It has been a difficult morning. Emotion sits on my chest and it is hard to take a deep breath. I know from my studies of Traditional Chinese Medicine that we hold unresolved grief in our lungs, and I wonder what pain I am still holding close. I sit to work, to write, but I soon grow restless and by noon I have re-collared the pups and set out on our second walk of the morning. There is now a sadness I am feeling and as tears come to my eyes I observe my actions with curiosity. Where is this coming from, I think to myself. What is the source of this deep grief? Then it comes to me, one year ago today we buried my mother in a deep grave amidst the thousands of white grave markers in Arlington National Cemetery.
No doubt, it is the exact hour when I was sitting with my brothers and sisters, friends and relatives on a clear August day in Washington. We knew there would be no time to linger with this funeral. In a time of war, the line-up of soldiers waiting to be buried is long. With military punctuality foremost on the agenda we had a small window of time, while another family waited to bury their dead. This is not the family plot in some small graveside in every small town in America. What it is, is meant to bring honor to every soldier and family of that soldier who has given their life for our freedom; but there is more, for also lying in many of those graves are the wives and children of those soldiers who have served their country with dedication and commitment. The unseen soldier’s family who wait at home worrying and praying for their safe return from war; the family who will leave their home at a moment’s notice to follow the path of the warrior wherever it may lead. My mother was an officer’s wife for 40 years and she now rests there with my father, her memory still alive in the hearts of her family.
Growing up, my mother and I were like oil and water. We could not have been more different and yet, physically, so much alike. Those last few years of her decline loosened our tongues to speak of our love and admiration for each other. We told stories of our past, not as mother and daughter, but as two women with a need to share the truth of their journey. We wondered how we had arrived at this point in our lives; she wondered how her role as my mother had affected who I am today. We apologized for hurts and the pain we might have caused the other and when we said good-bye I attempted, for once, to have the last word.
“In the next lifetime, mom, I get to be the mother.”
With her silent laughter and a twinkle in her Irish blue eyes she managed to have the final say.
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