Two weeks after my mother died, I loaded my car with winter jackets, my meditation pillow, and my hiking boots and drove up to Mt. Baldy for a silent meditation retreat.
I couldn’t wait to get away, to be on my own again. After many weeks of caring for my dying mother, I needed time and space to grieve.
The moment I reached the mountain and unpacked in my small cabin, I felt solace. The cabin was usually the nurse’s infirmary for the monks who lived there all year round. This space with its small desk to write on and a bunk bed with a thin mattress became my respite.
I sat on the flimsy bed, and I thought to myself, “Here, I can be whoever I want to be. Here, I can just be me.”
After a day of meditation, sitting in a dark Japanese meditation hall, called a zendo wrapped in my organic cream-colored cotton blanket, I was ready to let Mom go.
Now that she was gone, I realized she lived her life how she wanted: independent, preferring to be alone, facing her death how she chose.
As I sat for hours in the dark zendo, I accepted that, at the time, I was a forty-two year old woman. Like my mother, I was capable of living my life however I wanted. I could be independent and comfortable with my own aloneness, facing my life now however I chose.
I thought about how every relationship we have, every single person who enters into our lives, brings with them a fragment of ourselves that we had lost or given away at some time in our past.
Everyone we meet holds this fragment in the palm of their open hand as a gift for us to take back into ourselves. This is especially true in those relationships that are the most painful, perhaps those that involve betrayal, abuse, or abandonment. The harder it is to accept that fragment, the more important it is for us to take it.
The mistake I’d been making was believing that something is lost when a relationship ends. I thought that the heart could not be repaired, or that the love received can never be replaced, or even worse, that I would be empty without them.
Each person I’ve loved and lost magnificently came to show me a part of myself that I had not known, could not know until I came to know them.
The relationships may have resonated with something familiar, a similar pattern I continued to create as I moved through time and space. Yet every relationship helped me go deeper, helped me to know myself.
With each connection, if I was willing, I saw more, I understood more, I became more aware. I reached the depths of myself, layer after layer, coming closer to the core, so that I could heal, so that I could grow, so that I could learn to love others and myself better.
Underneath my meditation pillow, I kept a card given to me by Mom on my last birthday before she died. She had crafted it of fabric and closed it with a safety pin.
Inside, the card read Happy Birthday from Sept. 2nd to Sept. 2nd. Lovingly, Mom. She had given me a birthday card I could open for the rest of my life. My mother was the true gift.
May you grow and be empowered by each and every relationship!