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.

Although this is a very intimate and personal process, unless we go first, we will all have to say goodbye to those who gave us life. So I wanted to share some of this journey with you—in case it helps you grieve the loss of your own parent or prepares you for what you will face one day. Death need not be something to fear or resist. If we choose not to fight the inevitable, if we surrender fully to the glorious love bath of this transition, it can feel our fully embodied grief while simultaneously expanding beyond it, if we can let this journey heal us and mature us, we will be infinitely blessed by the very thing we thought we could never bear to endure.

May my journey through loss serve you—with love and an expanded heart.

10/23/17

Mom is sleeping in her bed beside me as I watch her breath in, breath out. Tears are one thought away. They move through me like waves, then pass, leaving me with new waves of gratitude, then grief, then gratitude, then love, then fear, then sadness, then exquisite tenderness. Losing a beloved parent is beautiful. And brutal. It’s brutiful—these waves of memory and ecstatic grief and gratitude and gut-wrenching loss and sadness and relief and unspeakable joy—all swirled up in one rainbow of emotion.

Maybe it’s different if you’re saying goodbye to an abusive or neglectful parent—or maybe not. But what I know from saying goodbye to both of my beloved parents is that it’s so painful to let go you can hardly breathe, and yet, let go we must, impermanent as this world is. Yet it is a beautiful experience to be breathless with heart-opening grief. It only hurts so much because you loved so much.

Mom mostly sleeps now and when she wakes up, she says funny things. She’s been sleeping all day while my daughter and I sit by her side and run our fingers through her thinning hair. She just woke up after sleeping all day—obsessing about details. I told her she doesn’t need to micromanage the world anymore. We’ve got it. She can just let go. I suggested she pray instead of thinking, just focusing on the feeling of love in her heart. “There is only love, “ I said.

“Fluff?” she said. “There is only fluff?” I busted out laughing. “Yeah, Mom. There is only fluff.”

There will be an enormous love vacuum when my mother passes soon. If you close your eyes, maybe you will feel it pulling you in and filling you up.

I don’t know how I will live without this woman’s body near mine in this dimension, but I know I will. She will live on, not just in me, but in the hundreds of lives she has touched with her bursting open heart.

I will miss you beyond words, Mommy.

10/24/17

My beloved mother is between worlds now. I am lying in bed next to her while she talks to me—eyes closed—about what she is experiencing. She told me she just went to John of God but nobody knows about it yet. Then she said, ““I have a synapse to God. You have a synapse to me. We can take more people with us.” When she heard me bawling in response, she asked me if I needed an allergy pill. I laughed. “No Mama. I’m not allergic. I’m just crying.” She snored her reply.

I am alone here in the bed my parents slept in together before my father passed. My mother and the rest of my family are asleep. The sun rises over the lake my mother lives on and the sky is pink-orange behind the scant red-orange fall leaves that haven’t yet fallen off the trees. The limbs of the sugar maple right outside Mom’s bedroom window are mostly bare. Winter is coming, just as my mother is in this wintertime of her own life.

Every moment right now feels precious, every last breath that escapes my mother’s lips is one breath we still have her. I am cherishing these moments to hold her in my arms, thinking of what Jeff Foster says—”Right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground, for that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realizing this is the key to unspeakable joy.” Why do we not always rest in the unspeakable joy of what we have not yet lost? Why do we waste one ounce of energy on worry and planning and trying to keep that which we have not yet lost? Why aren’t we singing glorious Hallelujahs every single moment for that which we still have with us?

There is laughter here too, between the worlds. At 3 a.m. Mom smacked me awake to ask, “Is it morning enough yet? I have work to get done.” I was so startled in my mid-sleep dream time! She made me get up, turn on the light and make a “To Do” list. “Walk all the way around campus. Make an appointment with the eye doctor. Call Lanie.” She wanted to know why the little blond German boy was looking at her strangely and why there were three little Russian boys waiting for her. Of course, it makes sense that heaven would be an international place and that children would be the ones hosting my mother as she arrives.

Just now, Mom said, “I should get my shoes on. Where are we going? I have to pack my suitcase. It’s a beautiful place. I hear a voice. It’s really bright here in the sky. I think it’s John of God’s labyrinth.” When I cried some more, she once again asked me if I needed an allergy pill.

