Today after going to the doctor to check that what felt like some swelling in my breast following surgery was not an infection, I went to visit my Mum.
When I answered the door she was dressed in a lovely stripped dress with a long strand of sea pearls, fully made up at the age of 90. I asked her if she was going out. No, she just dressed this way to feel good, something in my heart saw a small girl who had struggled to hard to take care of herself over years, had endured so much loss and who was now living alone in an apartment with so many memories.
I was struck by the dichotomy of the absent mother of the past that I struggled to connect with and this person who has softened but still has such a difficult time fully honouring her own grief process as well as mine.
We spoke of a lot of things, I cried about the pain in my breast and the pain which was deeper pain arising from realisations I had into my life that were only emerging this morning (not spoken of with Mum). Mum stood up from her chair (with difficulty she has piercing nerve pain shooting up her leg after knocking a vein three weeks ago) came around to my side of the table and embraced me while I cried. I felt myself letting go into her embrace to receive the love she was trying to give. These words came to me. I really want to forgive the past, I really want to let this pain go.
A few moments before she was saying that the way she copes with pain of the past is to live in the present, be grateful and get on with life. I spoke of how I find it is important to acknowledge grief and pain. And pointed out how being told to get on is sometimes like being told its not okay to feel the pain. It was a gentle conversation. Neither of us needed to convert the other to our view.
After a long talk and a simple lunch shared she went to the counter in her kitchen and came over to me. “I want to give you something”, she said. She laid down on the table a check for 20,000 dollars. “This is to cover your operation and other expenses, I want you to know that I DO love you. I know I haven’t been able to be there to help you lately as I haven’t been well but at least I can help in this way.”
Whenever Mum gives me money it undoes something in me. I won’t speak too much about why. What I needed was time and attention, but being the youngest this was in short supply. All the family trauma that went on meant I was at the end of the line and missed out on so much. After my father died the final terrible punctuation mark after three major life threatening traumas spanning a six year period, I was encouraged to go overseas even though my partner decided to drop me via telephone, a few days after my father died.
I’ve shared about this in other blogs. I bought a bottle of Johnny Walker at Duty Free in Sydney and flew to Heathrow arriving in the dead of winter (February 1985) five weeks after we buried my father. I had three bags and boarded the tube for the city. After passing through a long dark tunnel we came out into the light to view dark rain filled foggy skies. I did not have a hotel booking. I was to find the YWCA in London and meet some friends, problem was I didn’t at that point know there were 6 or 9 YWCA’s in Greater London. I was from a small town in Australia
I was grieving, disoriented and stumbled upon a hotel, ascending the stairs to the lobby only to find there sitting at reception a girlfriend who used to holiday near us at the South Coast. Thank God for that. I was so lost and alone.
In our conversation today Mum shared with me about the pain of her lonely childhood. Her mother worked all the time. She was shamed in school so often truanted and often had an earache. She would go to the Chemist near Wilkes :Pie Shop and the chemist would syringe out her ears. I started feeling tears fall at that stage, thinking of the blog I wrote yesterday about the importance of touch and its absence. It occurred to me this was probably one of the only times my Mum’s body and pain were attended to by someone else.
She also shared about another traumatic incident that occurred in her 20s. She developed acute stomach pain and was found to have a cyst on her ovaries. Three weeks in hospital followed after which she was weighted down by sandbags over the stomach. Married at this stage my father was in the Far North of Australia with the Dutch East Indies Airforce.
As she shared about this I was reminded of the time I had fallen pregnant and awoke with acute stomach pain, failed to raise my partner and drove myself to the hospital waiting for hours in a room in casualty to find at 6am that the corpeus luteum of the pregnancy had ruptured. An abortion followed, it was my third (I was 28 at the time.)
This afternoon as I sit typing this, a storm brews around my little house and thunder rumbles, I see how much my life and experiences have been a continuation of my mother’s. The lonely little girl who had no siblings became the lonely little girl who had siblings she could not relate to, someone scared of friendships because she unconsciously feared being abandoned. Some one traumatised at the age of 17 by a near death experience that forced her into a greater emotional isolation, regardless of the attention that surrounded her.
