Over the last two weeks, anticipating a move from our house, I have been purging my basement of about ten years' worth of material from therapy. They were awful, awful days, those ten years, of vomiting out loads of pain and grief and anger and anxiety I'd held locked inside. For a few years now, I've been done with therapy, really really done, and a thousand times better. It was time to let go of the detritus of my therapy. As I burned the material, I watched the smoke curl upwards, and ashes drift across the grass on this beautiful day. I tried to catch some of the larger ashes, and they crumbled in my fingers.
Over the years, I have kept my mother mostly in ignorance of the extent of my therapy and pain. Let's just say that she was there when I was absorbing the pain and fear at the beginning, and the few times when I shared tiny pieces of my recovery with her, her response was not what I might have hoped. So I have completed my internal work without her, and I am glad of it.
In recent days my mother talks about feeling her own death is quite close. Not just what she has said for years, "I want to die". No, she now says that she feels she WILL die in the next days, perhaps weeks. And I see her weakness, her utter weariness, her lack of appetite, and I believe it is possible.
As I look back on that bonfire, I have been reflecting on the symbolism of the smoke and ash. It was so difficult to get to that point, but now it has been consumed so easily. It has disappeared into nothingness. I no longer need to carry all that. And my own mother, her own history, her own hopes and dreams and disappointments, her own behaviors as a mother, her own pain, will soon disappear just as quickly.
I celebrate that I have been able to spend the last five years caring for my mother without being crippled by the past. Being an adult with choices, with power. I have been able to find a way to love her, to be tender and kind. I'm so glad we've had these last five years. I've become whole.
When she does die, I'm sure I'll miss her, to some degree, but I also see her passing as a moment when I pick up the ash and it crumbles in my hands. She has no more power to hurt me. I will burn away any remnants of the grief and I will be left with some of the love that she surely intended to give me, even though she wasn't really able to love as she might have wished. But me? I will be free, with my face in the autumn sun, a cooling breeze and dear friends at my side.