When my mother died in September 2013 I reacted in the only way I knew how; by getting busy. In the days preceding her funeral, I spent hours and hours putting together a series of photos and made a slide show of her life. I got to know her better in every picture – following her from one year to the next. the hard first years where she wasn’t allowed to act like my mother, as I had been adopted into my family and my grandparents were raising me. once the “cat’ was out of the bag – it was even harder I think at times because now I couldn’t relate to her as a mother yet. Then finally, full circle came when i had my own kids and we just became “partners” and friends, and she was able to evolve into a mothering role with me. An incredible woman on all counts, she passed on her love of music, art and life to me and her all important advice to just be myself – to love what i am and to have a blast with the talents that god gave us. I love the fact that she was involved in her own funeral in a way as she was the one who picked the play list, choosing some very funeral inappropriate music like Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega and “It’s Your thing”, by the Jackson 5.
The morning of the funeral I got up in such a twist of confused grief that I was quite sure that I would not be able to function. My face swollen from distress and soul emptying jags of crying, I didn’t even bother with make up – or brushing my unruly hair. I knew I would have to sing – i don’t remember packing my guitar but somehow it ended up there with me.
Walking into the funeral parlour I went upstairs and into the huge room we hope will be able to house the hundreds of people who would be attending a final farewell for a woman who had spent her life loving people. Some members of my family and her husband sitting in a circle looking dazed and confused. I say hi, we exchange niceties – my kids look like zombies. I hate that they are in pain. But this is life.
Placing the laptop with the slideshow I wondered if I should keep the sound off – her musical choices were, to say the least, not very “funerally.”
I press play…and here we go. Picture after picture…her with her twin, looking beautiful and happy and alive – bathing suits, beaches, sunshine…a time when life felt normal because she was here. Hair styles ranging from some fluffy Afro thing in the 7o’s to her cute short blond look.
now everyone is standing around he computer, a crowd is gathering and there is laughter, fun, voices start to sound like we are at a cocktail party at ten am. Laughter rings…the music changed the energy of the room and suddenly we are reminded that we are there to celebrate an amazing life.
Hers and as she would want it – OUR amazing life.
“It’s your thing…do what you want to do!”
I look around and the people who have now begun to file into the room looking forlorn. I see that they brighten a little at the music – I see some even inadvertently doing little wiggle dances – oh yeah! She had the right idea. Even past the grave she was giving us what she gave in life – this joyful countenance and an ability to look at everything with a purpose and reason. Music always was her healing force.
As has happened so often since her transition, I have thought ‘oh, i wish you were here to see this”.
But she has never been far from me:
‘It’s your thing baby – do what You want to do”… I hear her say to me as she puts her arms around me and tells me it’s going o be ok. I wrap my arms around my shoulders and pretend she is hugging me – it helps sometimes.
And I do – my thing, that is. And so do my kids. We are a unique family often times opinionated open hearted connected fun loving and awesome!
This year we started some new traditions because Christmas without her and keeping all the same things would be too painful.
Three weeks ago i had all my kids come for a tree trimming dinner. They all turned 18 as of august, so we bought some wine, and began to put up the tree…but here’s the thing.
We all like each other too much. Only half the tree even got put up…and we forgot to put the bottom on the tree (fake tree – we don’t like to kill stuff for our own entertainment…). So. the middle and top of the tree are together…and the bottom part – which for whatever reason was left aside…is sitting in the living room. Seven kids – 25 years of decorating trees and we just did a big fail. The tree is tiny, adorable and leans to the right like a drunken sailor. About three hours into the tree trimming, the house is BUZZING with laughter, people on the porch talking, hugging like old friends. Then I heard it – the best thing a mother can hear:
“wow…i cant believe I like my family so much!”
‘yeah – we’re awesome! I like hanging with you guys better than any of my friends..”
And now I’m crying. Here’s the thing. As a mother – there is NOTHING you want more than to know that your kids love each other so much that when you are gone, they will be there to help each other through what you know will be the all the painful trials and pains of life – but also that they want to share their happy times! In our family this didn’t happen. We have one brother (we had the same brother because of my adoptions situation) who has spent so many years calling the women of the family crazy that he has talked his way out of so may beautiful experiences. I don’t want this kind of nasty arrogant superiority with my kids, and neither did she. My mom would be so happy – this was our number one goal with the kids. That night, I stood in the kitchen making sure to keep my back turned so they wouldn’t see the tears of gratitude.
My heart was so full of happiness.
My mom is here with us. i feel her all the time. And my friend Richard – all the time. My horse, dog, goat cat – all lost this year. Mike who sadly took his own life. A year full of losses has taught me so much.
So, to all the people I meet who ask me HOW I am so damned happy, and that they wished they could do the thing they love the most too – make this year the one that you dive into the full potential happiness of your life!
If I was told I would die tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a single regret because I listened to my mother and “did my thang”…
Happy Christmas to you – may 2015 bless you with every chance to know your own awesomeness and to ‘do your thing”!