Honouring My Mother: A Twenty Year Relationship with Death and Grief

My Mother, Marion Bernadette Philomena David Barber, died twenty years ago today. Sunday September 17, 2000. Today I honour her and the life she lived. The risks she took being an orphan and seeking education, her passion for living life; for food, for travel and for her family. I honour the lessons I’ve learned from witnessing her life. I am thankful for the gift of life she gave me and my siblings, for bringing us Earthside, safely and empowered. For always putting us first and teaching us to love life, be kind and have faith.

Mom passed away in 2000 – let’s roll back twenty years. Before 9/11, before high speed internet, before smartphones and the birth of the digital age. I often wonder what she would think of technology – and a million other things! I wonder if we’d ever shop like mothers and daughters do at the mall or if that wouldn’t be our thing; if we’d go for coffee or if she’d stick to her very sweet and spicy Pakistani chai. I wonder if we’d ever go to a yoga class together or if she’d judge me and the life I live now. It’s taken me years to realize that it doesn’t matter what she thinks and that I am here and who I am, because she is not here. I suspect I would be a different person if she were alive and had control over my youth and adolescence – and if I wouldn’t have been given the opportunities I have been since she left us. 

I sat in my pity and grief for many years, questions “why” God would do this to me, why my mother chose this, and why it wasn’t my father who died instead – so many whys, so much sadness, anger and questions seeking answers. 

My journey of grief has taken me into a world that I might not, or ever explored if I hadn’t lost my mother. Her death opened doors that may have never opened. I cried for many years on her death anniversary, wallowing in the past, in the memory of the pain and her absence. Being angry for choosing to do homework, rather than sit with her at the hospital in her last hours. So much guilt and anger! Twenty years later! Still processing…but each release feels easier, and my soul feels lighter. Of course I know that a mother would only want their child to experience joy and not be burdened with pain…especially not for twenty years! 

Yes, not having her alive, right now in my life, I sometimes feel a sense of absence. However, is it my memory of her that brings me to feel this absence? Or does my current presence in this moment, allow me to see the beauty in this moment, not having the awareness of absence. 

My journey with grief presented many paths of coping – I was never one to use substances in any degree for pleasure or to numb pain – it just never seemed logical to me. My soul has sought other ways to find answers to why this grief has such a powerful shadow over me. Is it just a human thing, or do we ever find a sweet spot in our relationship to grief?

I looked to other paths of religion and spirituality – again seeking answers, seeking truth and connection to Mom. I explored different forms of meditation, beliefs in reincarnation, Tarot & palmistry, talking to brujos in Mexico, shamanic journeying, Earth-based religions, yogic philosophies, bodywork,  and sound healing. Each provided their own medicine to my open, healing heart. Over the years, there have been some impressionable moments that were keys to my greatest healing.

One day my path took me to a bookstore here in Halifax, Bookmark II – where I saw on the shelf a book called Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. I began reading the first pages and it felt like the writer had opened my heart was was reading it out loud! After over ten years of feeling alone and unheard, this book gave me so much peace in those few moments. At the time, I didn’t have a lot of money and even though the book was only about $20, I could not afford it. When I went back two weeks later, it was out of stock, so I had it ordered in. I waited patiently for the call that my book had arrived. And once I got it, I began reading it. To this day, I have not made it past the first three chapters. The grief was real, everything that she writes is so true and so real for me that I exhausted myself crying. My ex, even being the sweet and kind soul he is, at the time, he was also not able to hold space for me to process what I was reading. Since then, I’ve been on a different soul mission, so I haven’t picked up the book yet, but I’m sure if and when I do now, it might be easier to process and get to the end! I am a true believer of “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” and so goes for books. That book appeared when I was ready to accept its wisdom and comforting words. There are many of my shelves that have called me, but in their right time, I will open their pages. 

Another powerful healing moment was when another ex went to see a medium, who was able to channel his mother who had passed on early. She told him that she was happy being on the other side, happy and free; travelling the world as she had always wanted to do. This opened my eyes to another world. My upbringing in the Roman Catholic tradition had me wearing tight blinders for most of my life, including up until that point with the medium. I took this as medicine for my child heart, to bring peace to the unknown of my own Mother. To know that she was free, flying above and beyond what her human body would have granted her, gave me the greatest joy for her. 

Many years later, one of my closest and dear friends invited me to a Buddhist ceremony to honour a friend who had suddenly passed away. A ceremony to allow her spirit to move on from this lifetime, and reincarnate if they choose. Honestly, this particular ceremony, so beautiful and powerful in what it does for those who are left behind and for the spirit that has finished their time, gave me the most peace. It meant that Mom’s spirit moved on, completed its mission and perhaps moved on to the next lifetime. I became fascinated and relieved to hear of such things, so I began to explore life after death.

