Elegy

I did not expect my mother to leave as quickly as she did. She fought lung cancer far longer than the statistical imperatives. She was not one for averages and speculations. After she died, we found a single page in one of her neatly organized files: “Never give in Never give in Never give in. Winston Churchill.”

I wore a locket when I took the goddamn California bar exam. I took it twice. It had a fleur de lis on the front and on the back a Churchill quote was inscribed: “Without courage all other virtues lose their meaning.” I wore that locket, along with a Star of David, every day my first two years as an attorney. It gave me a kind of strength I didn’t understand until recently when I found out about courage from my mom – again.

People used to say I’m a lot like my mama. I fought that for a long time. Until I sat with her the last three weeks of her life. If you sat by the bedside of someone you love, lifted them to change them and bathe them, fed them soup, comforted them, I see you. It changes you. Forever. You understand forever what love truly means.

Love means letting go of all expectations of time and space. Love means releasing ego. Love means no time for you but it’s okay because this is maybe the last time. Love means love. Love is all there is.

We yearn for deadlines and guidelines and task lists. We can for sure make them up. But they are actually made up in terms of life and death. My mama said to me before she left, “You have to learn to let go.” Let go and be free. At that time, I was angry and lashed out in my pain. Many of us do when we cannot find reasons that work within our perceptions. But I’ve learned, and I will keep learning, to meet pain and anger with kindness. My last promise to my mom.

Drawbridges (by laurachiyono)

We begin our journey

Armor and shield free

Feel the wind and sun

And rain.

The occasional discomfort

Of hunger or fatigue.

As the journey wears on

We meet and join other

Travelers.

We walk together for a moment

Or for miles.

The adventure allows company

Until it doesn’t.

The moment

We stop and build

A shelter

Walls.
And more walls.

Perhaps turrets from which

We can rain arrows down

On the travelers we once

Walked with,

Build a moat

Guard the castle.

Where you won’t be found

Until the day you release

The drawbridge

And walk out, free.

To begin again the journey

Of sun and wind and rain

And ground.

My mother passed away on May 24, 2021 at 10:36 am. I was going to leave for work. I came downstairs to say goodbye to her and as it turns out it was our last goodbye. I held her hand and the breath left her. Time stood still and I knew nothing would ever be the same.

My mama’s hands held me. They painted and wrote. They were the hands of a teacher and a lifelong student. Some things we hold onto so tightly. Some we let slip through our fingers. And we yearn for them as if they were real. My mama would say to me, “Your hands are so cold.” I would say to her, “So is my butt, why?” She would laugh.

I learned this. Relish the days. Take a lot of photos. Tell your stories. Write a goddamn will. Laugh often. And say I love you a lot. Because in the end, nothing can be taken from you that you give. Give love. Give love. Give love.

My mother told every nurse, caregiver, visitor, who came to see her, “I love you.” Every single one of them. She meant it. I learned, love is not something to be hoarded and saved for a special occasion. Love is for every day. I am grateful for this lesson. I go for walks a lot more. I notice new grapes and vines growing here in Sonoma County. The days are long but the years are short. But there’s enough love for it all. Don’t wait until someone is leaving to tell them. Say I love you. Over and over again.

Capacity (by laurachiyono)

I did not expect this

Exquisite undoing

The spirits whisper

From the next room

“Come with us, come with us”

But my mother stayed

A while more

Tethered to

The goodness of hot coffee

The warm hands of

family.

The books and art

And handwritten notes

Documenting decades

Unboxed at last.

I did not expect this

How golden sweet to hear

Each shattered breath

And in between

She said, over and over

“I love you.”

Until love was all that

Remained.

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