Today is the 1st March 2017.
March 1st is always significant for me as it is the anniversary of the date I lost my mum to cancer in 1993, but this year feels different because it coincides with the beginning of Lent. I had never been especially drawn to the idea of Lent, being a lapsed Methodist and an almost-Buddhist at that time, but two years after Mum died, Ash Wednesday fell on her anniversary. Somehow, in the depths of my sadness, it seemed appropriate to go to the local church and take part in the extremely solemn service during which the priest made the mark of the cross, in ash, on my forehead. I came away feeling slightly weird at having a giant black cross on my face, but also deeply touched that I was somehow undergoing a cleansing process that would help me to process the grief. It was a complicated grief that has taken a lot of unravelling.
As a brief bit of back history so you get the picture, my youngest son was 11 days old when Mum died, then my dad died three weeks later on 21st March. Which that year fell on, guess what? Mother’s Day! How ridiculously and sadly inopportune. He was very close behind Mum in terms of health as she had breast cancer and he had lung cancer (although he died of a heart attack), and they were both holding on for me to have the baby. As soon as my son was safely delivered they felt they could leave… so they did, leaving crushing waves of grief behind them; I think I’m finally getting close to stepping out of the water onto the safety of the beach now, some twenty-four years later.
For many years I dreaded the whole period from my son’s birthday on 18th February until Mother’s Day. What should have been a happy celebration of birth instead marked the start of a cycle of grief, ending with the double-edged sword of Mother’s Day. Two small boys wanting to give their mum a lovely day, just as said mum is welling up at not having her own mum to spoil and remembering her dad’s passing too. They were dark days, but to be truthful it has got a lot easier in recent years, and last year I was positively light-hearted in comparison.
I’ve tried to keep Lent on and off since that Ash Wednesday in 1995 with varying degrees of success. I did it more as a spiritual exercise than through any sense of religion; pitting oneself against a set period in the calendar is always interesting, and very often I gave up way too early. One year instead of giving something up I thought it would be more constructive to start something – so I practised yoga every morning at some crazy hour before the boys got up – and yay! I did it! In fact when Lent finished I carried on for a long time with my morning practice, loving every moment.
Other years I’ve given up biscuits (easy as I hardly eat any, so cheating really), chocolate (ditto), and of course the biggie, alcohol. Can’t say that was always successful, TBH as I do like wine. A lot. So when this year rocked up and it turned out to be on Mum’s anniversary, I had the idea I would like to do something special.
I remember way back in 1982 when healing energy burst through me with overpowering force and heat, Mum was adamant that I should go out and heal the world, without any real idea how I would do so. There were very few healing groups in those days and hardly anyone I could talk to about what was happening to me, so I dug my heels in (unusually for me), saying that at the tender age of 24 I had no life experience to offer: I was living at home, hadn’t yet married or had children and hadn’t experienced ‘Life’ at the sharp end, serious illness, or death in any form. As it happened, the right people appeared for me and my journey into healing continued, so she was somewhat mollified.
But the irony of those words from a confused young woman hit me as particularly significant as I ponder this special anniversary. Because now I have been married, had children, lost my beloved Mum and Dad, built a business, got divorced and had a life threatening disease that involved state of the art treatment that literally saved my life. There is much to think about, but what interests me most of all is the timing of this, right now in 2017. It was through being ill that I started the blog and discovered the joy of writing, so I am now in a position to explore my inner journeying through the written word. My son Matt has talked recently about performing rituals to honour the ancestors and extend healing down through the generations, so over the course of the next forty days and nights, I am planning on spending some time each day in doing just that, and recording what comes up. I want to consider the beautiful gift of life that has been passed down to me through the ancestors – a gift that I treasure all the more because I was given a second chance. And I want to say thank you.
Oh – and that giving something up thing? Yep – this time it had to be the wine. And I figured that if anyone can get me through 40 days without wine, it will be my dear mum. Think of me.
Wishing you good health