It is only now, 36 years later that that lonely girl is coming out of hiding, taking the risk to open up, tell her story and make sense of the pain and trauma. Illness has perhaps been necessary for the deeper pain to be made manifest so that it can be dealt with, at least that is the perspective I have this evening.
I see how I may have made boyfriends suffer due to my fear. I remember the rages I had when drunk which were an unconscious attempt to scare them away. My rage was the only pain I could show, it was my fear of abandonment and manifestation of deeply buried griefs gone mute. I needed someone to understand my pain. Sobriety helped me to stop enacting it so much, but it has taken a long introspective journey of over 22 years to begin to fully understand myself and my journey.
What is left now is the desire only for love. I am so sick of anger and pain. I need to tend these tender open, often raw wounds with love. Who knows why it all happened, why my sister had to die so swollen up in pain, why my mother now has to suffer with so much physical pain. I do feel that emotions get forced into the body so the loneliness and pain my Mum could not express now plagues her with physical ailments. For so many years I have longed to heal that pain. I thought if I made sacrifices and stayed close I could ease it, but it is and never was mine to fix. But the truth is that I do now desire to love, for to stay angry will heal nothing, will change nothing. I finally have forgiveness in my heart because my soul is showing me that in order for me to live in peace there is no other way.
6 thoughts on “Today I sat with my Mum : reflections on forgiveness”
Heart wrenching reading this. It’s so transparent.
Yes, life can be so painful. But your mom is right. You have to remain in the present. An aunt who has undergone a second operation for lung cancer gave me some sound advice. She told me right before she went into surgery to find something to enjoy every day of your life. Your mom was trying to reach out to you by giving you that money. Maybe that is the only way she knows to show she cares. Hugs. Rhonda
Yes you are so right there … i know its essential to feel pain of the past in order to heal but not live there. I think this is what Mum was saying..and yes she shows her love by financial support which is kind but sometimes being truly present with someone is more important…it is important to remember what we have to be grateful for though and others have their own way of trying to show love. Love to you.
My mom wasn’t exactly *there* when I and sister were going through some abuse. She sort of went to another world and looked the other way when it happened. I was so furious I moved out about a year after her and my step Dad divorced. Then there was the pain of her blaming me. But I can’t dwell on it because I will be so angry I won’t be good for anything. I have forgiven Mom and my abuser. She wasn’t there for me either when I was coerced into giving my first born up for adoption. Again, she went to a world of her own. Its the self pity mode. If it were my daughter I would have raised hell. I’m a high spirited type person. Too tempered for my own good which is why I find myself growing old alone. But with all that said I’ve kept myself out of prison by forgiving people. I think if I didn’t pray to God and ask God to please help me forgive I wouldn’t be out here in the free world today. Sometimes I have to forgive all over again because I’ll suddenly find myself dwelling on how absurdly I was treated and what a naive girl I was and it just makes me angry all over again. But when I confess that to God and pray for those who belittled me and took advantage of me I find the anger subsides. There is a book out by Joyce Meyers called Beauty for Ashes. I have not yet read it but it has a ton of reviews on Amazon. I reccamend Joyce Meyers books because she is such a practical down to earth author. She is also a breast cancer survivor. I just ordered her Beauty for Ashes book. I’m reading another book of hers called enjoying where your at on the way to where your going. Very enjoyable reading. Blessings to you, Rhonda.
Thanks for sharing all that. I think that will be a very good book to read, especially since she had breast cancer. Its such a painful path to have to carry this pain at abuse or neglect. I think we can never forget, for some of us it may be impossible to forgive and that is okay, others of us will be able to forgive as we see the person struggled to understand and tried to make some recompense. I am still not entirely sure if I forgive too easily. I have accepted some abuse it would have been better not to, I was too scared to have the anger and to lose the love but its too high a price to pay if we don’t stand up for and love ourselves first. It is so important to have the anger as that tells us of our boundaries and without those we cannot heal effectively nor reclaim our own lives. We can also forgive and still choose to have nothing to do with the other person or have limited contact. Its all about what sits right with us in our heart.