I stand within my late mother’s empty bedroom, where the scent of mildew taints the air. I note the empty wall where the TV hung and the four indentations on the carpet where the bed sat. Only a few piles of miscellaneous things clutter the floor. Most absent is the beautiful being with whom I shared my life.
Suddenly a stab of pain comes to my heart as I realize I gave away the one possession that in the past few years brought us the most joy.
Every Sunday I would go to her home and make us brunch. While we ate fried eggs and roasted potatoes, we would talk about love, travel and adventure.
By this time she was fairly confined to bed. And so, the outer adventures we shared—traveling the world and especially New Mexico, visiting ruins and markets, scuba diving and bird watching—transformed to a quieter one: watching movies.
Every week we would lie in her big bed in front of her massive Sony HDTV and laugh, cry, tremble with fear, or swoon with romance. Afterward we would talk of the movie, how it touched us, saddened us, inspired us.
In the weeks following her passing, I became the distributor of her possessions. A bit overwhelmed by the task, I simply did the best I could. When my siblings and cousins arrived from distant towns I said, “help yourself” to many of her things. They respectfully did.
But now as I stand in her bedroom I realize that without even considering, I let go of my mother’s entire video library. It was a carefully selected set of some 50 movies that she cherished, and that included many of our mutual favorites such as Goodwill Hunting, Forrest Gump and Chicago. I have no idea who claimed them—at this moment they could be in Austin, Denver or Dallas.
I sit down on the dusty carpet and cry. The one movie I most lament giving up is The Mission. It was our all-time favorite. Starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons, it most matched our mutual criteria of epic scenery, drama, music, and most of all, heart. We watched it many times, and discussed it many more. On our travels we listened to the soundtrack, marveling at the artistry of composer Ennio Morricone.
The loss of it so hurts because it seems to embody our life together. It was a life of extremes. She was a master creator, who during my childhood manifested a sprawling New Mexico ranch where people convened for elaborate feasts, hot air balloon rides and cattle drives amidst a stunning setting of green meadows and arching willow trees. Meanwhile, her passion for partying took her down dark roads that I often traveled with her, mopping up the aftermath.
As I built my travel-writing career, she often joined in. When I worked in Asia, she met me in Bali and we traveled back around the world, through Thailand, Nepal, India, Kenya and Egypt. In New Mexico, she often supplied the enthusiasm for my King of the Road column trips, always happy to explore the state’s little towns, even when I left her all day in the No Scum Allowed Saloon. During those years, she endured my worst fear, impatience and anger, and yet loved me entirely. Together we lived a thousand epic movies and found, in our own unconditional love, a happily-ever-after.
Shadowed by a cloud of sadness, I leave my mother’s house. And in subsequent days whenever I think of the loss of that library, and especially The Mission, my heart hurts so deeply I nearly double over.
I release it to the Beloved, again and again.
One day, clarity comes. I recognize that The Mission itself is a small loss. I can likely stream the video on Netflix, as I probably can any of the others. And then this truth comes: In a similar way I can still “stream” my mother’s presence into my life—her love, courage, ability to live expansively and generously, and most of all, her laughter, which I heard so often.
All of these qualities exist within me. When I center in the Beloved, they are here completely. The loss of the movie fades, replaced by a sense of love available to me any moment I ask.
Weeks later, back in her bedroom, I set about the task of sorting through those last miscellaneous piles. I make my way through old photographs, journals, dog toys and cassette tapes. I lift a box and find underneath a single video. The back of it has swirls of darkness and blue. My heartbeat accelerates in my chest and tears well in my eyes.
I flip the video box over and there it is: The Mission.
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Sunflower photo shot near Nambe, NM