Patricia Herborg Knutsen Arvidson April 17, 1921 - May 4, 2011
“Love the whole world as a mother lovers her only child.” The Buddha
“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” Mark Twain
“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Indian Spiritual leader, 1931-1990)
I'm thinking now that I'm not ready to write this--this about my mother's death. What's more profound than your mother's death? Only the combined agony of when your mother births you, your agony and hers. Beyond that, nothing.
So, there she is, up there, beautiful and powerful. She was that way in the beginning and she was that way at the very end. At the end, that morning last week in the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital, she wore her warrior's mask to greet her death. It was the mask I had seen so many times in my life when she was challenged or angry or determined and she was very often determined.
She was ninety and not well and had fallen and broken her hip and now the desperate attempt to fix her bones had overcome her last resources. Her lungs gave out but, for a long time, her great heart did not. When my father, her husband of sixty-eight years, leaned over and put his forehead against hers and whispered that he loved her, oh, how he loved her, she seemed to rally. Or was the jump in her vital signs only our wishful thinking, a romantic notion?
Poor Dad. Leaning over her bed, over her body, his mind absorbed the truth, but his heart, like hers, could not accept it. They had been famous lovers until their last day together. In their final years at the nursing home, they had taken to spending their time sitting on the edge of their conjoined beds holding hands and looking out the window. The staff called them the honeymooners. They kissed often, real kisses, mouth to mouth, and then laughed at themselves. They insisted they were happy and it would have been unwise to argue. Could anyone have been that happy after all they had seen? All the wars fought, the illnesses over come, the children raised, the grandchildren supported, the impossible amount of work accomplished?
I feel both diminished and enlarged by her passing. Watching her die, I can claim another small wisdom: I have witnessed the death of the woman who gave me life. I have kissed the moist forehead of the person who is half of me as her fierce spirit left her. I like to think she gave a last gift at that moment, that something entered me that will carry me along until it's my turn to leave. A final understanding of the ineffability of life, of death, and the paradox that love triumphs though life is defeated.
We love you so much, Mom.