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.

We held our breath with every last painful breath my mother breathed, praying, praying, “Oh dear God, please please take her. Please have mercy and let this be the last.” As an OB/GYN, my mother’s transition reminded me of one of those brutal childbirths, the ones that go just the opposite of how the woman wished to give birth in her birth plan, the ones where everyone in the room is so impossibly spent at the end that you marvel at the resilience of the human body and spirit and feel flooded with awe—and also, relief—that it is finally over. It’s like you can’t believe the mother and the baby—and the family and the doctor and the nurse—actually survived it.

I know we all prayed my mother would have a peaceful end, a quiet passing in her sleep even or a romantic last breath cradled in the arms of her singing family, a benevolent smile on her glowing face or maybe some inspiring last words. As much as I’d like to tell you all a little white lie, just to spare you the agony of what we had to witness, this is not what happened. My mother raged, raged against the dying of the light—her body as strong and mighty as her will, her will to live so intense that she literally stayed until she didn’t have one last ounce of life force to fight with.

I am so grateful for all of your support, for all of the energy healing you sent and the intercessory prayers you uplifted on all of our behalf. Thank you thank you for this. I am unspeakably grateful to you for walking with my family in consciousness during this intimate journey. It gives me some comfort to hope that in some metaphysical way, my mother and all who attended her transition were in some way taking one for the team, suffering dearly so that others might suffer less. Believing that this might be possible helps me ascribe some meaning to what would otherwise feel too brutal to bear. Maybe this is all part of the Divine Plan, that my mother’s death might be a teaching for us all, that even in the end, she dies in service.

When I move beyond the raw, primal pain of my first day without my mother here in form, I can already experience so many blessings in this. My mother left no loving words unsaid, no dreams unpursued, no regrets, no doubt in her mind—or ours—that she loved well and that it was a life well lived. After the final raging breath, a huge blessing blew in. There was PEACE. So much peace and stillness. My mother was a DOer, rushing from one activity to the next, always the energizer bunny. I can’t remember my mother ever being still in my entire life. I hope she doesn’t rush right into angel caregiving when she gets wherever she went. I hope she sleeps for years and rests in natural great peace. At the very end, when we were performing our soul midwife service, we instructed Mom to dissolve into pure light, to merge her consciousness with the Divine and to float away. We told her to go all the way into the light, to not look back, to not worry about us, to dissolve into the Divine and rest in BEing—finally.

I hoped I would feel my mother’s consciousness leaving, that she would show us some sign or give us some evidence that she was all right. We lit a candle for her and it had burned for days. I asked her before she left if she would blow out the candle for us from the other side—so we would know. But she didn’t. I had to blow it out myself. I had hoped to report some magic story, some evidence of life after death, some clear proof that what I trust is true. But I have no such miracle to report—no miracle other than the pure everyday miracle that is my family, a family that embodies love incarnate.

What I can say is that right after my mother’s last breath, I could only hear the Silence and trust that in the deep Ground of Being that lives in that silence, there is only love. (And fluff. And cherry blossoms.) When I finally reminded myself to take the next breath myself, I could feel my heart blown open. There really is only love.

Here is the Dylan Thomas poem that kept ringing through my heart last night:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

At times like this, sometimes poetry is all that makes any sense. So I also dedicate this poem to you, my beloved mother. We will keep in touch across the veil, okay? I will see you on the other side.

“Oneness,” by Thich Nhat Hanh

The moment I die
I will try to come back to you
as quickly as possible.
I promise it will not take long.
Isn’t it true
I am already with you
as I die each moment?
I come back to you
in every moment.
Just look,
feel my presence.
If you want to cry,
please cry,
And Know
that I will cry with you.
The tears you shed
will heal us both.
Your tears and mine.
The earth I tread this morning
transcends history.
Spring and Winter are both present in the moment.
The young leaf and the old leaf are really one.
My feet touch deathlessness,
And my feet are yours.
Walk with me now.
Let us enter the dimension of oneness
and see the cherry tree blossom in Winter.
Why should we talk about death?
I don’t need to die
to be back with you.

(Hat tip to Laura Sweet for sending me this poem.)