I am holding these quiet moments alone with my dear mother so tenderly. I can’t remember ever having had time with her like this. My mother is a busy woman who never slows down, a woman who always needed to control life and perseverate about details. Her days were always full of activity—fun, playful, celebratory activities—but busyness nonetheless. I don’t think my mother has been silent in my presence since I was a breastfeeding baby. She never just let me hold her in my arms without words. There was always so much beauty unspoken in between the words, but it was hard to access that unspoken ineffable numinous space that lives between a mother and her first born—until now.

I feel just a twinge of guilt at how much easier it feels to love her all the way in this space of sacred, between-the-worlds silence. There are no barriers to the waterfall of my love for her washing all the way over us both, without the need for mind talk or planning or activity. I don’t think that my mother has ever been able to receive my love the way she is now. It pains me to think she could possibly have ever doubted how much she is cherished.

At 5 a.m., she woke me up crying. I asked if she was in pain, and she shook her head. Without opening her eyes, tears streaming down her face, she said, “I hope they don’t forget me here.” I told her that was impossible, that we are goners for her—full as we are of joyful memories.

We have all given her permission to go. She knows we will be OK without her. We’ve got each other, and we can do hard things with great love.

My daughter just woke up and crawled in bed with me. My mother stirred just enough to let my little girl slip into her arms. And so . . . we rest. And wait.

We will never, ever forget you, dear Mama.

Love,

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34 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    Thank you. You are so very lucky to have such a beautiful relationship with your mom. Peace for you all during this time. With great love . . .

    Reply
  2. Judy Merrill-Smith

    There is only fluff. XOXO

    Reply
  3. Burma Storrs

    Your soon to be loss has given me hope in making peace with the loss of my beloved husband. Thank you so much for sharing these precious moments. You are your mother’s daughter it would seem. Bless you Lissa Rankin.

    Reply
  4. Anna

    Thank you for sharing these very tender, personal and beautiful moments of your lives. God bless you and your family x

    Reply
  5. Kajadilani S. M. Fiiksdal

    Thank you Lissa for putting this experience into such lovely words.
    I could see it all like a movie… And its so much like my story!

    I lost my father just a month ago, and I still have a deep grief. I wasn’t there with him as he died suddenly, alone in his apartment. I am so sad that he died alone, and I can’t stop thinking of the last phonecalI I never got to call him… Wish I could hear his voice again. But I sure can feel him still <3

    My mother died 12 years ago, just before my daughter was one year old. I hold her hand singing lullabies to her as she took her last breath. It was beautiful and terrible at the same time. As you describes it – "brutiful".

    It is so beautiful that you told your mother that you are ok by her leaving now.
    I recommend you sing to her for the last days of her life. Lullabies she loves and you love… Music is really healing and can say more than thousand words.

    Take care <3
    Kajadilani

    Reply
    • Lissa_Rankin

      Yes Kajadilani, we have been singing. Until today, she sang right along with us, but today, she is between worlds and we are singing without her. My mother, daughter and I recorded a CD together in January 2017. Little did I know when I gave her the gift of time in a professional recording studio that she would be diagnosed with stage 4 cancer only weeks later. What a blessing music is. Such healing. Thank you for the suggestion.

      If I knew how to upload video, I’d share with you all…so many memories.

      Love
      Lissa

      Reply
      • Kajadilani S. M. Fiiksdal

        Wow, what a beautiful gift! <3

        Reply
  6. Lissa_Rankin

    Yes! Kristin the peacock goddess of Esalen!

    Reply
  7. Susan E. Schwartz

    Lissa – even in your beloved mother’s dying, you bring such life and vitality to the experience – that I am drawn to be part of it. My heart goes out to you and I also thank you for your extraordinary presence and guidance. Everything is fluff. And love.
    sending you copious amounts of both.

    Reply
  8. Tracie

    Sending you so much love! My mom transitioned 12 years ago and my dad one year ago. I sang to him funny songs he used to sing to us and found “I think I love you” by the Partridge Family on Spotify – when I loved that song as a kid he used to tease and say it was silly – either you do or you don’t love someone. And though he was in a coma, I know he smiled. It is a privilege to be with her as she makes this part of her journey. Blessings to you, your mom, and your daughter. Holding you in love.

