Loving the Ragged and the Beautiful
By Guest Blogger Beverly Menninger
Tonight I stand outside mom’s room as she is dying. I observe from some other place. It feels surreal. Time stands still. She is dying the way she imagined she would. Physically she reached the place she feared most. As a soul I see her moving through it. Others view the way she is dying as something horrible. I see her soul’s chosen journey unfolding with angst to conquer. Her soul is bravely facing what she viewed as the worst possible end. Watching her now, it touches my heart to see the beauty in the brokenness and struggles of her life.
A childhood memory floods in. I hear her comment made from the top of my bedroom steps, “Why can’t I have fun too?”
Soft squishy wet grass under my feet. A hot summer evening pouring down rain, the kind of rain that calls you to run through it like a warm shower. It takes my breath away. I smell wet earth and worms. I run into the street with my little sister. We dance and splash with laughter in the street gutter that is rushing like a small river. Our neighborhood friends are out.
Here comes mom, leaving the house across the street. She joins us, skipping through the gutters, throwing her arms up hooting with excitement. I feel flushed with embarrassment. She’s been drinking. I knew it the minute I saw her. Is she having fun? To me she looks foolish. It drained the fun out of the experience to see mom acting like that. My sister and I run into the house and up the stairs to my room. Moments later Mom towers over us two steps up standing in the hallway. She screams at us. “Why shouldn’t I have fun too?” She is furious. The pit in my stomach twists with shame. I am a disappointment. I am unlovable. Her raggedness overrides her beauty.
As she took her last breaths I say, “Your work is done.” She accomplished bringing me, my sister and our children into this world. She did it. She never viewed being a mother as something to be proud of. She never realized that being our mom was her most valuable contribution. She wished she had done something with her life, written a book, a song, anything. She questioned her legacy. She expressed regrets. She hoped for something different, something more. Although most of her life was materially comfortable, there were pockets of anger, shame, frustration and dissatisfaction. I cry sensing her grief and disappointment over her belief that she did not take the more meaningful and worthwhile road.
I now see clearly she is simply a fellow soul. A beautiful, perfect soul. She is on her journey. An Earth School student here to learn what she needed to learn. I am a part of her lesson. She a part of mine. I know that she is in my life to teach me what I came to learn. If I remain blind to the truth of how we shared this life together, I miss the teachings she provided. Mom’s story was not intended to be changed by me. Her choices were hers –whether she realized it or not. I see more clearly when I step out of my ego and into my heart and soul. I begin to understand, even just a smidge, the reason we are all here.
I miss the mom I grew to love. I wish I had more time with the “sweet little old lady” she was becoming. Her soul shone through the disease and deterioration. Her beautiful smile and laughter. Her appreciation for the care she received. Her innocent confusion. If her life had been more joy-filled maybe she never would have become so disabled. I wipe tears away for her dreams that never came true, for the times we never got to share, for the moments she missed with grandchildren. Tears for the suffering she experienced from the fear she held so tightly.
No more humoring her when she talks of painting again, knitting again or her plans to fill the cardboard boxes behind her recliner when, as she stated, “I move out of this place back into my house.” Her move required no boxes after all. It weighs heavy on my heart and brings a gentle smile, seeing mom’s old mustard jar full of paint brushes. Once they stood next to her watercolor paper now they are on the table next to my bed. A bag full of knitting needles, one with a row of her knitted stitches, is tucked in the corner of my closet. I pray that some of who she was will shine through me and express itself in the world. I can be a positive continuation of her potential.
In yoga class I focus on the third chakra. The chakra of self-definition, autonomy and power. With each pose, twist and breath I release tears. My foundation as a woman was mom. I was created from her womb, from her heart and through her story. Had she not lived, I would not live. I would not have made my mistakes and achieved what I have achieved. I would not be contributing to so many others’ lives. I would not have created my beautiful son and been my sister’s sister. I would not have loved my son’s father. I would not be with the man I now love as we create a relationship full of contentment, joy and happiness.
To love someone is to love the beautiful and the ragged parts of them. Sometimes the ragged, including memories, seem to outweigh the beauty. But when I take the time to dig deeper, her beauty shines! And my beauty is revealed to me. To love someone, including myself, I need to love what is beautiful and what is ragged. The truth is, even the messes we make and think we are, are beautiful.
Beverly Menninger is a mom of a beautiful 19 year old son. She is an occupational therapist, most recently in public schools and at an equine assisted therapy center for children. Her free time is spent writing, knitting, cooking, cycling, and enjoying nature.