So much unspeakably deep infinite love,

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14 Comments

  1. Randall Griffith

    Thank you so much for taking the time during your grief to be so open and sharing. So very well said.

    Reply
  2. joni

    Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us Lissa. You have a beautiful gift for saying exactly what I am feeling. Peace and love be with you and your family.

    Reply
  3. Susan Harrington

    Lissa, I’m weeping reading about your mother; I’ve been following the three parts and before. My beloved significant other transitioned in June of cancer and I’ve been in grief since then. He and I read your books together and studied your wonderful philosophy of healing since his diagnosis in 2013 and we came across your talk on TED talks. But cancer takes it’s toll. He tried natural healing methods but in the end it got the better of him and he went way too soon. Thank God for hospice which has helped in the grieving process. But it was not a peaceful passing, just like with your mother. God Bless you and your family. Susan

    Reply
  4. Susan E. Schwartz

    lissa, as I read this, I hear you singing to us as esalen last year as we sat in that magical space in the forest…humble yourselves in the eyes of the mother…you’ve got to get down low and humble…yourselves in the eyes of the mother…you’ve got to know what they know…
    I am sure your mother will be sending you many signs and showing you that she is still with you as you are still with her…
    again, thank you for being our intrepid, courageous, brilliant guide on life’s most challenging journey.
    sending you love & wishing you peace.

    Reply
  5. Bev Wolfe

    My sincerest condolences to you and your family.

    Reply
  6. Joanne Horlbogen

    Dear Lissa, I am in awe that you somehow found the energy, during this most trying of times, to share your journey so eloquently. It brought me back 11 years to when I midwifed my own beloved mother in her transitioning. The loss is always there no matter how long a mother has been gone, though it does get easier. You’re right…Everything changes with a mother’s passing. I pray that you and your family feel carried in Spirit’s Arms (as I did) as you prepare to celebrate her life and continue your process of grief. My prayers and Love are with you…Joanne

    Reply
  7. Kim Lande

    i truly believe what Thich Nhat Hahn wrote: “I don’t need to die to be back with you.” I lost my dear friend from ovarian cancer in August and I feel her with me. She resides in my chest and I can sense her at every moment. My father, who died 18 years ago, is in the ocean. I see him and feel him every time I walk on the beach (which is often). Her soul lives on in you and my hope is that you will feel her embrace and know she is at peace. She is at peace and out of pain.

    Reply
  8. Kim Lande

    I truly believe what Thich Nhat Hahn wrote: “I don’t need to die to be back with you.” I lost my dear friend from ovarian cancer in August and I feel her with me. She resides in my chest and I can sense her at any moment. My father, who died 18 years ago, is in the ocean. I see him and feel him every time I walk on the beach (which is often). Your mother’s soul lives on in you and my hope is that you will feel her embrace and have peace knowing she is now at peace. She is at peace and out of pain and you, Lissa, will continue to shine her light

    Reply
  9. Marifran

    Thank you miss a. You are in my prayers. Remember it’s only over for now.

    Reply
  10. Marifran

    Thank you lissa. You are in my prayers. Remember it’s only over for now.

    Reply
  11. Knoah

    As my father’s cascade of complications brought him closer to death…the song in my heart as I thot of him and, from what you have written about her, I believe would have been your mom’s… was 10,000 reasons by Matt Redman. We sang it at his funeral and the congregation “raised the roof” with praise….continuing to pray for your family.

    Reply
  12. Maria Alamo

    Beautiful tribute to your mother. My sincerest condolences. May you find peace in the wonderful memories you shared. much love.

    Reply
  13. Jana Frazier

    Oh I hope we don’t dissolve into something else after we die.I hope we don’t sleep for years. I hope we remain ourselves and that where we go is a place familiar and dear and that we are surrounded by beauty, love and deep purpose. I so fear just becoming a generic energy with no identity anymore. God bless you and your mother and family,Lissa. Keep looking for signs They will come.My mother sent a flock of flickers, my favorite bird.

    Reply
  14. Yashoda Bhaskar

    Lissa dear, my heart breaks for you. I lost my father almost 14 years ago, fairly suddenly of a stroke. I was traumatized by his loss for a very long time. However, when I spot the bald headed eagle in my backyard, I can feel his presence. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

    Reply

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