Saturday, September 18, 2010

Of smoke and memories

Tomorrow I bury my mother.

I don't share much about myself, you've likely noticed that. I"m a private person and what I feel is my own. Yet, sometimes I need to express. Less than two months ago, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumors. Radiation treatments reduced her pain and other symptoms, but couldn't halt the inevitable, especially at such a terminal stage. Last week, after her final round of treatments, she went to sleep and a few days later, didn't wake up.

I wasn't close to my mother. We'd come to terms over the years and gone our separate ways. We each had our own paths to follow, and more than anyone else, I think she understood that. We understood each other.

My mother, like hers before, was of Native descent. My grandmother was the quintessential squaw: small yet authoritative. During the year that we lived with her, she taught me to listen to the water and the wind and the trees. She also taught me how to sew and quilt. Who knew the relevance that appreciation would have in my later life. My grandfather, by all accounts, was a tall, lanky, whiskey-drinking Indian. I never knew him, but attended his funeral as a young boy.

My mother was dealt a tough hand in life and did her best to live it. I think, especially in her later years, she did well. Despite her temperament. She did her best as a single mother of two. And when that didn't work, she did her best to carry on without her children, which must have been the worst of all the dark cards she was dealt.

The week before she died, we went to see her. It was only the fourth time we'd seen each other since I got married. I think she never forgave me for that, getting married I mean. It had nothing to do with my wife (despite the amount of Texas in her). The week after my wedding, she called to let me know I'd always have a room at her house in case, you know, it didn't work out. And that ...supportive... attitude never changed. Even fifteen years later.

What matters to me is that she got to see her grandsons one more time. She got to see how they have already overcome so much of their own adversities and are growing into wonderful, bright, and independent boys. She got to see her bloodline blossoming, and I hope it served to help put her at peace.

She had one rule: you never say goodbye. It was a Cherokee custom. You only say goodbye to someone once. Otherwise, it's just a temporary parting. It's one of the few constants I remember about her.

I know that my mother went forth into the next life at peace and on her own terms. She certainly deserved that much.

Goodbye Mother. I'll listen for you on the wind and send you occasional tendrils of smoke from my campfire.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:35 PM

    These are some beautiful sentiments. Thank you for sharing.