Monday, April 20, 2009

Shining Through

A few years ago my mom realized that she had breast cancer. She chose not to have a mastectomy or do chemo. This was not a decision made lightly. My mom loved life.
My mom was an artist who captured the natural world. She eventually became interested in healing plants and became an herbalist. From there she combined her interest in herbs and health with her writing skills and wrote for a holistic health newsletter. Then my mom got into environmentalism. Last year she created an environmental website. She wanted to expose and hold accountable the industries that so heavily contribute to the disease of our planet.

She felt that the human body is a microcosm of our planet and that, just like planetary ecosystems, our body is comprised of holistic systems. So, when disease occurred in her system, she didn’t want to clear-cut and poison it in the name of modern medicine. She set to researching breast health and alternative cancer treatments. Here’s a peak at her book collection. My mom wanted us to know that she wanted to work with her body and not against it. She treated herself by eating good, organic foods. She juiced and fasted periodically. She supported her immune system with herbs. She continued to meditate daily and began to cultivate peace in her heart. This journey she took privately. And, tho' it is confusing for the rest of us, who knows the depths of the heart?

My mom was a complex woman. What she wholeheartedly chose to devote herself to was her family. She loved us deeply, fiercely, and defended us to the teeth. She loved her husband and welcomed him home every day with a warm smile. She had the most beautiful smile. My mom chose to homeschool my little sister. She really appreciated how close they were and the depth of conversations that they could have. My mom said that she was not sentimental; she was pretty feisty and had strong convictions. But looking back, I see how very important her relationships were to her. She had pictures of people tucked here and there around the house. My mom enjoyed the time she was able to spend with her family, those near and far. She liked to shop, but not just for herself. She often thought about the people she loved and enjoyed getting them something special. She didn’t do things out of obligation. My mom wasn’t sappy. But maybe, just maybe, she was sentimental.

Last year my mom’s health started to decline. But her spirit did not. In November we went to Disneyland for her birthday.

In December she cooked us a delicious Christmas feast. Then in January she was hospitalized for a series of strokes. The medical establishment couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong or what to do with her. My family and I went on a rollercoaster of hope and despair. After numerous inconclusive tests, the doctors saw her cancer and gave her a brief time to live. We brought her home for hospice care. I’m so glad I didn’t have to go it alone. My family and I knitted together around my mom and enjoyed her life with her. Though her body was giving way, she defied the doctors’ expectations and shone through her disease. This was, at once, the greatest heartbreak and the greatest gift I’ve ever faced. I appreciate the time we had to spend with her.
My mom died last month, followed by her little brother. I miss them. It feels so utterly unreal. The law of conservation of energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed; it merely changes form. I hold onto this thought. I look for my mom in the night sky. I listen for her on the breeze. I call to her in my dreams. I remember. Why do I feel such loss? I know that my family is grieving. Friends are grieving. Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Everyone's tears are salty." Why do I feel so alone?


  1. Welcome back beautiful woman. Wow what a hard journey you are living through now.
    Sending you my love, my thoughts and my continual warmth....
    Lots of love sweet lady, stay string...xx

  2. My warmest hugs to you. Your mother sounds absolutely amazing. So interested in life and so loving.

    Of course you will feel alone, grief has a way of doing that. I think it's an experience that requires every cell of our bodies, so we feel somewhat disconnected from others for a while.


  3. Thank you, Lovey, Amber and Mon for all the love. It was really hard to write this post! I didn't want it to sound like the neat little bundle that I made it sound like. I felt kinda manic. I go through these grasping moments where I just want to remember everything. I wanted it to be epic-to do justice to her life. Mon, my mom was AMAZING.