I was ready to leave, holding my papers, a laptop, a leather bag slung over my shoulder. The light was angling toward a softening autumn dusk. We stood, exchanging last pleasantries. But something, it seemed, had to be said. There was a brief pause.
Do you look more like your mother or your father?
I thought about this. Umm… Well. I really don’t know the answer. Why could she possibly be interested? What relevance does it have to our afternoon of books and writing projects?
Hmm. Being the youngest of four children, I said, I think maybe I’m a complete mixture of both. This didn’t make any sense at all but it was all I could think of. How can we say who we look like? One of my sisters looks really like my mother I think, but I’m not sure because I was a baby when our mother passed away and I don’t have any conscious memories…
Her face was composed, serious, slightly strained. There were things to be said. Something I had to hear.
How old were you? she said.
About eighteen months, about this high I suppose [holding my hand out to indicate smallness] …a toddler really.
Because she’s been with you ever since. She’s very present with you now, I can see her, all around you. She’s a lovely, lovely person. And she’s telling me it’s time for her to go. She wants to go. She needs you to know this.
The words floated like slow bubbles in a lava lamp. I struggled to catch them, to process their meaning. Something had shifted now. There was a glassy unreality, a sticky slowness, a lifetime compressed into a moment. What had been linear lurched to a pause. Please, everything stay slow like honey; let me concentrate on every millisecond one by one.
My insightful friend was making present someone I thought long gone. Linking hands with each of us, joining us like three paper dolls, helping me slip through a chink of the still, late afternoon light into an eternity of love and loss, holding out her hand to draw me through. O please don’t shatter this glassy moment, the pieces will never come back together in this way, in this fragment, in this particular collision of atoms.
She’s been holding you, looking after you all this time. She needs to go.
How long have you been aware of this? I said, barely inhaling.
The last three days, she said, she has been here with me. Both of you, with me. I wasn’t sure whether to tell you, I didn’t know if you would be ready. But when you arrived, your face was more … open, and I felt it was time.
I looked at her, struck dumb. I asked something, but can’t remember what. In light of everything that’s been happening lately, this is extraordinary, I said.
Your mother has been holding you like a baby, like this… she said, holding her arms out in the shape of an embrace… but she needs to go. She needs to know you will be OK now. You see she felt guilty … you were the youngest, and she had to leave you all, but she stayed with you, her baby, all this time to see you were all right.
But (if she’s still there, my heart was saying) I don’t want to let her go! I said.
She’ll still be there, my friend said. It’s just been so long. You need to let her go.
A text message came a while after I got home. Are you OK? Hug, V.
I replied I feel strangely comforted by what you’ve told me, and take it as a gift of great power. Normally skeptical about such things, I know you well enough to believe in your insight and to understand that there is a resonance of some kind about the timing of your vision. This is the first time in my life anyone has told me of the love my mother had for me. That is profoundly moving. Hug appreciated.
In her final reply I learned that this had been difficult for her. I was battling with myself, whether to pass on the message (it runs in my family, no choice there!). I am just so sorry for having to bring it up right at the last moment… You have been dearly loved, be assured. V.
Two stories came together in these moments. It’s a path we must all walk: that children find a place of not needing their mothers, and mothers, their children. Mother and child need to be able to let go knowing that they will each be OK. That they are loved by the other. That the other will return.