Stardust, Black Holes, & Fog

Our mother always loved the open road. In the 1950s with three, then four, small children and not much money, she would pack us in the car and head west from Indiana or Minnesota to various family homes scattered throughout California, Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Two-lane blacktop in the era before Interstate highways and no air conditioning. Our father would stay and work, taking the bus to Montana to meet us at his parents’ homestead and drive home.

Now, her gypsy adventuring is confined to Chemainus Health Care Centre, and the only road ahead of her is the last stretch before dying. In the midst of her short-term memory loss and physical frailties, we who know her spirit are trying to help her make this stretch meaningful. Based on the rows of books on progressive theology, social justice, and conscious aging that I sorted out of her apartment, she was planning on navigating this passage with full mental faculties and an ability to educate those around her.

Instead, we deal with stardust, black holes, and fog. When embedded in long-held routines, she functions with surprising clarity as her church friend emailed: “Connie participated fully in the service.  …There was no doubt she felt happy and I was surprised how many people she knew by name.”

She knows these names and routines because they are encoded far enough back that she has a memory link for them. Memories have to make it through the fog, not get trapped in the black-hole, and then maybe turn into stardust—a point of remembering. Meanwhile, it’s a hard adjustment to live in the fog of new surroundings, routines, and people.

Later that afternoon, she managed to dial my sister’s phone and Becky emailed: “Mom called an hour ago confused about a lot of things… We talked again about the process that brought her to Chemainus. That it was her goal to be back among friends. That where her bed is not the important point. What is important is that her home is her community.

“Obviously she was very tired. She may be able to do well in the mornings but she gets more confused as she fatigues. She told me, “And I’m cold here.” As a nurse walked by she yoo-hooed out to her. When the nurse asked what she needed Mom asked me, “What did I need to tell her?” So I said, “tell her you’re cold.”

In a jumbled reality capacities are jumbled as well : she can delight her friends with glimpses of the dynamic woman they have known for 25 years and she requires constant repetition to frame what has happened to her. Her sequencing behavior is nearly gone: being chilled she can’t remember that the lap robe beside her could be wrapped at her shoulders. She has fallen 3 times just moving around her 8×10 room, forgetting to use her walker.

Yet, even under these conditions, she seeks to find a daily purpose: Why get up in the morning? Why breathe? How do I make it down this last stretch of road?

Every day I send her this message telepathically—it works as well as any other delivery method—“Mom, you can work around your foggy brain and find your reason for being. Bring bits of kindness to those around you—hold a hand, listen, help—and receive all these things in turn. Make music. Notice beauty. When you forget, just do it all again. You are safe now to wander in mystery from one moment to the next.”

The last day she was in her apartment, she woke from dozing in her chair and recited a poem she’d made up in her sleep:

“You see me sitting alone in my chair,

You think that I’m here, but I’m really out there—

Communing with angels, I’ll be with them soon,

Just after I learn how to jump over the moon.”

 

Learning to jump the moon—that’s a purpose. And however she makes that leap, she will be a teacher and way shower for her family and friends.

The photos here show our journey: 1946 to 2016… 1946

2015

 

 

 

 

and the video shows the journey moment of her soul.

15 replies
  1. Rita Vesper
    Rita Vesper says:

    Our parents –
    our guides,
    first teachers
    and wise
    beyond our childhood comprehension.
    We watch them.
    We grow,
    but little do we know
    until
    it’s our turn
    to care
    for them.
    rjv

    Reply
  2. linette harriott
    linette harriott says:

    A moving video and poem. Thanks for writing so beautifully about these precious moments. You are helping to carve the way and deepen my understanding and compassion of the journey ahead with my mother, and even for me.

    Reply
  3. Sharon Palmer
    Sharon Palmer says:

    Thank you for this deeply personal and moving piece, Christina. And thank you for sharing the photos of you and your mother. So moving. You’ve both been a blessing to each other in all you’ve shared and continue to do so as you walk this passage together. Much of what you describe reminds me of my strong mother, our family journeys from Minnesota to the Western states during the ’50s and more recently the journey we made together as she gradually passed into the mystery that awaits us all. Blessings on you, your mother, and the rest of your family.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you, Sharon–and others in this stream… It is such a relief to have these decades-long relationships come into a harbour of peace.

      Reply
  4. Katherine Murphy
    Katherine Murphy says:

    Dear Christina,

    Thank you for continuing to share your Mom’s journey. I think about her and your family everyday during meditation. I love the poem she made up. It is wonderful that she can be living among friends and that each of you are in touch with her and each other.

    Lots of love, Katherine

    Reply
  5. Glenn Hovemann
    Glenn Hovemann says:

    Christina, the sweetness of your relationship with your mom shines brightly. That relationship never dies. I think you will find her presence even more meaningful, as your mom now has more freedom, more choice. “When you die, you do not die to who you are or who you think you are. You do not die to choice. At the time of death you are assisted in ways not formerly possible to you in form, to make the choice to be who you are. You are shown in ways that the body’s eyes were unable to see, the glory of your true nature. You are given the chance, just as you are being given the chance now, to choose your true nature with your free will.” — A Course of Love (T4:5.11) Love to you.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you for quoting this book to me/we… I know my mom is looking forward to this–so am I, only just not as soon.

      Reply
  6. Beth Sanders
    Beth Sanders says:

    I love how clever your mom is – “just after I learn to jump after the moon”. The falls and stumbles are what practicing looks like. Thanks for sharing these journeys, of you and your mom. Love to you.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      She has amazing wit. I hope her friends are collecting some of these witticisms–Becky and I were when were with her this fall. And thank you for sharing that her stumbles are practice jumps… that will ease our hearts.

      Reply
  7. Katharine
    Katharine says:

    Beautiful words from you and your mother, Christina. The proverbial fruit falling close to the tree! And as others have written, she and you teach each of us how to “jump after the moon.” Especially touching as my mother, too, is Connie.

    Reply
  8. Jude Rathburn
    Jude Rathburn says:

    I love how the drive to find a purpose, keeps popping up in your stories about this leg of the journey with your mom. It seems like a very important aspect of how she is incorporating her years of reading and reflection on conscious aging and dying. I know so many women, in particular, who are struggling to find that sense of purpose in retirement. Learning how to jump over the moon to commune with the angels seems like a great way to understand your mom’s purpose right now. Continued blessings to all of you.

    Reply
  9. Wally
    Wally says:

    I absolutely love Connie’s poem, and also the idea of practice jumps. Please keep writing about her, Christina, and it would be lovely to hear about the good things of her past as well as her triumphs over the tragedies which the flesh is heir to. My thoughts are with you, Connie, Becky, Carl, and Leo.

    Reply

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