First, I want to thank all of you for the incredibly inspiring, loving and comforting notes and posts with your condolences. I wanted to wait to post again until I’d read every last one of them. What struck me most is how many of you have also been down the road of such loss and grief. It was so connective and healing to read of your experiences and I'm beyond grateful to you all for sharing. There’s a Buddhist meditation called, “Taking and Giving,” where we take the pain we are experiencing and we imagine the countless other beings going through a similar pain and situation, thereby taking on their suffering, and imagining that we are emitting back waves of love and compassion to them. It’s so powerful to connect in this way, much the same as the posts from those of you who had gone through the loss of a mother. I was able to focus on love and compassion for us all rather than the grief of just my own loss. That is what comforts me to sleep every night.
Today is my mother’s birthday and I was supposed to be in Florida celebrating her life with family. Instead, I flew down weeks ago last minute and spent the last 11 days of her life next to her in the intensive care unit. We still shared stories, meals, tears and laughter. However, I never guessed “this was it." We never do, for ourselves or our loved ones. One of the things she said to me in the hospital laughing was, "Never buy green bananas.”
I knew exactly what she meant, yet I was still determined to throw her that birthday party, determined to get her home, where she was so determined to be. Her sheer will had her up and walking to show the doctors she was ready, just hours before she left us.
I often say on stage that home is where the heart truly is. By that, I mean it’s about bringing our heart to every person, place and situation we encounter. Well, the days following my mom’s passing we spent cleaning out her home, the home she raised her six children in. The home she was so determined to get back to. The home that had, stashed in every drawer and closet, every card her children ever sent or made, every school art project, every award. Seeing it so empty without a visible trace of those years certainly took a huge piece of my heart, that will remain there frozen in a time of the past, before life’s tragedies stepped in claiming her eldest daughter, her two eldest sons and the only love of her life for 60 years, my father. The home that will someday have the life of another family and their story imprinting itself upon those walls.
Now my mother’s home is in my heart forever. On some level, I feel that she’s able to be with me even more than her physical restrictions would ever allow these past few years. I try to take comfort in that. In fact, when I finally came home after the longest few weeks of my life, I stepped into my NYC apt and gave her a tour, even officially introducing her to my kitties whom she always loved hearing about and seeing in the pictures I shared. (Of course they all just looked at me puzzled, meowing for their tin of Fancy Feast to be opened.)
To sum it all up, my mother was by far the most selfless person I’ve ever known. Sometimes to a fault, but never selfishly selfless, just selfless. I will be forever grateful to her for the the endless memories of late night talks, Scrabble games, movie dates, roller skating dates, baking lessons, patching my clothes, making ridiculous punk rock outfits for me, all the creative made-up children’s stories, (which she later wrote down and I just found) and of course, her unconditional love and support. The kind only a mother can really give.
My mother had nothing “valuable” per se in the house, so my brothers and I each took keepsakes. For me, it was her teenage diary, love letters to my father, photos of her youth and this wacky rocking chair that she rocked all of her six children in, with me being the last. :-) I also kept her wedding band, which she gave to me in the hospital as her fingers began to swell with fluid. I immediately put it on the chain next to the heart she had given me for my birthday this year. Now, a symbol to me that our hearts are locked together in all eternity for countless lifetimes to come.
I thank you all for allowing me to share this unbelievable life journey with you and for sharing yours with me.
While I’ve lately felt it seems impossible to ever get on stage again, I also know that this is who I am and what I do, and exactly what my mother would expect of me. She so loved hearing my stories of travel throughout the world and even met some of you who made a pilgrimage to meet her in person, (from as far away as Germany) and those of you who became pen pals. It was such an honor to share this part of my life with her.
She was proud of me and all of you are a huge part of my mother’s pride. What a gift you are.
So today, I still grieve, but I also feel so much gratitude. I will look forward to resuming my show commitments starting in late May, after some much needed quiet time. I will look forward to connecting our hearts ever more deeply as I see you and bring my mother to finally meet you.
Of course, we never really know who of us will actually be here by then or even for another day, so let’s be sure to remember that with everyone we encounter, especially our loved ones.
And by the way, I've never had the patience to buy green bananas anyway. ;-)
With My Most Committed and Connected Heart of Love,