Laila, oh Leila, Layla

Laila1Dear Mom,

Besides latching onto hearing your name called out in a cemetery as a sign that you’re okay, I also have been following your name around in terms of other types of signs.

The first one I remember is when I was apartment hunting. After you passed away, just after actually, I needed to look for a new place to live because my previous roommate was selling the place I was living in.

I didn’t know whether I was going to stay in North Vancouver or move to some other area. All I knew is that I was feeling lost. You had just passed away. I was devastated (and some would say I still am after four years). But I was in shock of a different kind back then, and I had to move, and I didn’t know how I was going to afford paying for just a room in a shared place (which I was getting an amazing deal for) compared to living in my own place somewhere else.

I was pretty certain I could not live with roommates anymore, mostly because I needed to do my own grieving, healing and just be allowed to be sad without worrying that someone around me would be brought down by it. I needed to be on my own and figure out… well,  my life. I didn’t know how to live it without you and frankly, I still don’t. But I just take each day as it comes.

Anyway, I was looking in the paper or on craigslist- I can’t even remember- for apartments.

And then I was also just driving around to see what was available.

I ended up being really drawn to this apartment for rent in the Joyce Station area. It’s not even a spot that I would have thought of before. But firstly, the rent was way more reasonable than any of the other places I was looking at, the place seemed pretty decent from what I heard and saw in the pictures and from the person renting it out. But mostly, what made me think that this is the place I needed to move into was that the girl who was currently in it- who was advertising it- her name was Laila. I can’t remember if she spelled it the same way your name was spelled or if it was with an e. I think it was Laila. Same as yours.

Laila ShirtAnd so of course, a big part of me was hoping that this was somehow ordained by you. So not only was I being led to the apartment that I needed to find, but I also was maybe getting a sign that you are always with me, and that you are so okay and well and happy, that you were already helping me find the right place for me to move into.

Well, that apartment didn’t work out for me. I actually really liked it. It was really cute, and I ended up meeting that Laila. She was a sweet, beautiful young girl. Her and her boyfriend were moving out together into a bigger place. I told her the story of how and why I was drawn to her apartment, and her name. She seemed to empathize with me and hoped that I would get the apartment.

The choice wasn’t up to her. I guess it was the manager’s decision and it turned out that there were a few other people on the list of potential tenants before me. Someone else got chosen for that place.

Though it would have been less costly to stay there, I ended up choosing the place I am in now instead. It is in an area that I love, and is probably safer and allows me more interaction with people and freedom to sing in my apartment (which has somehow become a huge part of my life these days).

The place near Joyce Station would have been way more affordable, but maybe not in the long run since it is further out from the center of town. Mostly, I liked the association with your name at that time and I somehow thought I was losing not only the opportunity to stay there, but also the hope that you had something to do with it. I wanted to believe that your name and you led me there.

But my current place is owned by Ismailis, and is so close to the first elementary school I went to, and to the area where we grew up in the first few years of my life. In that sense, it brings me back to you, and connects me to childhood memories or surroundings that I think I may have otherwise had forgotten.

Though there isn’t a particular Laila in this building that I know of, I would still like to think that you somehow led me here. This place brings me peace. I have helpful and kind neighbors.  I feel a lot of freedom and security here. The tree lined streets, quaint coffee shops, convenient grocery and drugstores, and a reminder of where i came from surrounds me. A reminder of the “simple” life, living with you growing up here, and having had a mom who raised me without having much herself.

I don’t know how you did it, Mom.

But I am grateful for it and you every day. And Laila is still the name that rings in my heart always. I pick up on it in all its forms and spellings, but especially the “ai” version. Sometimes, I see it in books- as a name of an author or character. Other times, it’s on advertisements for performances- especially middle eastern dance or music. And sometimes, I just keep my ears open for the name in case the wind whispers it in my ear to tell me you are near. Laila. It is such a beautiful name.

LailaShirt3

I miss you, Mom. I miss you so much.

 

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Was that you?

hopingDear Mom,

Although for these four years, I keep praying and asking for you to give me a sign that you’re okay, I wonder how to know when the sign has already appeared. What if I just ‘missed’ it?

I’m thinking in particular about what other people might have viewed as a very ‘clear message’ I received a few years ago, not long after you passed away. I just didn’t know whether to believe it. It seemed ‘too’ clear.

I walked into the store Utopia on Lonsdale.

