Missing Mom on the Feast of the Epiphany


Mom laughing a few weeks before she died

January 6, 1978, was a Friday, like today, and on that day it did not rain in California, it poured. It was also, as it is today, the great Christian feast of the Epiphany or Little Christmas as we called it, growing up in my Irish, Italian, mostly Catholic neighborhood in Brooklyn. And, it was my mother’s 50th birthday, or would have been. In what I have always felt to be some particular kind of weird irony, we (well, they, as you will find out) buried my mom on this day, 34 years ago. I mean, buried my mom on her birthday – isn’t that kind of weird? Maybe weird in a good way. Instead of unwrapping presents and opening cards, she herself was unwrapped; freed from all her pain and suffering to join the communion of saints, eternally alive, leaving behind a body that had served its purpose, like crumpled, balled up wrapping paper, awaiting recycling.

Which brings me back to the pouring rain in Southern California on January 6, 1978. I remember it so well because at the time, I felt it was a rain of tender mercy falling on me and my siblings. It had rained so hard that there were mudslides, and the folks at the cemetery deemed the grounds too dangerous to allow visitors. So following the burial mass (another whole story), my last glimpse of the casket was through the rear window of the hearse as it slowly drove away from the church, the actual burial to be completed when the rains stopped. I remember the profound relief I felt at that time; a relief mixed with shame that I wasn’t brave enough or mature enough or some other stupid self-judgment about how grateful I was that I did not have to witness this; did not have to stand there in the pouring rain watching the body of this one, the body that birthed me, the body I had tended with so much love and care over the previous 6 months, be lowered into the earth, never to be seen again. Of course I did not say this out loud, being the eldest sibling of 5, and lamented with the rest that we could not be there to see mom “right to the end.”  But, oh, my inner prayer of gratitude could not have been louder.

And besides, I felt like I had already seen her to the end, walking with her every step of the way, as daughter and nurse, until the last, when I found myself up against a veil I could not cross with her. After she died on January 2, surrounded by her children in her own bed, I had only one niggling concern, and it left me ill at ease over whether I had managed her final moments well enough. Three days later, sometime during the night before her funeral, I had a “dream.”  My mother was in front of me, in the blue robe you can see in the pictures. But she was huge, I mean, building size huge, and radiant, wearing an ecstatic smile. I put my niggling to her, asking if I had let her down, let her

A sculpture I found a few weeks after mom died

suffer, missed the mark. As a nurse, I had had every pain medication you can imagine on hand to use at my discretion. In the day and hours before her death, I had administered exactly zero of them. “Oh no, sweetheart, no, no, no! You were perfect! It was just what I wanted. And see? I am fine; I am so very, very happy!”  And that was it; she was gone. When I woke up, my heart was finally at peace, as it is now, remembering that Epiphany, that revelation of eternal life in but beyond all form. And yet, I have to tell you, I miss the life in form; I miss my mom. Still. Always.

15 Replies to “Missing Mom on the Feast of the Epiphany”

  1. Dearest Nancy,
    I am so sorry that this opened up such a painful place within, especially since it seems to have blindsided you, ie, it wasn’t what you expected when you came to the site. I trust these un-foldings or arisings from our deeper selves as moments of truth and healing for us, as I know you do, so my hope is that the pain has eased since you wrote this and that you can take some comfort in remembering/experiencing the love, which remains close and always available in the depths of the listening heart.
    Much love to you, dear one.

  2. Fine website. Find art. But, did you have to go through the stuff about your mom? And your brother?! Gutwrenching. Giant hole where your mom was once and my mom was once. Did I say my mom was a nurse? Your mother is so lucky to have had you those last 6 months. I am sure you were wonderful to her as your bro says. My mom died suddenly and we never had that chance to give to her fully. I am crying for your mom and my mom. So painful. I feel like I am operating on some lower animalistic instinct. Oh Dot, why are you gone?!

  3. I am so touched by this Bernie… I can only share my own experience and belief that when we reach out from the heart of true love and compassion, there are no limits, not space, not time, not past, not future, not form or lack of form. So my invitation to you, since you shared this here, is not to wait until you see your mother again, whether in a dream or vision or after your own transition, but to spend a few minutes each day, just sitting quietly, opening your heart, and allowing your love to flow easily out to your mom, heart to heart, like a beautiful rose pink river of light. Imagine your mom happy and at peace, and see her surrounded in your love and light. Then let that same current flow over you, holding your own heart with love and compassion. You could just try this, as an experiment, and see what you notice. Or not! Only and invitation, to take or leave.
    Sending you lots of love, Bernie, and my wish for deep peace.

