My mother made her final transition last night. After I told her, my friend Shiloh said, "When the mother passes, the fabric of the universe is shifted and moves into a new shape." Today begins the first day of that new shape for those of us who can hardly begin to imagine the world without Trish Rankin in it. We are all weary but filled with broken-hearted love and gratitude. Last night, my sister, my mother's two sisters and I held my beloved mother precariously in our adoring arms through the harrowing end. My daughter was on the phone with us when she breathed her last agonizing breath.
I’ve been journaling daily about the journey of helping my mother through the rebirth we call death. Although these moments are intensely intimate and personal, I am sharing them publicly (with the permission of my mother, who before she stopped communicating clearly, told me “If it helps others, use anything about my story, my illness, and my death in your blog, in your books. If I’m going to leave this planet, at least let my life and my death live on through the hearts of those who might learn from it.”). Mom even said, “Maybe I’m dying so you can learn how to help others fall sick and die with trust in God.” The other day, she said, “I have a synapse to God. You have a synapse to me. We can bring others along with us.”
I am in Ohio right now, midwifing my beloved mother through the rebirth we call death. I already lost my precious father almost 12 years ago, two weeks after my daughter Siena was born. His was a beautiful, sacred death. The moment he breathed his last breath, my mother, who was married to him for 40 years, threw her body on top of him and cried, “David, I love the way you died.” Now, I am preparing to let go of the woman I never thought I could live without.
I’ve experienced a lot of loss this year. Most of the loss has come as my own choice, which in some ways makes it even harder. I can’t even fall back on feelings of victimhood because I’ve brought all this loss upon myself, not because I’m a masochist, but because I’m being called to align with the integrity of my Inner Pilot Light in radical ways. It’s hard and scary and wildly uncomfortable. And it hurts. My heart feels heavy as big changes have uprooted me. I’ve had to really lean into my spiritual practice to stay grounded, avoid the downward spiral into fear, find peace with uncertainty, and allow loss to grow my soul, rather than shrink it.
Eckhart Tolle says that if you’re enlightened, there are three responses to what happens in life—acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. In other words, even when you’re facing the worst life throws at you, peaceful acceptance can be your baseline. Clearly, I’m not enlightened, because today, a yard full of roots thrust me into despair. The house where I live just changed owners, and the new owner, very well intentioned I'm sure, just sent over gardeners who ripped up every plant in my entire yard, including my beloved rosemary and artichoke plants. I've experienced a great deal of loss this year, and I keep saying that all of my roots are getting pulled up so I'm free to flow to whatever is most aligned for me. But as I came home from dropping my daughter off at camp and looked at the piles of literal roots and the barren, vulnerable nakedness of my front yard, I burst into tears. It's all so . . . empty and ugly and dirty and lonely. I’m sure the new landscaping will be beautiful, but right now, I’m feeling a little tender. Not quite up to peaceful acceptance, much less enjoyment or enthusiasm.