I was looking for something. I wasn’t sure what. A book, a crystal? Something to provide me with a little help in finding peace. Peace over your passing. Peace to feel that you are okay. Peace to feel that I could figure out how to live ‘without’ you, physically, but more importantly, how to make sure to keep you with me, to make sure you are protected and safe.

I wanted to keep us both safe. You from this new space you were or are in, that I don’t know anything about. And me from my grief of losing you and worrying about you. I felt and feel so helpless in trying to connect to you.

It’s a question of faith, I know. But my faith has totally been shaken since you passed away. I wasn’t like that before. I believed so much more in ‘everything happens for a reason’. Nothing made sense though once you were gone, not even all that happened in the few days leading up to it.  It still doesn’t make sense. Where’s the reasoning in that?

That day when I was at Utopia, I was looking to regain some semblance of belief. I must have looked lost in that store. I felt it. But something drew me to a bunch of boxes of tarot cards on a shelf at the back. I remember Michelle had given me a pack  of Ascended Masters cards which made me curious about that whole world a few years back. It seemed interesting and made me wonder at the time. But I couldn’t have told you what I believed about all of that. I don’t really know. It didn’t seem to matter back then anyway.

Before you passed away, I wasn’t as concerned about whether spirit and heavenly connections were real or not.  The idea just kind of came and went in my mind as something possible, but I wasn’t sure.

But now I need real reassurance. See, I can play around with my own belief. But I need something more concrete for you. I always want real assurance when it comes to you.

I remember one of the ladies in the shop saying that the Messages From Heaven pack might be something that could help me. She said that she actually had a pack that was already opened, so I could take a look at it.

Instead of me going through the cards myself, I think she just asked me to ask the universe a question.  I didn’t ask it out loud, but I didn’t need to even think about it. The question that is always at the front of my mind, at the back of my mind, and deep within my heart- the question that always sits there waiting endlessly for an answer- was the one of course that I thought of.

wishing2“Are you okay, Mom?”

I picked a card out, ‘randomly’, without being able to see what the message was. And I flipped it over, or maybe the woman in front of  me did, and I looked, not expecting much.  But it said: I AM SO MUCH BETTER NOW

I think I might have held my breath as I read that.  I was kind of in disbelief. And wanted to cry so much. It may have been held in my throat- the relief, the hope, the surprise at how accurate that card was. Could it be true? Was it really you speaking to me?

I don’t even remember reading or finding out the details that were written about that card in the guidebook for the deck. I am not even sure if I knew that there was one. It’s like I didn’t want to know because it seemed like someone was playing a trick on me. A cruel one.

I might have said something to the woman about it, or maybe I didn’t. I was confused about what was real and what wasn’t. I still am.  Like… did that just happen? I didn’t buy the card deck or look at the rest of the cards in it.  I convinced myself that it was too much of a coincidence. That all the other cards in that deck must say similar things. Of course they do, because they are supposed to be consoling messages from heaven for people like me who are grieving and looking for relief.

It must have been nothing, I thought, even though I wanted it to be something, to be THE thing, and the first of a series of many somethings that would take away my pain, sorrow, worry, grief.  The somethings that would take away your pain, sorrow and grief.  The something that would make me KNOW that my Mom is okay.

But I left feeling defeated. Even after hearing exactly what I wanted to hear or read or see- the exact answer I would have hoped was true- I decided that how could it be? How could it be that easy? Even the message that I wanted to hear couldn’t console me because it was too perfect.

It didn’t come from you. I mean, I didn’t see it coming from your lips or your voice or your hands or heart.  I needed proof that it was true. And so I left unsure, scared, wondering how I would get through any of this, and realizing that no one could help me. If even the very message I wanted to hear, without even realizing it was what I wanted to hear, couldn’t console me, then nothing could, right?

But somewhere in the back of my head, I must have stored the memory of that card, and that moment- the moment when I had a little what if sense of hope show up in my heart. Hope that what if there was some truth to it?  But I was hesitant and thought I was just feeding my mind with too much dreaminess, and a lot of wishful thinking, rather than anything that could be real. So I ‘left’ it.

Until, … maybe a year later? I am not sure of the timing. But it was a long time after, when the very same card showed up for me again, ‘out of nowhere.’

