Spring was busting out. Leaves were popping into being around chartreuse flowers that dripped from branches of big leaf maples. Oregon grape was decked out in yellow and fronds were unfurling in sword ferns. Apple and cherry trees in the neighbor’s orchard were dreaming about exploding. Though she couldn’t see it, the dogwood below her window at her assisted living home was blooming. Though she could no longer walk there, the forest she’d spent hundreds of hours exploring for more than five decades were full of the trillium she loved best of all, in their annual death throes. She’d told us she loved us over and over.
And then she was gone.
And so it is now. 365 days later spring is bursting forth again. I love that the first anniversary of my mother’s death falls on Easter. I trust she has experienced her resurrection. That she has been reunited with her love. That they are communing with their parents and siblings and beloved spouses. That maybe she has let go of her rigid refusal to enjoy adult beverages and joins the cast in daily “fivesies.”
I have enjoyed a resurrection too. Rising at my usual early hour a few days ago, the sun casting rays through the maple tree, as it did that weekend last April; the mountain emerging through the fog; the updating I have been doing on the house—it seems like forever—nearly complete and fresh and beautiful and filled with light, I thought:
I have never been as happy as I am right now.
I have emerged from the tight bud of the long years of caregiving, and just as my mother has been set free to burst into bloom again, so have I. Sometimes we all require proper distance from what we have loved, to be reminded of its beauty. So it is with winter and spring, with death and resurrection, with the return of the light.
I also love that her youngest great-grandson will turn three on Mother’s Day. They are coming to the homestead (I think) to celebrate, and we will honor three generations of mothers, one just out of reach, the other two carrying on into the future—carrying her into the future.
I took a walk in her beloved woods yesterday and felt her there walking just ahead of me, showing me the way. I will be forever grateful that each year from now until the end of my own days, her resurrection date will coincide with the new life all around me. I miss her. And she is with me every day.
…it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing—
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed
not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky—all, all of them
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I….
—excerpted from “Such Singing in the Wild Branches”
by Mary Oliver
And now, come with me into my mother’s woods.
A grave marker proclaiming that she lived and she died is in a cemetery twenty miles away; but she will always live here on these trails in these trees she saved. And in the hearts of those she loved and who loved her.