In yesterday’s post, I listed 10 things I forgive myself for.
Number 11, or the bonus one, was that I forgive myself for not washing my mother’s body after she died. I want to tell you a little bit more about this.
First of all, this is a photo of me and my mom, circa 1998:
As you know, my mom was young – only 18 – when I was born. Just three weeks later she turned 19. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a teen mom. I know it was difficult at times and she and my father – although they were married when I was born – only stayed together for a couple of years.
In any event, she did the best she could, mothering me and then, ten years later, my half-sister. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, and she didn’t really have a great mom herself, so it’s difficult to learn how to mother when you haven’t been mothered well.
Trust me, I know.
Much of what I do as a mom is a reaction to how she mothered – or didn’t – me.
[Note to self: there is tomorrow’s FWC subject! #perfectsegue]
Without going into too much detail, I was leading a writing group earlier this year and one evening the subject we wrote about was “Missed Chances.” I wrote along, and this is what came up for me:
The missed chance that stands out to me is washing my mother’s body after she died. How I wish I had grabbed that rough, industrial washcloth and wet it with warm water, wrung it out, the heat of my hands on the cloth, the water in rivulets running through my fingers.
I wish I had washed your face, Mom, touched your closed eyelids. Pushed the hair off your face. Kissed your cooling lips one last time.
I would have raised your arms before they stiffened, to clean the crevices, and bathe your freckled skin. I would have gently washed each finger and seen how your hands and mine are twins.
I would have run the cloth across your collar bone and down your chest, to your breasts and the still spot where your heart finally came to rest.
That’s as far as I got that day.
I would have told your body how much I loved it, how when I was little and laid my head in your lap everything in the world seemed perfect. How as I listened to your lungs fill and empty rhythmically or the echo of your laugh I smelled the faint hint of Shalimar on your skin.
I would have kissed your belly, where I began, and honored you for deciding to bring me into existence, even when no one wanted you to. I would have bowed to your strength and courage.
I would have loved you, honored you, tended to you, nurtured you the way I wanted to be loved, honored, tended, and nurtured so your soul would know you taught me how, as it idled above us, on its way to the evermore.
I would have made sure to touch you one more time, to hug you, and kiss you, and then I would have asked you to come visit me from time to time as I covered you with a white sheet, knowing you were taken care of.