Huddled under heavy blankets, we sat circled around the blazing fire. Above us the waxing crescent moon glowed between tree branches beginning to bare and a star-filled sky that delighted us city dwellers. Our annual autumn gathering was underway.
Two of us became orphans in just the past month. Each lost a mother who’d more than nine decades including the Great Depression, multiple wars, and two waves of feminism. Years of our repeated ritual gave a sense of safety, so the sharing of stories started at once.
Gretchen painted a picture of her mother’s final years, months, and days, her voice slow and somber. Like Gretchen, Susan (called “Denver Susan” to avoid confusion), was deeply a devoted daughter. She stayed silent much of the time, but nodded in understanding often, occasionally describing moments from her mom’s dementia-filled days. Jan’s shared the beauty of bathing and oiling her father’s body after his death. Dorothy, the elder among, spoke in a soft voice that found me leaning in, both to aid my imperfect hearing and to capture her simple giant wisdom.
The cover of darkness and the comfort of connection allowed all questions. What was it like having your husband in your home for hospice and his death? What do you think happens when we die? Have you been visited by the dead? We shared our sorrows and celebrated the wonder of it all well past midnight.
A peach pink sunrise greeted the early risers. One by one we sauntered on to the porch, warding off the chill with cups of coffee and spiced tea. We snuggled anew in our blankets to continue the conversation with a view of the lake and bites of lemon zucchini bread. Talk turned again to moms.
Many of our mothers had eighth grade educations, five or eight children, and religions that bound them to countless burdens. We, in contrast, were well educated, with three or two or no children by choice, finding our goddess in anything from the autumn leaves to Jupiter we’d seen the night before.
Compassion for our mothers and appreciation for our lives enveloped us. Our commitment to come back next year was clear. A new season was about to begin.
Do you have a safe circle for sharing stories?
How does loss expand your appreciation?
What season are you bringing to a close, or to a start?