Today, of course, I remember my mother, in all her crazy glory. My mother was larger than life, extravagant, exciting, maddening, funny, smart, kind, and unbearably self-centered. Her desire to help others came from a deep need to be loved and accepted, and the more she pushed her help on people, the more we pushed away, furthering her own loneliness and isolation. It was a lifelong tug of war for her, and a painful one.
The one time we really had fun together, as adults, was when she traveled with me in Japan. Then, she was at my mercy, finding herself in a place so foreign, with a language she couldn't begin to grasp, she had to rely completely on me to get us around the country, order food, arrange for places to sleep. She was able to just relax and let me take over, and for the first (and only) time in our lives together we were equals. We could relax and enjoy each other's company, enjoy the country, just BE. If only we could have kept it that way, the next 15 years together would have been delightful instead of an intense struggle.
The world religions teach us that this life on earth is just a blink of an eye -- there is so, so much more to come. I choose to believe that Mom has found some peace at last and that her soul is at rest. I can see her now for who she was, can see how her harsh and unforgiving childhood shaped her, can see her deep need, always unmet. On the day she died I placed lavender oil on her forehead, feet, and hands, anointing her, easing her passage. Today I can give thanks for the mother she was, with all her faults and shortcomings. She shaped me, and I am grateful.