    Reply
  9. Mary

    Your writings of your time spent with your Mother as she lay making the transition from this reality to the next so touched me. What a final gift to give each other. As my dear Mother-in-law Rosemary lay dying in and out of consciousness earlier this year we sat as a family around her for the week it took her to make loosen her ties hear on earth and sore to her new destination. We sang to her and told funny stories, we cried and hug each other. She welcomed me into her life the moment she met me and was my champion and I felt privileged to love her through her transition. You are so blessed to have this time together.

    Reply
  10. Vikki Johnson

    “It only hurts so much because you loved so much. We will do hard things with GREAT LOVE!” I love you Lissa and the way you demonstrate such grace. HUGS!

    Reply
  11. Eleni

    I am in Athens, Greece right now, reading this.. I want to thank you so much for this deeply emotional personal read. The thought broke my heart but also expanded me in some way so I appreciate it that you shared. I feel so close to you although on the other side of the planet..If you ever come to Greece for vacation, you must look me up, I would like to guide you around and meet you in person. I wish you and your loved ones great health..

    Reply
  12. Kelli

    Lissa, I’m grateful and honored by your open, giving heart to share a glimpse into your world during this intimate, personal, and emotional time. Love to your mom, you, and your family. <3

    Reply
  13. Polly Peterson

    My heart goes out to you and family
    My mom died when I was 6 and I had no clue what happened to her I kept running around house looking for her Im so grateful you and daughter can be by her side as I KNOW your mom cherish’s that as well
    Best to you and family
    Much Love coming at you
    Polly

    Reply
  14. Fiona Theodoredis

    I am in tears. This is so tender and moving. I am sending you love and love and love. My mother is 83 and in good health, but I know that day will come when she will pass and it already breaks my heart. Thank you for living so many beautiful and brutal moments your life so transparently, Thank you for sharing them with us, Lissa. I am holding you and your mother and your family in my heart right now as your mother passes and as you prepare for a life without her on the outside but very much alive within you and your own radiant being.

    Reply
  15. Valerie

    Just this week I was wondering how your mum was….beautiful written thoughts from your heart. Today I had memories of the passing of my dad in 97 and then my mum 2008, I live in another country and was not with them. I was afraid, but since my awakening am sorry I could not be with them. Especially my mum as she was my abuser and we were never that close. I am older and understand so much more, and just today I was talking with them both. Your sad news fills me with such understanding, especially all the unspoken words that we should speak before someone passes. Thank you for sharing you are a great soul!

    Reply
  16. Martha Equality Hales

    This is so sweet, so touching. I accompanied my brother as he died, and I know how brutiful it can be. Sending love to you all.

    Reply
  17. Gretchen Cannady

    Thank you for sharing, Lissa. As I read your words, I am sent back to my time with my dear mother as she was gradually leaving this world 2 and 1/2 years ago. It is such a profound experience to be with the ones you love as they are transitioning. It is so difficult to say good-by. My mother died with such grace. I was amazed and blessed to be there as you are. It was definitely more of a birth than a death experience. I miss her much of the time still, and am learning gradually that she and my dear father are still with me, just in a different way. Such a miracle, life and death! God Bless you and your family. It helped me to put a beautiful picture of my mother working in her kitchen up in my kitchen. I feels like we are cooking together always. A simple gesture. Much love… Gretchen

    Reply
  18. Bernadette Pleasant

    Thank you for sharing, Lissa. Sending so much love to you and your family during the “brutiful” time.

    Reply
  19. Carol Kraft

    Oh Lissa. My heart goes out to you at this time. Thankyou for sharing such a sacred and deeply human time here with your mom. You are so blessed to share this with her. Love and light to you and your family.

    Reply
  20. krodby

    Oh my gosh, thus is so beautiful and beautifully written – thank you – it fills my heart and gives me hope ♡

    Reply
  21. Barbara J Burkhart

    Your writing of this time is so moving. It gives me hope of the beautiful transition we all hope for, now as a written experience. Thank you so much for sharing these precious moments. Sending love and compassion energy. Love and light be with you.

