At night they come, whispering long into the darkness as I sleep. The sheer number of languages suggest representation from many cultures. Their voices have become familiar and comforting, even as they disrupt my sleep. At times I have glimpsed a knowing that mom is now one of them.
Perhaps they are discussing my future, offering protection, or checking in on progress being made? Maybe they are sharing a recipe or catching up – no matter. Their soft rich voices and non-stop laughter have become the soundtrack to my dreams. Many mornings a fragment of a sentence, a word, or two, is all that remains fo our time together.
My first awareness that the grandmothers were present occurred a few days before my mother died. At two am, the Tuesday morning before she crossed over, I had gone out into the moonlight barefoot, with my drum, and asked for their help. A short time later, when I checked on mom, their presence had already registered in a shifting balance to the weight of air. That night I slept soundly even though it was only about an hour between mom’s new need, and Molly’s next coughing episode.
In those last few days, every time I headed out so the dogs could relieve themselves, it was like a hand touched my shoulder as if to say – “no rush, we got this – take a minute to breathe while you are out there”. Each day I offered a plate of whatever food I ate under the tree in our backyard.
They seemed to enjoy every bite with the exception of the couscous, that I myself found dry. It remained the only item untouched on the dish for all the day’s food was offered. In return for my care, they helped me feel less afraid, and reminded me of the many songs heard in communities I had been part of during the years of wandering. Their presence made it possible for me to sing to my mother continuously from many traditions, in languages I do not speak, for as many hours as it took for her to breathe her last breath and for her heart to stop beating.
I am certain God was working with and through them by carving out time for all the friends, neighbors, and cousins who sat with mom in her final hours of daylight, and for Michelle & Margaret the nurses from hospice, who along with Nick & Chelsea provided comfort and care with me over the long dark hours of those last two nights.
Four days after she passed, feeling certain her journey was complete, I offered food, tobacco, drumming, songs, and prayers filled with gratitude for the assistance of the ancients. I assured them I would be ok, and suggested they were now free to go on to wherever they were needed. It felt like all (at least that part of the journey) was finished in beauty.
This is not the first time I have felt them. The ancient ones, on some level have for many years been part of my healing and growth. Perhaps from the time I was a youngster, who felt my attention focussed differently from others, I have always known that I was of and from them. Now, in a way I can’t begin to name, I know that I too join the ones who come to ease the way for others.
I am looking out my window into moonlit filled trees when I notice the light from a small motorcycle, up the hill behind my neighbor’s house. I know by the sound it’s moving in my direction and will be here any moment. I walk calmly into the night, preparing to confront what I assume to be a person of ill intent. Isn’t that who we are taught to expect in a land filled with paranoia and fear?
Searching for a potential weapon, I find a piece of wood, and with it heavy in my hand, I wait. What if I have to use it? If I jam it into the spokes of the wheel what will happen to the rider? If I am forced to fight for my life, will I? The figure approaches as I knew it would. I am surprised to find the person I presume to be a ‘he’, is neither gender specific or young, as I imagined. This ‘tween spirit, with a somewhat undefined torso and face, is wearing an old dingy tee-shirt, khaki pants, and a worn black belt with a simple silver-colored buckle.
Although somewhat curious whether this person means harm, I gargle “get the f’*! out of here”, with all the power I can muster, just in case. I realize a moment too late that these sad brown eyes have been looking for me, and may carry a message from the ones who whisper. It is too late. I am back in my room and the light from the moon is pouring in. Above the sound of my fan, only persistent crickets. After stumbling to the bathroom and back I will myself to sleep.
The next morning a wave of cranky impatience about the future accompanies the ritual grinding of the beans. I wonder, whether awake or dreaming, how might I best remain myself without hiding or becoming a statue in times of perceived threat?
This consideration gives me the energy to get back on my erg. It feels like coming home after vacation, and for a while I am able to sustain a solid rhythm and flow. When finished, I complete my stretching on the floor just in time for a new wave of weeping to crash over me. I give in to the cadence but do not over indulge. It is, as it is. Mom and Molly really are gone, at least from this plane.
I force myself into the shower. I apply for three more jobs. I take a walk with Thunder and contemplate the beauty filled grace of my life. I wonder about next chapters. I ponder how I might translate what the Splatsin elders of the Shuswap nation shared with me years ago, and wonder how it relates to what is happening now.
Despite this success, I find myself restless and lost in the late afternoon. Fortunately, I have a business meeting by phone to rescue my creative mind. (more on those exciting developments in the weeks to come). I drag myself through dinner alone, and still give thanks for the food I have to eat. I practice mindfulness as I wash my face, floss, and brush my teeth.
It is way too early, but I fall into bed anyway, wondering if my phone will offer a measure of love or laughter. Reminding myself that it already exists abundantly inside me, I drift off to sleep smiling, as they begin to gather again. Maybe tonight God’s plan for my life will be revealed.
As Shawna reminds me, this opportunity to welcome perceived threat will likely come again. Is there someway to prepare? To take inventory of all that I offer this point of engagement. Compassion? Insight? Strength? How may who I am be of use to the situation and whether or not I will rise to the challenge?
May I open into the waiting arms of those who gather…. Blessed beyond measure in more ways than I know.