Butterfly leaf

On an icy winter day I step out of the bank and stop fast. There in front of me shuffles my mother. I see her glossy, silver hair, red wool coat and body hunched over a walker. My heart thuds in my chest. It’s an apparition, a ghost!

My mother passed away more than a year ago.

I’m performing the last personal task linked to her life—closing out her safe-deposit box. I have postponed this because in the box are more memories—her older jewelry, my deceased sister’s Navy flight wings, and some silver cutlery. When my mother first passed, my brother and I quickly perused these items, then locked the box away. But if I don’t take the contents home today I will pay another year’s rent.

Tugging on my shoulder I feel the weight of the bag carrying these one-upon-a-time treasures. So far I have been steady through the process of signing the forms, entering into the vault and transferring the goods to a large purse. But now. . .

The woman in the red coat turns, revealing an angular jaw and prominent nose. Clearly she is not my mother. My heart settles, though with a bit of disappointment. I come alongside the woman and say, “You remind me of my mother.”

She laughs, “At least you didn’t say I remind you of your grandmother.”

“No. My mother had your same silvery hair and red coat, and the same air of elegance.”

She beams. “You just made my day!”

I smile, as lumpy tears well in my eyes. I escape, striding fast along the sidewalk to the parking lot, where I climb in my car and close the door before the waterfall starts. I sob from deep in my belly, a weeping that feels good, cathartic. All the while I hold the Beloved’s hand.

These are just emotions, I tell myself, and that soothes me. I can let them wash over me. As the crying abates and I calm down, I see what a set up this was.

The Beloved knew I would try to shrug off the emotional part of this duty; I would deny any feelings, when really, though simple, the task has many layers. And so the Divine Power brought me that moment to remember walking behind the beautiful soul I was graced to enjoy for a half century. Thus I am able to wash away yet more of the feelings of loss.

Once home, I make my way through the box’s contents. I note that, just like that image of my mother that so brought her to life, each item is a whole universe. A sapphire ring conjures the Christmas morning my stepfather presented it to my mother, and a whole rush of feelings of anticipation and joy as the ten-year-old me watched. My sister’s gold Naval wings conjure the day in Florida when she had completed her training as a jet pilot and received them in a ceremony, which our whole family attended, a twenty-one-year-old me awash with feelings of happiness and jealousy.

With each item, I observe the images and feelings that arise. Each image is a moment poised on the brink. It can take me down or up. With the Beloved I have a choice; I can dive down into the universe of memories and wallow, or I can stay in the love and watch the images pass. Today I choose to stay in the fresh love of the pure now, and I easily make my way through the box.

I have this choice with every experience that arises in my days. I choose either the dead or the live. The sorrow or the joy.

The loving Image takes me Home.

Photo: Shutterstock

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