A letter to my mother
I suspect that much of the discomfort we are feeling has very little to do with the present moment, and is rather grounded in past events or imagined futures. I often teach present-moment awareness as the foundation of a happy, connected life and I think that might get misinterpreted from time to time.
The era of COVID-19 has many people worried about the future, that’s undeniable. People don’t know if they or their loved ones will get sick, or possibly die. Even those who are unafraid of the virus itself are facing great economic uncertainty, with, as of the writing of this article, 1 in 7 Americans now unemployed, the sudden increase attributed directly to the pandemic. A lot of the fear of uncertainty comes from events in our past, in this way fear is dragging us in both directions: to the future, to the past, anywhere but the present moment.
If you’ve had periods where you struggled with money, or illness, or death or what have you, you may have been traumatized and the fear of reliving those experiences can be paralyzing. In these instances it’s useful to try and heal our pasts, so we can see the present moment clearly, and to some extent, release our fears about the future. What I’m suggesting here isn’t to get stuck in a cycle of reliving the past over and over, rather I’m saying we can take a good look at it, honor our past, see the ways our path brought us where we are today. With some luck, we can see that in this very moment, yes this exact moment as you are reading these words- we can be okay.
To illustrate my point, and to give some tools that have helped me greatly along the way, I’m going to write today a letter to my mother, who passed away from cancer 19 years ago. If you have events in your past that need revisiting, or healing, perhaps writing about it can help. It’s worth noting that I consider myself generally happy and “healed” form my mother’s death (if there is such a thing as healed). It’s an event and a loss that I still carry with me, but that has become weightless and in a strange way, a welcome companion. No matter where my mother is or isn’t today, I feel like I can communicate when I need to, even if only to find a connection within myself. You can do the same, with anyone, or anything that you carry with you. It’s good to periodically revisit our pasts, to heal where we need to heal, and to celebrate where it’s worth celebrating. Without further ado: a letter to my mother.
You wouldn’t believe the crazy shit that’s going on these days, and yes I know you’d rather I didn’t swear, but fuck things are CRAZY. I haven’t been able to visit dad in almost two months, though I call him several times a week. I also haven’t been able to tour with my band, and that’s quite painful.
I miss you more than words can say, although I know you’re with me somehow. I wish you could have met my wife Émilie, I’m sure you’d love each other so much. I wish you could have met your granddaughter Olivia. I wish you were here with us waiting to welcome our son, your grandson to the world. Dad is so good with Olivia, you’d be really proud of him. He’s still as quiet as ever, but his heart has softened over the years. He helps take care of my family, as you and him took care of Ana and I. I miss Ana too. I hope you two are together somewhere.
Now, I don’t want to get too nostalgic, or too stuck in the “what ifs.” I know things happened how they happened, and there is no other way. Still, a part of me wishes so badly I could call you and talk about my life. You never knew me as an author, or a teacher, you never knew me as an adult. Hell, you never even knew me with tattoos, though you did know me as a green haired little punk. You’ll be happy to know that while I dye my hair less these days, I still play in a punk rock band, and it still brings me as much joy as it did when I was a teenager. Thank you for instilling your love of music into me.
There are days I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. There are other days where I realize that’s exactly the point and that not-knowing is beautiful. I spend a lot of time in self-study and contemplation of the universe around me. You spent so much time trying to get me to do those exact things. When you’re a teenager, it’s easy to dismiss the things your mom says to do, however 20 years later I am so happy to have your spiritual instincts engrained in my DNA. They have made me a better father, and I hope a better person all around.
I’m sorry I wasn’t there more in your final months. I know you’ve forgiven me, because the last words we spoke were about just that. I’ll never forget you telling me that I am forgiven, and that you are proud of me. I hope every single day I can still make you proud. You were the best mother I could have asked for, and although the pain of losing you at such a young age broke my heart, I would rather have had 16 years with you than several lifetimes with any other mom. You are my mom, and I love you so much.
These days, I feel particularly blessed that your death is no longer something I need to deny or run away from. I feel blessed that when I think about you all I know is love. Thank you for this life mom, thank you for your life.
Alright. While we’re all sitting at home social-distancing, I invite you to write a short letter to someone from your past. Find ways to say what you need to say, and heal what you need to heal. Use this as a chance to let go of the past, and connect to the future. This is a practice of the spirit. This is a way to connect. My friends I’m sending all the love in the world your way. Be well.
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