February 6, 1907
Today would have been my Mother’s birthday. She would have been 103 years old.
She was born on February 6, 1907, Frieda Alfman in Pensacola, Florida. She grew up mostly in New Orleans, and moved to El Paso,Texas and lived there the rest of her life.
My relationship with my mother was rather awkward. She and my Dad had five of us—children. Four girls and me. Dad was a traveling salesman. He was home only periodically during most of the year. Mom of course had never raised a boy, and her only brother died while she was very young. Her six other siblings were all female!
Of course, the argument was that I was spoiled being the only guy! I probably was. I just didn’t know it.
There isn’t much point to this story so far, and that is in part the point. As I was growing up, she was just a mom. A parent. Nothing exceptional.
Nothing exceptional until the night of September 8, 1973. It was the night she took her last breath. It happened in a semi-private room in George Washington Hospital in Washington, DC. There were two nurses and me in the room.
It was the first time I experienced the super-natural. As Mom took her last breath – while the nurses each held a wrist from the opposite side of her bed and said “she is gone” – I experienced – I saw—a spinning tuft of a cloud. I turned my head to the right as the tuft was moving – and as if to acknowledge me it stuttered and then swooshed out of the room in an instant.
In that instant I knew exactly what it was. Except, I couldn’t imagine it being real or true. At first, I thought it was an illusion prompted by grief. I struggled with that moment for years seeking psychiatric help on one occasion.
It wasn’t until the year 2001 that I began to understand. It was a moment of grace. An honor and perhaps a gift to be able to experience a life-force exit my mother. The gift was one that didn’t begin to be fully unwrapped until about 27 years later when it appeared inevitable that Susan, my wife, who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, was going to take her last breath.
Susan today is alive and thriving. Yet 20 years ago she wasn’t supposed to be. Her prognosis became grim. I had to get ready for her last breath. How was I going to do such a thing? I couldn’t really imagine. Except that I knew that in her was a divine breath or presence, one that I fully shared. It was how I became to understand our love and our attachment.
I became both afraid and assured at the same time. Afraid because I was sure that I would be spiritually split in half. Susan and I shared breath –essence—we were, indeed are, spiritually one. Half of that one was going to leave.
So, it was perhaps the source of my fear. My trepidation. I couldn’t imagine I could do what I thought I was going to have to do. Now, since that time I have been able to reconcile that moment with Susan with the understanding of that moment with my mother. That the essence – the spiritual being – can leave and as difficult as it will be – there will always be part of her within me. That instant of recognition to me by my mother’s essence tells me that even at the end when those we love leave, there will always be something of them in us and we will always be connected.
“Life exists in each of us as a form of the divine, a tangible essence of who we are. Love is when our essence became entwined. An equal half of the other” are lines from a poem I wrote in 2013 as I was beginning this journey with The Actual Dance.
It was that instant with my mom that I first began to understand. It was an amazing gift that years later led me to find the deep place in my soul that would enable me to face my worst fear. Yes, it is true that Susan lives and thrives, and it is also true that I now understand as never before what our love is – the tangible nature of US.
It is often in those moment of great sorrow and grief, such as my moment I had with Mom; that send us on a journey of discovery and strength.
Odd that all these years later what would have been her 103rd birthday I want to thank her for what she gave me in the last moment of her life.