I was at a workshop about writing.  I was excited and inspired at first, but very quickly realized that the speaker was just money hungry. He was doing everything to make more money, without much regard or appreciation for the art of writing. Everything was focused on materialism- from his presentation about how his new business got him his own private jet, to his pushing young students to invest thousands of dollars in him regardless of whether they even had enough money for food or a roof over their head.  I felt like he was preying on the vulnerabilities of those just looking for inspiration and a change in their lives.  He didn’t seem to care genuinely about the messages that these people were actually wanting to share in their writing and books. He only cared about his sales, his fame and how much he or we could buy with it after.

wishing3It was when this woman – a participant in the workshop- said, “But I want to write books that people actually want to read,” that made me realize how ridiculous the workshop was. The woman said out loud what I was thinking all along. I mean, that should be a given right?- to want to write books that people want to read. How could someone not understand that? But she too could feel that the attention was being taken off of the most meaningful parts of writing- the message, the inspiration, the teaching.

The workshop was lacking in depth and soul and integrity. The speaker’s total lack of integrity was just turning me off.  I felt like I was wasting my time in this room, and you know how much I hate wasting time.

So I was trying to find something good that could come from it, the real reason I was there. There had to have been something, or at least I was going to try to convince myself of it.  Otherwise, I was going to feel so foolish for buying into this total sales-pitchy, manipulative approach of this speaker, who was frankly getting on my nerves. I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for his lack of understanding of what is really important in life, or to be angry at him for thinking we would be gullible enough to get swept up into his world.

There was one thing that made me feel better.  A guy.  At the workshop. He was very different from anyone else, not just anyone at the workshop, but anyone who I would have normally met or spoken with.  He was quirky. Okay, so I actually do like quirky guys. But, he was quirky in a different way. He believed in numerology. He noticed numbers everywhere and added up digits, and saw significance in all the numbers- addresses, receipts, phone numbers. And he wore these big rings on his fingers, and interesting crystals around his neck.  He believed in natural healing and in the power of the universe.  I found myself drawn to him, not knowing exactly why at the time. But now I see it: I needed to ‘rebelieve’ in all of this again. In the workings of the universe. In the ‘everything happens for a reason’ way of thinking and feeling.

And this guy was a HUGE believer in synchronicities of numbers and people. It was like there was no question in his mind about it.

Maybe this guy was planted in that workshop as a reminder for me to rebuild my faith in the magical workings of the universe again.

Maybe. So I spent more time with him. We had lunch outside of the workshop and he showed me a few tricks on Ableton, the new music recording program I was trying to learn but was intimidated by. I didn’t know where to start. This guy got me started just by showing me how he would play with it and create his own sounds and beats. He made me see the fun and creative part in it. The exploring. I needed to learn to explore again.

He was playful, and reminded me to be too. I smiled at how he sat on the floor of the Indigo Book store we went into one afternoon.  He just sat there, cross legged in the middle of an aisle of books. He was childlike in that way, all 6 foot, 30-something years old and shaved head of him.  The books he got all curious about had to do with healing and spirit and energies.  He didn’t seem to really care about what other people thought of him. He didn’t seem to have any doubts in the healing from these more natural modalities.  I was dumbfounded and kind of envious by how it was just an absolute to him.

His curiosity for learning and about the universe kept me open to this part of me that used to be more present a few years ago. And I wanted to open it up more. I wanted to believe again, and to bring that part of me back.

He led us to the healing, metaphysics section because he must have wanted to look up something specific in that area. However, I think the universe purposely pulled me in there and used this guy as a vehicle to get me there. There was something I didn’t even know I was needing to look at again.  Oracle cards. They were right there in front of me where this guy had stopped. It didn’t take long for my eyes to go straight to the one labeled Messages From Heaven.  I pulled it out and realized it was the pack of cards I had seen at Utopia over a year or more before.

I knew that I would disappoint myself in looking through all the messages on the cards. I was sure they would all be the same, or similar, to that one card I had picked out at Utopia long before then. But just to humour myself, maybe, I shoved the deck and fanned the cards out again, as the lady at Utopia had taught me to do.

I asked a question in my head: “Are you okay, Mom?” and I thought about the tear stains that I remember on your face in the ICU, how you couldn’t speak or open or move your eyes, and I had no idea what was going on with you. I didn’t know if you were hurt-emotionally, physically, or scared. I didn’t know what it felt like when you were sedated, when the blood clot formed in your intestines, or when you passed away. I was and still am haunted by what you may have gone through. And I wish I had done more to help you.

Without looking at the faces of the cards, I picked one out.

This is what It said:

“My death was painless. Please don’t worry or hold onto guilt.”

