My great uncle died on New Year’s Eve. He is pictured here with his 2 sisters, my maternal grandmother is on the right. He served in WWII, was wounded in Italy then patched up and took part in the Battle of the Bulge. I was disturbed when I saw my great uncle at my mother’s grave site. I feared burying one of my own nieces and nephews, I pray that that is not my fate. Then, when I learned of his passing, I felt sad that I had wished he hadn’t been there to remind me of the untimeliness of my mother’s own death.
My great-grandfather, his father, was someone I never knew, but I heard stories about him. He chained my grandmother and another brother to a bathtub for hours. He ruined her wedding plans, and she ran off and eloped. He was an alcoholic.
I went to a family reunion this summer, looked around at four surviving generations, and thought of the devastation that had occurred to so many of my cousins due to the disease of addiction.
One of the most profound things about my mother’s death for me was the discovery of a journal she kept just about 2 months after her passing. It was filled with hope, joy, spirituality. But it also told of a few years of sexual abuse by an unnamed perpetrator when she was a young girl. She said she had no hate, but wished her parents had taken better care of her. When I read her words it was like losing her all over again. I have kept this secret journal from all but my niece who loved her and looked like her and understood her like no one else. I don’t think anyone else wants to hear about it, because I tried approaching my siblings and as soon as I started the conversation, they asked me to stop.
Going back a bit to the discovery of the journal–in my grief at losing my mother, I kept wishing I had talked to her about her own mother’s death. It was something that was nagging at me. I found the journal, and the first entry was dated on the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. My mother shared her feelings about letting go of her mother. It was as if she wrote it for me. On the last page of the journal, my mother prayed that she would pass before my father. She didn’t think she would be strong enough to live without him.
My mother loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. She sang in church always, and after her retirement, joined a choir. I have recently found new joy and strength in singing, through kirtan and worship. It’s as if she has transmitted that to me.
After the wake, we went to see Krishna Das. The audience was filled with beautiful yoga people, and when I say beautiful, I mean physically beautiful with trendy yoga wear. I was alienated for a minute, but once we started chanting, the power of the group made me know we were all One.