  4. Reading your story of missing your mother who left you at such an early age so many years ago, brings my loss of my 77 year old mother before me. Your were able to communicate and be with your mother at the end and find peace, something I am still seeking. This past year as I have been reviewing my life and wanting to tell her of my love, something I was unable to do in 1975, I will keep your sharing before me and remain open to seeing my mother again. Thanks!!

  5. Wow, bro, what a beautiful story, beautifully written – thank you so much for sharing it here with me and others. Mom would be proud – heck, I’m proud 🙂 I do remember this, now that you refresh my memory, and I recall that one of the reasons it was so special is that you and mom used to play the game together…. so sweet to remember. Thanks, too, for your loving reflection back to me – made me cry. Love you.

  6. Funny how the mind works… I have no recollection of the pouring rain or the fact that we didn’t accompany mom to the gravesite. Perhaps I’ve filtered it out because it was too painful or just the fading memory of an ageing man. I do however remember the experience I had when I returned to my apartment after the funeral.
    As the eldest male in the family of five kids I tried hard to be strong in days leading to my moms death…tried to contain my emotions for the benefit of the other kids.
    When I finally returned home alone with my thoughts I came unglued. I was crying so hard it seemed the tears would never stop.
    I wanted to know our mother was in a better place, that she was okay. In my head I told myself she was, but I needed to feel it in my heart.
    In those days I was an avid backgammon player. Rolling double anything is a good thing in the game of backgammon but rarely comes when you need them the most.
    I acknowledge my thought process may have been slightly irrational but I though what better way to communicate with the forces of nature than rolling the dice. Since the outcome of every roll is a result of chance, perhaps I could get some answers to some niggling questions of my own.
    Still sobbing uncontrollably I opened the backgammon board and picked up the dice and asked the question “mom are you okay?” I rolled the dice and they came up doubles, which to me translated as a “yes”. Not convinced that this was simply a lucky throw I then asked “are you happy?” Another roll, another set of doubles… another “yes”. I then asked, “if this was really her talking to me or just a simple coincidence?” Another roll and again the dice came up doubles! A near statistical impossibility to roll doubles three times in a row…that was enough…that was all I needed. I know it sounds ridiculous but that was all it took to put my heart at ease.

    Janet my love you were a saint during that time of our lives. I remember distinctly thinking that as long as you were there, mom was receiving the best care she possibly could. Don’t ever second-guess yourself about those last few days…as mom said in your dream “you were perfect! It was just what she wanted”.

  7. Oh Charlie, I am so sorry to hear this news about your mom. It isn’t easy to know what to do, of course, and yet… just your presence is healing; communication heart to heart, in the place of love that is deeper than words, remains… I know this to be true, not just wishful thinking. And of course, gentle touch, quiet words too, as she listens without capacity to respond, will hold her in love and light during this challenge. I will keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. beautiful, Janet. timely from my point of view – my mom had a large stroke a few days before christmas. can’t talk, half-paralyzed. prognosis uncertain. I was glad to be able to spend the holidays in the hospital with her. it’s not always easy knowing the best way to care for someone who can’t communicate. your post today gives hope. thank you for that.

  9. Dear Nuria Ashki,
    So lovely to receive word of your new blog. The site is beautiful. It is now bookmarked as a “Favorite”. And thank you for the words about your mother in this January 6th posting. The sculpture of her truly captures her as you described her in your dream “radiant, wearing an ecstatic smile.”
    Blessings as this new adventure unfolds in 2012!

  10. Such a story and such a beautiful photo – now I can see where your light began – in the light of your mom – whose name is ???? –

    and as for managing her last moments, I am would stake my bet that you were then, as you have been since – about the purest witness to the process that there could have ever been – and I am also sure that she was there then, there now, the proudest (in the most humble sense ) of you, the woman who is forever her gift –

    1. Thank you, my friend, with your own such story to tell… her name was Georgia ~ Georgianna Elizabeth Sweet Quinn. Sweet was really her name, not an adjective thrown in there!

  11. Janet,
    This is a lovely tribute to your mom. I had a similar “dream” after my mother died. She was clothed in a long blue robe with a white one underneath, and stood very tall and serene, sipping tea from a China teacup. I asked her if praying did any good. She said “Yes” and gave me a warm tight hug with a huge smile. I woke up still feeling the warmth of a physical embrace. Very reassuring. But, like you, I miss my Mom often in the here and now.
    PS The next time I saw her in a dream, she didn’t look as good, and I asked her “What’s the matter?” She said “This takes a lot of work!” 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading and responding Gail – it reminds me of sharing ah-has about 4-dimensionality and other such fun stuff late into the evenings way back then!

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