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absence and presence

by Judy
February 7, 2016

It’s been two weeks since I came down to Florida staying in my mom’s home. I came down partly to get away from the cold and also because it has become like another home for me, at least for the time being. This is the second time I’ve been here since my mom died seven months ago and again I was not sure how it would be, but it still has the flavor of home and the quiet space that was often my experience over the last three years of my mom’s life. 

And naturally being here I am acutely aware of both my mom's absence and presence. It all depends from which side I am looking…from the perspective of loss or from the perspective of “gain.” Her being exudes here everywhere I look– her love of beauty, order and care – and I find that her presence is like a kind spirit that is whispering in my ear. Sometimes it whispers to keep her home clean and well-ordered like she would have liked. I mean it’s not that I am normally a slob, but somehow I am more compelled when I am here to honor my mother’s spirit, walking in her footsteps of care. And that whisper is heard even up north – not just about keeping a well-kept home, but hearing her voice to call this person or that person – to keep in touch as she would have and not procrastinate, not put off tomorrow what can be done today. 

And of course I am also more acutely aware here of my mom's absence. At those times I wish I could just be with her for a bit more time. And I also wish I had spent more time with her when she was so vitally alive. This morning I felt and thought about my whole immediate family – mom, dad and brother. Who would have thought I would be the only one alive now, but that’s just the way it is. I thought about how much I took my family for granted when I was younger. Family was just a fact of life like trees and birds and school and watching T.V. – just the way life was. I took for granted my family’s love and care for me. It’s painful to reflect upon and also I realize this “taking for granted” is somewhat inevitable too – the ignorance of youth. I was lucky that I basically had a loving family which not everyone has. I grew up in the fifties/sixties when there was so much change and many of us were critical of our family’s values. We were spoiled in many ways – did not go through two world wars and a depression and did not want for material security. Oh, yes there were plenty of scares – the cold war, the Cuban missile crisis and on-going “small” wars but we were fundamentally secure.

So here I find myself in my mom’s apartment living in different “time zones” of consciousness. In some ways it is like being on retreat and even though I am busy most of the time, still there is a sense of being “away” from it all. And then I have flash backs that come... like the other day I recalled what a vital life my mom had down here – travelling, painting, taking courses, playing bridge, friends and family – she didn’t become “old” until she got very sick. She also stayed very interested in what was happening in the world. She really did keep her spirits and in spite of many losses, she did not get bitter or sour; on the contrary she got sweeter and sweeter.

All this comes to me at different times. In a sense I experience her absence and presence almost simultaneously – it’s one event intertwined. Sometimes I get sad from the awareness of her absence/presence and sometimes I am filled with gratitude - sometimes regrets and sometimes happiness. It’s like a steady stream and depending upon where I put my attention, the picture changes, but it’s really all one movement that expresses this love/loss/life event moving, touching and enriching me and all of us as humans.

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