John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, thinking about remembrance and life after death.
I am terrible at remembering names. If you are a casual friend and I haven’t seen you in a year, you are going to get, “Hey man, good to see you again.” And it is good to see whoever it is, but your name and where I know you from has probably escaped me. Birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions? I am even worse.
I finally remembered my mom’s birthday in my 50s—June 29, 1938. I had to know it to be able to pick up her prescriptions. I know I thought of her on her birthday because I think of her every day. Many of you are the same way because I read your social media posts about your parents who have died. But I did not remember it was her birthday or acknowledge it with a ceremonial act, which then produced some feelings of guilt.
I hesitated to use the word “death” there and we do as a people tend to avoid it because death implies a finality that isn’t so. My mom instilled a kindness and sensitivity in me that maybe got buried for a minute when my childhood got misplaced after I was molested. She was such an affectionate mother.
We want reassurance that when our loved ones have passed, they are no longer suffering. I know enough about myself and death to know our beingness is eternal. But as far as what happens after a person dies and how heaven or the afterlife is experienced? I have no memory or experience of that and can only guess. Fortunately, in my experience and from what I have heard and read from others, life provides reassurance, if we are paying attention or maybe distraught.
A very good friend of mine passed a couple of months before my mom and she eventually came to me in a dream surrounded by light and full of laughter. She struggled with drugs because of a childhood full of trauma, but she had a mushy heart, so, I wasn’t too worried. But I was glad to know she hadn’t chosen to wander the earth as a ghostly apparition wondering what she had done wrong or as a way to punish herself for imagined sins.
I was glad to know she hadn’t chosen to wander the earth as a ghostly apparition wondering what she had done wrong or as a way to punish herself for imagined sins.
I had some good signs Mom was headed to heaven as her death approached, but hadn’t heard from her in a way I could discern, since her death this past January.
I was camping recently with a dear friend of mine and his son. We were driving down this old logging road the first evening to catch a good view of the setting sun. I was absolutely enchanted by all the wildflowers in bloom along that old road, including some Indian paintbrush.
I have told this story a thousand times, so, this is a brief. Texas wildflowers, including those lovely paintbrushes, pulled me out of a deep depression when I was homeless. I give them credit for saving my life and have had a deep reverence for flowers ever since.
We were coming out of the North Fork and over French Mountain, my friend had mentioned he wanted to pick a bouquet of daisies for his wife. He likes to correct my driving, so, after I pulled over next to a decent daisy patch, he pointed out there was a wider pullout a hundred or so feet ahead. Because he has kids, his mind is a little more focused on safety than mine is, I guess. He berated me, in a kind way, several times during our trip when I would stop in the middle of the dirt road along the river to take pictures.
I didn’t fight “The Man” on this occasion and pulled forward to the safer turnout. I was so glad I did because it was next to a creek exactly like the ones my mom would take us fishing in when my brother and I were kids. The burbling sound of the water and the brush along the creek held memories. A small meadow of wildflowers, including an abundance of my beloved paintbrushes, also graced the area.
I teared up a little because I know my mom was guiding my driving decision. In that meadow, I remembered that she had proclaimed several times throughout her life that Indian paintbrush, a wildflower that was everywhere around her childhood home in Headquarters, Idaho, was her favorite flower. She was providing me some reassurance, you see.