Today, the Memorial Mass celebrating my mother’s life is being said.
I am over 2000 miles away. Ours has been a long-distance relationship for almost two decades.
The last time I saw my mother was four years ago. Increasingly, we shared physical disability. Soon, neither was able to travel.
Most Sundays, I wrote a weekly letter to her, just a page or two. She was no longer able to send email so for the last 2 ½ years of her life, I wrote her a letter.
She did not write back. The give-and-take of regular correspondence was not the purpose of the letters. Mom wanted to know about my life, the day-to-day of it, and so I told her.
Some weeks I wrote her about Zen Buddhism within the context of her own devout Catholicism. It pleased her that I practiced a kind of “faith,” even if that is not how I would have described my practice.
Once that distinction would have mattered but in writing the letters, the word faith fit. Mom had a deeply personal relationship with God, an unwavering faith and trust in His grace. She believed “Let go and let God.”
Mom respected people’s beliefs; they need not mirror her own. She knew how to listen and many turned to her. She showed me I do not have to agree with people but I do have to hear them.
It took me decades to appreciate that in my mother but when I did, it opened so many doors for me.
I think it always opened doors for her, too:
Let my last door open into the light of late spring.
May it be shadowed with the announcements of those who walked
into darkness before me—right foot disappearing first,
body leaning into the unknown, trailing hand making mostly
mysterious gestures: I’m all right or come along; it’s what I thought
or it’s not what I thought.” *
Mom died in winter–in Wyoming–her memorial service is in late spring. Just two days ago it snowed.
Spring still lags. I know she would appreciate that.
An avid gardener, Mom knew late spring better than most. She accepted its elusiveness and never doubted it.
I have no doubt its light opened her last door.
—*Wendy Bishop, “My Last Door” excerpt from My Last Door, Anhinga Press, Tallahassee, FL 2007.