Early-morning pages, written before my responsible self comes on duty,
take me into deep, dark places and a few bright, clear ones.
My fifty-four-year-old son is dying of cancer,
complicated by meth addiction.
Mary’s question to the angel echoes within me: How can this be?
The answer, according to the Beatles:
Mother Mary said to me, Let it be. Let it be.
“What are you seeing?”
Ray’s last words were raspy,
yet powered by the curiosity that propelled his entire life.
“I see you filled with light,” I said, “and surrounded by light.
I see you loved and loving, forgiven and forgiving.”
With that, he slipped into stillness. No sign of pain.
No sign he knew I was there, yet I knew it was the
absolutely right place to be. I just knew.
How long can a mother gaze upon her comatose son,
seeing that of God in his wasted body and paralyzed limbs?
One can live infinitely into a single moment, says Philip C.
When my oldest son phoned to take me to lunch,
I said, “No thanks. I’m right where I need to be.”
I declined Michael’s invitation to dinner, too, because I was beginning
to feel something so unexpected, so far off the deathbed emotional charts,
that I could barely name it to myself,
let alone speak it aloud. It felt strangely like joy.
Joy? How could this be? I was losing my youngest son
to cancer after decades of shared adventures, epic struggles
and occasional unitive experiences in nature. Why joy?
Later it came to me: Holy obedience. Surrender to Love.
All through Ray’s final day, I sat where Christ guided me to
sit. Kept silent until prompted. Spoke what Spirit directed
me to say. Personal needs, even hunger, evaporated into
the mystery of grace.
How can a son’s tragedy become a mother’s grace?
How could Ray’s passing engender a joy huge enough to encompass
all of his pain, all of my pain, and perhaps your pain, too?
Holding a loving, prayerful vigil with my dying boy lifted
me through sorrow and beyond it to an astonishing fullness
of joy. But even robust joy is fragile and fleeting.
Ten days later, grief yanked me down, pulled me deep
beneath the strong dam of capability I had constructed to
care for my husband as he weakens with Parkinson’s Disease.
Triple sorrows smashed my carefully constructed dam.
Loss of son. Loss of Partnering Pete. Loss of mobility and freedom.
The combination brought me to my knees.
I cried and cried and cried and cried.
How is it even possible to sob for so many hours?
Pete, helpless to comfort me, called the grief midwives.
Friends Connie and Charleen came and knelt beside me on the floor.
Time collapsed beneath floods of tears.
Losing a child is unspeakably difficult.
I can manage only silence.
Lifting Heart Lines from my messy morning pages buoys
me through the grief-bursts.
I swim infinity loops in the community pool,
and dive deeper into stillness.
Sometimes I find a Heart Line in another’s words.
Sacred Veil lyricist Tony Silvestri: “Giving myself permission to write
these texts allowed me to revisit my grief in a very powerful way.
I understood I hadn’t fully grieved, because I hadn’t processed it in art.”
Eric Whitacre’s music and Los Angeles Master Chorale lyrics convey Silvestri’s
intimate expression of his young wife’s death.
Primagravida. Retroperitoneal cystic. Adenocarcinoma. Adnexal cysts…
How do they manage to sing complex medical terms so tenderly,
without choking up?
I sat at the threshold with my son, at the open door of Mystery,
until Ray was ready to pass through it.
He crossed a horizon as wondrous as the one we crossed together
when I gave birth to him 54 years earlier in this same hospital.
In his end is my beginning.
Those words came in meditation. I wonder what they mean…
I travel to Quaker Center to renew body and spirit in the redwoods,
to commune with Friends and place rocks of personal heartbreak
in a communal griefbowl of clear water.
I seek a weekend of contemplation for strength to tend Pete
as his health and memory fail.
I awaken at 1:40am to a delicious melting-chocolate sensation,
as if I had melted into God. If I had stayed in bed to savor it,
I’d still be ambulatory today…
but I rose to go to the bathroom. Fainted. Fell.
Heard my rifle-shot tibia fracture,
saw ragged bone protruding through flesh and foot twisted at right angles.
“Uh-oh, compound,” said the first EMT.
“Not prepared for that,” said the
In Trauma ICU,
a nurse drew red balloons and wrote Happy Birthday on the whiteboard.
My decidedly unhappy 79th birthday was brightened by my daughter’s visit
followed by assurance from two female orthopedic surgeons
that their repair efforts were successful.