Here in Halifax, I am often asked where I come from and what brought me here. After some, what I can only describe as divine guidance, I can say, that my Mother brought me here. This story goes back twenty years when I was in Grade 10 English class, in Hamilton, Ontario. We were reading short stories from Canadian authors and of course, being asked to analyse them. Of all the stories, the one I chose was about a young mother back in perhaps the 1960s/70s – time when women were rediscovering their power and still struggling to get an education. The protagonist had a young daughter. Being inspired by the book she was reading, The Feminine Mystique, she wanted a different future for her daughter. She wanted her daughter to have more opportunities than she had. So she takes her daughter for an outing to the campus of Dalhousie University to show her that she has options, other than being a “good housewife.” A few years later when I was applying to universities, Dalhousie crossed my mind. And although their tuition was/is the highest in Canada, the program I was interested in was very well established at Dalhousie. I turned down a scholarship to Carlton in Ottawa to go off to Dalhousie. To this day, my father doesn’t know about the scholarship. Later in a session with a psychic medium, I was given this insight which certainly spoke volumes: the reader shared that my Mother’s energy was extremely strong here on the East Coast – like she had called me here like a beacon waiting for a response. Reflecting back at the short story, I wonder if it was just coincidence that I chose that one, or if it was a divine message from my Mother who had recently passed on. 

In more recent years, my life path has me exploring the quantum world. This area is vast and sometimes challenging to describe in words. I must say that all the lessons from previous encounters certainly gave me a strong foundation to receive the wisdom and knowledge of the quantum approach. The wisdom of Matt Kahn, Carolyn Myss and others, have affirmed the truth I feel deep inside. To see my life, the world, the Universe as a bigger picture, has given me the deepest healing. To understand our sacred contracts and the divine plan – so perfect and that nothing is left to chance.

I acknowledge the life of my mother; that she was the vessel to bring me into this world and for all the love and nurturing she gave me – potent nourishment for the years when I would be without her. I acknowledge what her death has meant to me so far and what gifts have come of it since.

I thank the angels who have stood alongside since my birth, since I lost Mom, and who are here with me always. I (like many of you) have done some extraordinary things in my short life, going on adventures, encountering new experiences, putting myself out there – and in many moments, taking risks that in hindsight, realizing that those sketchy situations could have ended in so many ways! However, I always felt protected. I had and have a trust in the divine that had been nurtured from my Mother. Her faith until her last breath has been my greatest teacher. Let me be clear that faith and spirituality are not contained by what we have created as religion, however, they are so much more vast than the smallness of religion. My Mother taught me faith, or you could call it trust. To trust. A skill that we are often not encouraged to cultivate and nurture. Until my pregnancy did I realize how important this “skill” of trusting myself, my divine human and the divine Source of us all, would be. 

I am thankful for all the angels and people that have cared for me for the past twenty plus years – through my Mother’s illness and darkest moments, until today. All the mothers that have mothered me, held me, fed me, shared words of wisdom as they would to their precious child, paid for things or lent funds to get me out of a stressful situation, or called to check in…all the parents, friends, sisters, tribe, that have stepped into that void of feeling the absence of my Mother, to each and every one of you, my soul, my child heart, thanks you with such grace and honour. You’ve kept me alive, literally by feeding me, emotionally and spiritually by sharing your wisdom and holding space, and helping me grow, so that I may realize and fulfill my purpose. 

I am thankful for all the divine synchronicities that have reassured my faith and trust in the bigger picture. The “too-good-to-be-true” encounters, the divine timing of meeting certain people or things happening…call it what you like, but I am a believer in this grand plan, and my trust has certainly allowed it to keep unfolding its mastery. And in that unfolding, allowing me to heal from deep within. 

It is said that “time heals all wounds.” I believe this is true for when we are truly present, that we allow the past to dissolve. And when I say the past, I mean the memory and the emotions we associate to a memory that we consider in the past. It does not mean that we forget that an experience happened, but we have grown out of seeing it in the past and the painful emotion that it carries. I am present right now in this moment, as I type. Now. Now. And Now. In this moment, there is no past. And so, I cannot dive into an emotional memory, because it just simply does not exist. Thinking of time as each year has gone by, has made me question more and more, “what is time?” Is this why September 17, 2000 feels like it just happened? Or some years, it has felt like that was a lifetime ago and that’s why I don’t cry anymore? Or have I grown? Have I forgotten? No. I know in my heart, I am healing that wound. And as I heal, I create a distance from that “past” moment in time. The quantum world may seem like a whirlwind when it comes to understanding timelines, however, I have found my peace with this particular life event because of it. I feel that I have found the missing key that helps me to unlock the bigger puzzle I’m in and free myself so I may truly live my life; shame-free, guilt-free, pain-free, and above all, have a healthy relationship with one of my greatest teachers, Grief. 

 A whole lifetime has passed, in the blink of an eye, yet when I slow down the years, the months, the days, the hours, the minutes and seconds, each moment is a lifetime, a timeline in itself. A moment where I had a choice. A choice to live and experience for its gift of beauty ~ a choice to appreciate the gift of another moment of life; to appreciate the opportunities at hand. 

Today, I honour my Mother Marion, with red roses, the tunes of Simon & Garfunkel, with loud belly laughs, indulgence in tasty food, and remembering the power of trust. I am her daughter, and I am a daughter of the Universe. I honour her life and death by sharing the blessings and lessons I have been gifted by her, rather than just focusing on her absence and grieving.

We all walk different paths; we are all on different timelines. This is my story, my experience. May you find your own peace, joy & happiness in yours. 

I dedicate this piece to all the children of all ages, generations, timelines, who feel alone since the passing of their mothers or caregivers. May you remember that you are not alone. Your mother would never leave you alone – she left you with a family of angels to protect you, guide you, nurture and nourish you, support you in every way. When we begin to remember, we see “all the little things,” all the signs, all the pieces of the puzzle. We realize that she never left us. 

My thoughts on death need to be honoured on their own. Stay tuned. 

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