It was late afternoon and close to 90 degrees in Oregon when I headed out the door. My preference for running would be first thing in the morning, but these days I am at the mercy of her nap time, unless I want to push 50 pounds (30 for her, and 20 for the stroller). I headed down the rural road, thinking of Mom the day that I got the call she had a 3 cm tumor in her brain four years ago. They didn't yet know if it was cancerous or benign that day I headed down the same road, killing time waiting for the second phone call which was everything I feared.
My thoughts then drifted to her one trip here to the property in the spring of 2014 after she had been fighting her battle with the metastatic brain cancer, and how I told her we would bring her grandchild(ren) here. She was undergoing chemo, had blurry/double vision in one eye and was so weak that she slept in (something she had never done my whole life) and often sat to help prepare meals, like cabbage rolls.
She didn't want to come, really. She wanted to stay home. But I wasn't going to go if she didn't, because I didn't want to miss out on any time with her. And it was important to me for her to see it and know her grandchild(ren) would own a piece of it someday. I can be annoyingly persuasive, and do have a bit of guilt in asking her to come. But, I'm glad she did because she did enjoy herself here (like feeding the horses, here) and I have memories with her here now.
All of these thoughts were going through my head, and making the loss of her much more painful than usual, as usual. I have a tendency to do this periodically, and make myself feel guilty for what I did or didn't do. But on this run, something shifted, and I thought of my love for Baby A, and how much that love is reminiscent of the love Mom and I shared. Since it is so rural, I was able to speak out loud to Mom, without fear of another runner or cyclist whizzing by and questioning my sanity. "I guess the baby we lost needed a Nana up in heaven more than Baby A needed a Nana here on earth."
I thought of how it seemed that my Mom's soul, or at least part of her spirit, is in Baby A, and how maybe that was why she had to go.
Far-fetched, and not likely. The idea that Mom's soul is in Baby A and we are sharing the same love and it will be repeated for eternity - just the two of us, was comforting but not realistic or even plausible enough to entertain. A recycled idea from a book I read as a teen, The Bridge Across Forever, where two souls continually found each other over time. The brief but impossible thought that maybe Baby A really is my Mom and we will go on in this pattern for all of eternity was too far fetched and probably goes against most religions except the ones believing in reincarnation.
I then thought of all the questions I would ask Mom if she were here. Was I as attached to her at Baby A's age as she is to me? And I immediately knew the answer: I was.
Then a thought so overly simple, but profound came to me and I clung to it because so few things make the pain of Mom being gone seem less, and I need to hang on to the ones that do. The love Baby A and I share is
This. This made sense to me. And it makes me feel better about the loss of my best friend and closest confidant...if anything can. Even now, days later, when I revisit it, it is like a warm, comforting memory that I enjoy thinking about. Instead of thoughts of Mom being gone and me raising her without a Nana, Mom is manifested in the time, love and patience that I give to her.
I have previously thought of all the gifts that Baby A is missing out on because my Mom is not here. Mom gave me something small for every holiday. Lip gloss disguised as fancy chocolates for Valentine's Day; a potted clover for St. Paddy's. Not just presents, but presence. When Baby A excitedly Squeals "Granpa! Glennie!" a part of me is sad, because that sentence would have started with "Nana!" Or, I think of how few things of Mom's I have to pass on to Baby A. Not even her gold cross that she wore in her final days, likely stolen by our house cleaner. But this counters all of that.
Mom gave me the most precious gift of all in giving her unconditional love to me. For 37 years, she loved me with every fiber of her being and put the needs of my brother and I before her own. Not out of obligation, but because she loved doing so. She was fun, caring, optimistic, always happy and patient. What would I prefer? Having that, or a house full of items or nice jewelry to pass on to her? Some may have material items, but less love or more judgment instead. Mom was rare, with a laugh that was contagious, and the patience of a saint. She was the strongest person I have ever known, but you would never know it because she was so sweet. She endured a lot, without ever complaining, and always looked on the bright side of life.
The gift of her unconditional love is mine, but only for a time because I am more of a steward for it. It was intended, maybe from the beginning, to be passed down to Baby A. I have been able to bask in the glow of it, but in being given such a precious gift comes the great responsibility of passing it on.
Perhaps its being in such a rural setting, out amongst the beauty of the world, or surrounded by 100ft(+) trees, but feeling small out here is part of the allure. Although it may sound strange, being small brings me comfort in a way. The comfort comes from the idea of not being at the center of the world like we think we are when we're younger, but rather a link in a chain. A chain where my mother is on one side of me, and Baby A is on the other. In this chain, the force applied (pulling or pushing) does not not all pile on me. Instead, the force is shared by those before me, and those after me. So, even if the force is intense, I don't bare the load alone. I am surrounded by those I love, and they help share burden.
The burden of losing mom is more than I thought I could bare, before I was faced with it. I never imagined being able to survive and function after losing my Mom, and perhaps I would not be able to do half as good of a job if I were not linked to Baby A. Every day, I find a way to channel the pain, and change it from hurt to love to give to Baby A. This ever-present loss keeps me keenly aware of the finiteness of life, which nudges me to enjoy the heck out of her, and build a relationship like what I shared with Mom.
The pressure from losing mom (hurt) transcends the here and now. It is more than a moment. It is more than the past, or the future. It is a force that must go on, it must travel down the chain, through me and beyond. But, as time goes on, I am finding out that I have the ability to control the pressure. It does not have to be as I originally perceived it (hurt); I have the ability to decide what I pass down the line.
In Oregon, the idea that moments, memories, and values can transcend one life is obvious and apparent. This place, where I look forward to returning to before I have even left, will be here for Baby A. As she grows older, she will know that Oregon is where her loved ones spent time; a place that her Grandma Swanek calls heaven on earth. She'll have childhood memories of spending every summer and Christmas here. Unknowingly, she travels paths my Mom walked, or sits on a bench where Mom sat and I can almost feel her presence. She'll see where our initials are carved and so are hers, or hear us splashing in the waters and running down the hills, chasing Trevi and laughing like Mom and I did. I hope that when I'm gone, she too will realize that the moments, memories, and values will go beyond her and link her to her loved ones. I hope she'll know that I am still with her, especially when she remembers our love and bond, or sees it reflected in her love of her own child.