    Reply
  22. Dr. Marissa Heisel

    Oh Lissa. This is gut wrenching. And gorgeous. And utterly glorious. Thank you for sharing this incredibly personal and profound time with us. May you all be blessed with love and grace as you walk out these next days and weeks. Much love.

    Reply
  23. Barbara StJohn

    So much beauty in the painful transition. My Mother died in Sept. She was a narcissist, my feelings were of relief not loss and hope that her soul would do a lot of healing work Mon the other side. I wish I had had such loving parents that I would feel the way you have written when they passed. The amount of grief shows the depth of love. While it hurts I know it is also gives one a sense connection and closeness and gratitude for all you had with them. Thankyou for letting us experience this love with you and your Mom. XO

    Reply
  24. Leslie Notis

    Hey Lissa, I just posted on facebook the other day, Oct.20, which was my mom’s birthday, how she was taken from me back in 1964, when I was just a baby, (3yrs.old). Which has affected me my whole life. Don’t even know what it’s like to have a mom or a mom’s love. (A real mom’s love). Can’t imagine consciously losing her. It’s hard for me to imagine or comprehend all these feelings and emotions you are experiencing. My biological father passed away on Oct.25,2015. I’m still just struggling with my emotions of what happened to him in the hospital-which I feel the Dr. who was treating him made a mistake. (long story). I have a lot of emotional healing to do regarding my whole relationship history with my dad as well. Good luck and I hope all goes well with your experience with your mom. Love, Leslie N.

    Reply
  25. Malani Moodley

    Dearest Lisa
    What a precious priviledge to be able to help a soul/your mum Transition .It is such a private, heart breaking ,gut wrenching and also many beautiful gifts of love amidst this process. Between the veils offers moments of great Revelations, insights and Gems and precious memories of the Value of a soul and the potent energies of unconditional Love not just between you ,your mum and family but also The Love from The creator for all of humanity but now condensed into this farewell of a very beautiful soul and the impact and memories she has left imprinted into your hearts. Huge hugs and love (Aroha) and may all your guides and Angels envelope you in their wings of comfort and safety.Namaste

    Reply
  26. christine cameron

    I am in Capetown, South Africa and have been receiving your wisdom for a couple of years. I feel so privileged that you have shared this intimate moment with us and am in gratitude for the richness of your being, your being as a healer and educator. nothing is in the cupboard and thro this you reveal how it can be done. three generations, waiting in a sacred space to say goodbye and with such love and closeness to a mother. May you be Blessed. lots of love/fluff.

    Reply
  27. Freddie Massone

    Very sorry for you loss Dr Rankin

    Reply
  28. Jocelyn R.M. Picard

    God Bless you Lissa, and thank you

    Reply
  29. Elsie

    Thank you, Lissa for sharing this love story. Sending love and prayers for you and your family.

    Reply
  30. Annaaa

    Lisa , Iam grateful for sharing this love story. Sending love and prayers for your family and you

    Reply
  31. Rene S

    At the very moment I received this email, my family was standing in the ICU room of my dear 50 year-old brother, who had just found out a week before that he had stage 4 esophageal cancer. We had gathered to remove life support and tell him goodbye. What amazing synchronicity to have your email with beautiful reminders of how hard, yet sacred, that time is. When I first walked into his room, I knew he was already gone, and I received a knowing that he was ok. But it didn’t take away the hurt or unfairness that we were losing him too soon. I was 10 when he was born, and it was like he was my baby. I have a beautiful slice of time in a picture where I am sitting on the floor, feeding him in his bouncy chair, while my daddy sat in a recliner a couple of feet away, reading the newspaper. And it is so unfair to his wife of 28 years and his early adult daughters for him to no longer share their accomplishments and be there in their struggles. So all of this to say thank you so much for sharing your grief journey. It has given me cause to think and process more authentically, and I so appreciate it knowing we are never alone in our grief.

    Reply
  32. Tina Larsen

    Dear Lisa, Your words are precious. My mother died at 89 fifteen years ago and my daddy died in 2005 at the age of 92. I was blessed to be a part of their deathing. I am honored to read of your experience with your beloved parents. Thank you.

    Reply

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