Friday, January 21, 2011

A Pivotal Moment

Yesterday I promised a snippet of memoir about a pivotal moment in my life.  This was a big one for me, eventually, this moment changed my life in drastic ways.

Every life has those moments of clarity when something within clicks, a light bulb turns on and the path before us, free of the debris that kept us from moving forward, dissipates.  There’s no way to forecast when a pivotal moment will occur or why a certain situation triggers the beginning of a life change.  One such ah-ha moment happened to me during a time of high-stress and sorrow.

My father, siblings and I gathered at the hospital on a snowy Saturday in December.  My mother layed on the narrow bed with sides pulled up, an institution white sheet outlining her diminishing body.  She gestured slightly with hands and arms while voicing concerns. “Who will do the cooking?” she asked in the soft voice I knew so well.  She was reassured that we’d all take our turns cooking.  Satisfied with the response, she closed her eyes, rested her head against the pillow and became quiet and still.

Throughout the day and into the evening she spoke to us.  At times scenes from her childhood became the topic of conversation and she’d share intimate details of growing up.  Then, there were flashes of lucidity when we all joined in conversation as if dinner was on the table and each of us in our respective places.

In between monologs and discussions, mom slept.  During one nap, I stood at the window in her hospital room staring out at the tableaus unfolding.  From this location I could make out the fairytale-castle-like courthouse that sat in the town square with turrets peaking in orange-red tiles.  Any other day the view would have been a magical one, with big snowflakes twirling to the ground against the courthouse background and Christmas music streaming down from the tall central tower, but this was not a holiday shopping excursion. I was here to ease my mother’s passing. I‘d seen it in her eyes over the past few weeks, that faraway, other-worldly look coupled with a lack of interest in this one.  On the doorstep now, all she had to do was open the door and walk through.

I watched out the window as visitors dusted off cars covered in snow and drove off guiltily wishing I too could drive away.  A group of children, pulling snow shovels behind them, trudged along the sidewalk hoping to make a dollar or two reminded me of childhood snow days.  My mother’s voice broke my reverie as she began wandering down the roads to the places she’d been and the trips she and my father had made.  She talked of the Badlands in South Dakota, the beauty of the road to the sun in Montana and then she said, “I wish I’d had the courage to fly.”

That simple statement shot through me like an arrow that’s hit its mark.  I turned and looked at my mother.  She was regretful of being afraid to get on a plane and fly to destinations that my father had always wanted to go, but refused to go without her.  As her life slipped away she realized the experiences she would never have, the places she would never see, the people she would never meet because of this fear. 

Overwhelmed with the urge to run away,  I hurried from the room and into the hallway, my heart pounding and my eyes stinging from threatening tears.  Those words rang in my head like a mantra from a guru, “I wish I’d had the courage to fly.”  I wasn’t afraid to get on a plane and go, but was I afraid of a less literal way to fly?

My mother passed away the following morning as I stood next to her bed, holding her hand and whispering to her that I loved her, we loved her and we’d be all right.  As she drew one of her last breaths, in a hushed tone I told her, “It’s ok to go now."

I mourned my mother and still miss her, but her words, “I wish I’d had the courage to fly,” struck a chord deep within my soul.  In the coming years I became a warrior slashing my way through life, bent on answering the questions that troubled the core of who I am.  Within five years I would fling nearly everything I’d always known to the four winds and reinvent myself as I searched for my bliss, but that’s a story for another day.

I didn't expect anyone to join me this week on this venture into writing and sharing tidbits of who we are, where we came from and all that.  You can only imagine my delight when Diana of Elephant's Eye had a story to share, too.  Please stop by and read her story, too.  And if at anytime you want to share a story of you just let me know and I'd be happy to post the link.  Thank you, Diana! 


  1. This story is truly inspirational. You hit the depth of human emotion with your writing talent.

    I was delighted myself with your mention of my Italian/German family stories. The thing about our own stories is that we don't recognize their uniquiness until someone else points it out.

    Thank you for this story. And thank you for our cherished friendsip.

  2. I just discovered your blog and became your 48th follower.
    Your blog is beauty, provoking, timeless, inspirational, stunning flowers..
    I too, have been on a similar journey since the death of my only daughter 15 months ago.
    She died in our home from cancer and my husband, her best friend, her granny, and our pastor were all telling her how much we loved her...
    I would be honored if you dropped by to see me and join my blog.
    Have A Sugar Sweet day/weekend
    you are sooooooo very talented
    Simply Debbie

  3. MJ...sometimes I feel like a little kid asking for one more story about your mother's mother. What a lady she was and what a lady you are.

    Simply Debbie...thanks for stopping by the Cottage and leaving such a warm my ego comment. Losing loved ones is never easy, but my mom left with me so many gifts and this moment of clarity is one that changed my life.

    I'll be over for a visit!

  4. This is such a beautiful post and it is an honour that you are sharing a part of your life in this way. I remember arriving just in time to tell not my Dad 'not to be afraid' and so thankful that I was in time to share a final moment with him. These experiences make us who we are and who we will become. Life is such an interesting journey ... and your photograph seemed to me to symbolise your Mom soaring at last - free from any regrets.

  5. Thank you for sharing this deepely personal story. Let's all pledge to fly whenever the inspiration strikes!!

  6. aguja...Thank you for reading my bit on pivotal moments in life. I so agree, the experiences we have, the good, bad, and ugly, make us who we are. They shape us and invite us to evolve.

    Indoor Fountains...(I still wish I knew your name) I like your pledge very much and I think it's something I need to take quite seriously. Thank you for the kind comment.


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