mother’s death and that realization was breathtaking for me.
My mother was such an intricate part of every aspect of my life, letting go of her at the time of her death was the biggest and scariest thing I had ever faced. After she was gone, I understood what it meant to be motherless, and even though I was an adult, the significance of losing a parent was huge. I no longer had the luxury of sharing time with her, to giggle over silly things, to hear her advice and kind words that soothed my worries and disappointments.
As wonderful and as complete as my relationship with my mother was, the grieving process was a bitch – a muddy sludge of emotion, a river that I waded through until exhausted. For a long while, I could only sit on the edge of that river looking to the other side where life carried on. Slowly the mud settled and the water became a healing potion teeming with life that I was missing out on. I dipped my toes into the inviting water and then slowly slipped in until I could swim again, taking a luscious dip into that extraordinary thing called life.
As a child, my mother dodged Nazis who occupied Oslo during World War II, she sailed on a ship with her family to New York in her teens where she entered an American school knowing only a few words of English. She went on to model and act in a few commercials, hung with artists and actors, rock stars and royalty, living a life that at times seemed impossibly fabulous, but her greatest joy came from spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren.
One of the most intriguing things that happened as my mother was dying occurred when we were alone for a few minutes. I curled up close to her and sobbed and she, with the softest voice said, “You are such a dear, dear, sweet soul”. She said it with love but also a certain detachment and it was at that moment that I realized that something had shifted. She was becoming the essence of who she really was, a spirit, a soul, not so much my mother or Inger.
She imparted secrets to me, some pieces to the puzzle of the universe during those four days before she left, reinforcing what I had already considered but still questioned about life, death and everything spiritual in between. She was anything but a religious woman, as a matter of fact, a few months before she passed away, she told me that she felt no sense of God or what lay beyond this world, but during those final days of her life, she spoke calmly about the place where she was being brought to during times when she appeared almost unconscious to all of us around her.
“You’ll be happy to know that you can eat there if you want to. You don’t need to, but you can if you want”. She also spoke of God and said, “God doesn’t care about religion, only honesty and love”.
She was in a park–like setting where she was shown different paths that she could take. “You have to decide which path you will take, even at this point in life” she said with her eyes still closed as if she was viewing something that could only be seen through a channel that only she was privy to. She even joked with my stepfather who has a big appetite for life and food, “You’ll be happy to know that you can eat there if you want to. You don’t need to, but you can if you want”. She also spoke of God and said, “God doesn’t care about religion, only honesty and love”. Before she passed, she told my sister and me that her father was in the room “He says he wants to be a part of this”, so I know she left in good hands.
So much has happened during the past ten years that I wish I could tell her about. I’d love to explain to her how her grandchildren have turned out to be the most amazing human beings and about the lovely man who I now share my life with, whom she would have adored. Sometimes I think I see her in nature, like when a hummingbird’s wings fluttered up against my dress as it hung in the air so close to me as if to say “hello” and sometimes I just feel her presence.
To be able to see her face one more time and to feel the warmth of her hug, a hug like no one else’s, would be the ultimate gift but those are moments that come to me in dreams now, dreams I cherish. So I’ll continue to talk to the hummingbirds in hopes that they will carry my messages to her of my deep love and gratitude for being on the receiving end of such a woman – the beautiful mother, friend and grandmother that she was. I was so blessed for knowing her.