Some people may look at life and death as a moment that is divinely inspired. That we have no choice in when these transformative, game-changing moments will take place- whether it is our own life, or the life transition of another. Things happen in our lives; people come and go with life and death much like the clouds in the sky yet with much greater impressions pressed upon our hearts. When I read the weekly writing challenge prompt many things went through my head. So many things have happened that could be considered “life changing.” But in the end, I kept coming back to one moment that I have to say, changed everything for me.
When my mother was pregnant with me, she had recently suffered traumatic loss. A year before she married my father, her own father passed away from a sudden heart attack. Within the same year, only a month or so before her wedding, her mother who was also her best friend passed away from a debilitating illness that painfully drains away your spirit. She was the silent witness of that sacred second when her mother took her last breath. It was a final breath that would echo forever throughout her life.
One story that always has affected me was how my grandmother struggled to sew my mother’s bridesmaid dresses near the end of her life. I try to imagine what that would be like. To know that you are so close to death, to feel it deep down in places you didn’t even know existed, while tirelessly piecing together dresses for a wedding party- the wedding of your only daughter; and to know that you will most likely not be there for the celebration. I imagine that piecing those dresses together would be an exercise in piecing together your own life in your heart, using it as an exercise of love and meditation. I know these events had to have been powerful, game-changing experiences for my mother, and affected another turn of events that gifted my soul with a life trajectory.
Shortly after my parents’ wedding, my mother became pregnant with me. At the time of my birth my father was away training for his new job as federal law enforcement in Georgia. My mother was all alone, 9 months pregnant and staying at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was a man of few words, and did not come off as the warmest of souls. My mother went into labor and was taken to the hospital by my grandfather knowing that she was in this all alone. It was her opportunity to bring new life into this world after the loss of both of her parents. It was her first time giving birth, not knowing what to expect in her heart.
After my delivery, she had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. My mother had a near death experience where she witnessed her soul leave her body. She could see everything happening around her body from a distance- the nurse rush in, the resuscitation efforts. I know for me, this was an event that changed my life forever. In this moment, my mother had a choice- to leave her body behind and move on from this life, or to come back and live out her current life as my mother. She chose to come back. Because she did I have had a mother that has taught me many lessons that I could not have learned without her.
They were not all rosy moments, but they were not all tragic either. I am who I am today because in that instant when she could have chosen to move on from this life, she did not. My mother went on to tell me this story about her near death experience and here I am, writing it now and sharing it with many others. I share it with the intention that you too may think about how precious life is and how our ability to witness the suffering and joy of others is a profound gift offered to us as an experience of deep abiding love. Our suffering is not isolated. We have the opportunity to remember the importance of every instant we also share with others and how the simple act of sharing even a little story can change someone’s life, in an instant.