QUESTIONS MY MOM ASKED HERSELF BEFORE SHE DIED
It's 7 years this month, and this year feels sharper than I expected. Before my mom died, she published one last book—of what she called "poetry and practices". Some of these questions come from its pages, some from conversations pre- and postmortem. I'm still learning from her.
- 1.How do I want my illness spoken of?It was the era of "The Secret" (vision boards and create your own reality, etc.): We were forbidden from saying the word "cancer" around her. It was the fucking worst. And if she heard my dad and I whispering, she'd know that's what we were talking about and get upset.
- 2."What is the best choice?"She doesn't come out and say it in the book, but this was about whether or not to fight for her life. And how. To chemo, or not to chemo. She chose not.
- 3.Who do I want with me when I die?She wanted me and my dad there. She told us this long before. But the night that it happened, she stretched out both her arms to us, skeleton hands reaching wordlessly to usher her out of her own skin. To be together in the dying.
- 4.What do I want to happen to my body after I die?Cremation, yes. But would the body be taken immediately or left to rest, per Tibetan Buddhist tradition. We spent the entirety of her illness doing the Medicine Buddha practice together daily, and so she chose to have her body left to rest 24 hours before it was removed. The night she died, my father slept in the other bedroom. It was the only night of her illness he did not sleep by her side. (Sidebar: My father is epic.)
- 5.Who will be with my husband after?My mother gave my father a list of 5 women she thought would be a good match for when she was gone. (He's been with the same woman now since three months after my mom died; she was not on the list.)
- 6.Who will take care of my daughter after?She refused to see almost everyone, but liked spending time with my then (now ex) boyfriend. They would sit, wordlessly, holding hands. It was early still in our relationship, but she could tell he loved me. After she died, he read to me in bed every night until I fell asleep.
- 7.Where will "I" go after?From the introduction to her book: "I have learned to accept impermanence and have begun to see death as a release of this separate, no longer functioning form. I clearly realized that 'I' am not the body, rather I am consciousness in which the body exists. And whenever this body dies, 'I' as conscious awareness continue on." 😭😭😭
- 8.What will I leave of myself here when I go?We rushed to get the book published so that she could see it before she died. Every page of it is so palpably full of her that at times it's too much to even look at it.
- 9."How does God sing through me?"From a poem in her last book.