It was this time last year that I was gearing up to head straight into what felt like the mouth of the fire. I felt like I could completely relate to the Game of Thrones (GOT) mantra: “WINTER.IS.COMING.” There was an ominous feeling in the HBO series that something would be coming and everyone had to prepare. Game of Thrones (like life) is not for the faint of heart. I almost stopped watching multiple times because I like what I watch to leave me feeling more hopeful, lighter; I like to see that good wins…that is NOT the case in GOT. There is struggle, triumph, magic, betrayal, death and it is gripping. As for me, it helped me welcome in the grit of life. It was as if the pain in the show helped me get ready for unrelenting and inevitable life in light of death.
My mom was nearing the end of her battle with liver cancer. I was across the country and wanted to be there every moment. My family is very close. I moved across the country to pursue my master’s degree and fulfill a need to expand my world and expand into the world. I felt a sort of crazy calling as a kid. I felt like Disney’s Moana I wished I could be the perfect daughter (but I come back to water...) So I made it a priority to fly to California as much as I could and balance life in Massachusetts with my husband, my then 6 year old and my 3 year old.
We watched my mom fight, we watched her rally, we loved her, we held her. (I loved taking care of her so much that I wondered if I missed another calling. I still feel a need to work in some kind of hospice setting.) I returned to the home where I grew up, prepared to be focused on my mom, to observe family dynamics without letting them overshadow my work as a daughter who is also a mother. It was not easy, it took every piece of me, every meditation tool, countless conversations and encouragement from friends and months of therapy to remain present and show up with love.
My mom died gracefully in the home she and my dad built. My sister, my aunt and I were by her side guiding her, taking care of her, and loving her…the way she always did for us.
That night changed me forever.
The days that followed were beautiful, we planned ceremonies and celebrations that our dear mom would be proud of. You could feel her in the details. She also seemed to orchestrate a coming together that my sister and I desperately needed. We prepared every detail and took care of my mom in ways that felt ceremonious and necessary. We were able to channel our grief into love. We delivered her eulogy as if we were talking to her. We continue to keep her spirit alive and my kids and I get signs from my mom all the time.
During that intense time, I leaned on my community, meditation, yoga, exercise and I was so grateful for therapy. I wanted to show up with my whole self. I wanted to have enough fuel and supplies for one of the most profound journeys and experiences in my life this far. I leaned into love and support. I was guided by my husband and my dearest friends. I was humbled and grateful for the people who are on this path with me. I could feel the energy of people who really understand what it means to experience loss. They don’t say much but they are pillars of strength and support. They show up to remind you that they are there and they need nothing in return. They don’t even expect you to say a word but they hold your gaze, they hold you up, they are ready to lean in and are skilled in offering spacious support. Humans are amazing and the human experience is wild, wonderful, thrilling and humbling. It is also so precious. It is a year later and I am still processing the gifts from showing up and leaning in.
While I may never be as physically fierce as Jon Snow, I sometimes do feel like the mother of dragons and I definitely have a crew as loyal, ready and willing as his. I know that I stand here as one but show up as many and it helps me summon up the power needed to go right in to the mouth of everyday fires and live an examined life. It is what we do for each other when we can listen to our stories and hold space for pain, triumph and everything in between.
Where is your place to land, share and be held? Can we create one for every soul on this planet?