Monday, November 28, 2011

Love: a hot wave of something that must come out

In my last post, I talked about how I was, for the first time, having to deal with feelings of despair caused by my personal and professional losses. The professional loss  was occasioned by losing a terrific job on account of the crise financial consequent upon unpaid care-giving; the impending personal loss was of my beloved friend who was working her way across the chilly Jordan.

My friend has completed her work and the despair has lifted but grief has taken its place. I'm inclined to think that's an improvement. At the same time, I'm now asking myself whether I'm truly grieving for this woman who loved me and respected me in ways I had not felt from my own mother, or if it is that I'm grieving what my mother perhaps should have been but was unable to be? Truthfully, I have no idea.

On reflection, I realize that my friend seemed, towards the end, more like a mother to me than my own is. She is one of the first people outside my family that I've ever told "I love you", since those words aren't much bandied about in my culture. Even in the absence of the words though, it is still possible to obviously demonstrate love. I can clearly remember my grandmother doing things that let me know how deeply she loved and cherished me as both granddaughter and friend, but I have few such recollections of my mother.

My mother was ever the pragmatic parent, very much about the 'business' of child-rearing but not so much about the softer side of that work. Unfortunately, within the daily grind that is raising healthy children, there was little room for giving the emotional sustenance her children also needed. Perhaps this is why parents should tell their children that they love them, because there's so much pragmatic parenting going on, that love might get lost in the shuffle? Perhaps it was that my mother had challenges of her own that she never quite overcame and that made her very careful with her emotions........even with her own children. I find no fault here. We are all broken, or at least cracked, in some way. This was hers.

I remember once watching an episode of Oprah in which Maya Angelou talked about how she would look at her son Bailey when he came in to the room: with love and amazement. If you've been a parent - real or pretend - you know the look and you know the emotion that precedes the look. It's a hot wave of something that has to come out. My mother, who was watching the episode with me, said aloud that she would deliberately prevent herself from looking at her children in that way when they came into her presence. EH? Who does that? Who can?? I didn't understand it much then, and I understand it less now that I've felt the feeling. Now that I feel that way about my niece, and felt that way about my late friend, I cannot begin to fathom how one prevents oneself from letting those feelings show.

As I look at myself honestly, I know that I didn't show my late friend all the love I felt for her. Yes, we took her to brunch for her 70th birthday. There was no big fuss or anything, we just went directly after church but we never said, "We're doing this because we love you". It was just us offering what we had: ourselves, our time, to someone we cared deeply about. We also took her for brunch the following Mother's Day, again, because it seemed the right thing to do. Neither my sister nor I ever told her that we loved her until the day we saw her in hospital 6 weeks before she died. I called her once on the phone after that and left a message that said simply, "I love you. That's all. That's all I called to say", and three weeks ago, I called her and asked if we could come and share a worship experience with her at home because I knew she would like it and I knew we, who were losing her, would need it. These were my ways of saying "I love you".

As I lose my mother and find myself, I am realizing that there is much to be found, much to be understood, evaluated, and adjusted if a healthier and happier tomorrow is to result. I have to learn to speak the words of love and then demonstrate that love in ways I know are meaningful to others.

I have work to do. These losses (the actual and the one in process) have helped me to see what that work is and light the way to, hopefully, getting it done.

Copyright © December 2011 L.S. Semper 

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