I was fortunate to be able to participate in Whole Heart’s Courage Earth retreat on Hurricane Island (in Maine’s Penobscot Bay) in late July. The timing could not have been better for me. I had just lost my mother and I needed ways to reflect upon this experience - through words and creative expression in photography, painting and poetry. Here I share some of the experiences that taking time to listen, grieve and express has surfaced:
I’ve seen many seasons come and go, and October was always when our family would join my mother to celebrate her birthday. She would happily announce each year that she was going to life forever.
Instead, she died this year, amidst the beauty of Maryland in late May, on the cusp of another season’s change.
To live to be 93 old years is a blessing. And I’m beginning to understand what she meant when she said she would live forever. She will live forever in my heart, and in the hearts of the many people she touched during her amazing and productive life.
Life with a stubborn mother wasn’t always easy. Looking back now, my memories ebb and flow. As time passes, I seem more ready to accept the transition brought about by her death.
First, I allow myself time to grieve. The daily stress of caregiving has given way to an opening of time, to be more physically and emotionally present in my own life.
I miss my mother deeply, but the lessons learned from her are seeping into my awareness now that the immediacy of caregiving has released my soul. Now grieving gives way to thoughtfulness and gratefulness. I’m more keenly aware now of the deep love she had for her children and grandchildren. She may have had an emotional hard shell, but with her self-protective layer gone, I feel her soothing love at a level more comforting than I had ever felt before.
I’m an orphan, but I’m becoming myself anew, and finding I need to recreate myself. And that “self” is strong, as my mother was. Tenacious, as my mother was. Tender, as my mother was. And loving toward self and others, as was my mother.
Sun Sets in Marine Mist
Sun sets, rays diffused
By quiet marine mist.
Tall spruce trees spike toward the sky
Framing the sunset.
Beside me, where sea, granite and land meet
A proud mature spruce tree grows.
Its hefty trunk supported by outstretched roots
Embracing granite boulders.
Despite sparse nutrients
And the seemingly unbalanced foothold,
The tree is somehow anchored and upright.
The tree is me.
A few broken limbs, but no worse for the wear.
And as I, facing the elements
The hard granite
The salt breeze.
Arc of granite boulders softened by centuries of tidal action
Flow gracefully toward the bay.
There is no way of telling where the water ends
And the fog begins.
The quiet lapping of the sea
And the enclosure of the mist envelopes me in safety
Gives the illusion that I am alone on this island of rock.
This Ghost City of granite.
Ruth Ann Randall is a recently retired owner of a daily newspaper in Frederick, Md. Throughout the year, she and her husband spend several months at their Vermont home, where she regains her energy and reignites her spirit by hiking, writing, plein air painting and playing music. Ruth has attended several Circle of Trust(c) retreats and an Intergenerational Leadership Exchange.