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What Death Has Taught Me About Life

My mom passed away over four years ago, and not a day goes by where she doesn't inhabit my thoughts. Her passing was unexpected; earthshaking for so many of us.

After she died, I remember experiencing extremes of numbness and aching heart-wrenching anxiety. While those extremes have since gone, I still miss her terribly and the feelings that arise are fresh, real and slow to flow. While I feel her presence with me perhaps more than ever, I miss her quiet, grounding safety. In the years just before her death, we had so many lovely and simple mornings consisting of coffee, over-easy eggs and soft conversation. I keep the empty space in my heart full of those memories and I honor the parts of her that I find in myself as I grow into the wisdom of lived experience.

My mother's birthday is today, November 6th, and mine tomorrow. Not long before she died, we had started to celebrate our days together. Thinking about it brings such warmth to my heart; how lucky we were to share that in this life. As I reflect on another year of my own life, I wanted to share some of the wisdom that I have discovered about life from the loss of my mama.

After my mom died I can't tell you how many times I habitually picked up my phone to call her, and as I listened to the ring tone, my awareness kicked back in. In time, I have learned that her wisdom and voice speak directly through my heart. It's become very clear that death is not good-bye. I got married this year and I asked her to show up a lot. Don't get me wrong, that ache came back a few times in an intense way, but I quickly found her again. Sometimes in death, you need to find the strength to say hello to the new shape that your relationship has made. We need to open our eyes to the bits of that same love that we can still experience in ourselves and in others. So many of you have offered those little bits and for that I am so grateful.

At her funeral, I was approached by so many of her co-workers and friends, eager to tell me how much she loved and celebrated my sister and me. They knew so much about us and they lit up as they retold the tales that my mom had so openly shared. She was so select with her words that I couldn't believe my ears. I am certain that Heather will agree with me on this: growing up, our mom never judged us, questioned us or asked why. She loved us with an unconditional fierceness that instilled both of us with the softest of hearts. Today, I can openly admit that I only speak gently to myself and that unconditional love is the heart of my spiritual journey. Love is what matters and what is remembered. It is love, after all, that endures and connects us to each other.

Simply put, with death, comes new life. Unimaginable losses are openings for the soul to receive healing love from new places. In my own journey, I have been inspired by the resiliency of the human spirit. You never know how strong you are until you endure the unendurable. Last year I studied at the most lovely monastery. I was standing looking out over the ocean while on my break, and I felt a rush of gratitude for my life and its unfolding. Sometimes I think of losing my mom like a giant smack in the face. I guess you could say it really helped to wake me up! I have received countless blessings from her passing and I am grateful for the ways that it has carved wisdom and depth into my being. It is an honor to share that wisdom and keep her life force flowing on and on.

This brings me to the present. Death redirects us, like the patience of awareness, to the truth that all we have for certain is now. Try your best not to waste your life second guessing or rewriting the past. Don't waste your life waiting to live your life or trying to overcome potential obstacles. Live your life with passion and courage. Oh, and laugh, laugh as much as possible to keep lots of room for your experience to unfold exactly as it is.

Happy birthday, Mama Bear.

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