 

I gasped again. I don’t know if the guy I was with saw or felt the shock in my face or my energy. I might have tried to hide my emotions. But actually, he was probably a good person to have around me at that time, because of his beliefs about spirit and the universe.  I felt tears of relief and hope at first, in seeing the card’s message. But then I got angry,. I thought why is the universe or life toying with me? All the cards must say the same kind of thing This is just a way, as humans, that we pretend to appease ourselves, ignorantly thinking that our loved ones is really in a better place. How do we know? How does anyone know? I was sure that all the messages must just be generally the same.

I decided to look through the rest of the cards.

I looked and looked and looked through the deck, and to my surprise, the messages were actually all very different. Yes, they were all about grief and healing. But they didn’t speak about the same aspect of death or healing or heaven as the card I had picked out. None of the other cards spoke so directly to my question as the card I picked out.

I also realized that I couldn’t find the card that I picked out at Utopia a year or more before then. Maybe it’s NOT the same deck, I thought? I was kind of confused. But I couldn’t find the card I had picked a year or more ago. It didn’t seem to be in the deck. I thought, I can’t remember exactly what it said. Maybe I made it up? Or maybe this isn’t even the same deck.

Somehow, the guy I was with had the idea that he should pick out a card from the deck. He shuffled the cards thoroughly. I seem to remember his big silver and black rings and the cards moving methodically to recalebrate the deck to match his energy.

And again, with the faces of the cards hidden from his sight, he picked out a card. He flips it over and…

It was my card. Or your card. Or … it was that card I had picked out a year or more ago in Utopia. It was the card I couldn’t find in the deck just a few seconds before when I swear I went through the whole deck. I never told him I was looking for a card. But he picked THE one.

“I am so much better now.”

I don’t know why I couldn’t find it when I first looked.  Maybe I needed someone else to pick it and find it, so the universe could show me that if I don’t trust in myself to choose the right answer, if I don’t believe in the answers when they come up with my pick, then the universe was going to show me through someone else’s ‘choice.’

Could I believe in it now? Should I? The card was picked again, almost two years after the first time. And this guy who was so consciously connected to spirituality, healing, crystals, and faith in the powers of the universe was the one who picked it, ‘randomly’, for me I think, more than for him.

And this time, I definitely read the guide book descriptions for each of the two cards that were picked.  They were exactly what I needed to hear.

Were the messages from you? Or was it just a very crazy coincidence, that happened twice?

More importantly, are you really okay? Was it really painless?

Can you feel it when I ask you questions? Can we still speak to each other crossing heaven and earth?

I so want to believe we can. I can’t live without my mother’s spirit and strength and advice and love. Maybe that in itself should be proof that you are here- that I’m still able to live. I don’t know. But I’m trying to open up to that wonderful possibility.

I want my mother to be happy, at peace, pain free, carefree, loved and with me always.

 

 

 

 

I’m Jealous

Dear Mom,

There’s a song I really like by an artist named Labrinth.  The song is called Jealous.  The lyrics talks about being jealous of how the rain falls on this person’s skin and how the wind blows through her clothes. The male singer is probably referring to a female partner he lost or never had but wanted.

He sings with such a deep expression and emotion that I feel it. But my thoughts of jealousy don’t go towards a guy. Instead, it is a jealousy towards whoever you might be around now. Those who get you up close and personal to you. Those who you might be working with or enjoying heaven with or laughing and learning with, or loving or teaching.

Because I know what that love is about and what a great teacher you are. I know how your touch and caring and nurturing feels. And anyone who gets to experience it now is very lucky. I know this from experience. It’s not that I don’t want you to be happy wherever you are. Of course I do. And I know that you will be deeply affecting any souls that get the chance to cross your path.

And of course I know you will forever influence my life.  I hope that our souls are still very much connected.  But I’m going to let my human, earthly, smaller mind get in the way for a bit and just complain that it’s not the same as having you right here where I can see you or touch you or smile and laugh with you and hear your voice.  I guess it’s not supposed to be the same.

At first, I think I worried that maybe you might be jealous of the rain and wind and life that is around me, or around your grandchildren or your son or the rest of your family, because you can’t join us in these experiences as we grow.  I mean, you can’t join us physically.  And that makes me sad for you. I don’t want you to feel like you are missing out or that we ever forget about you. We don’t. Truly, we don’t.

But then I also know that you were never one to want anything less than the best for all of us.  You wanted to give and give and give. So jealousy towards us doesn’t really seem in your nature at all.  You are the type of person that would just be happy for our happiness.

It’s hard for me to be happy without you though, Mom. It’s hard for me to be happy without feeling your happiness, I think is the more important part of all of this.

I am jealous of the people, especially the daughters, who get to call their moms and hear their voices on the other line. I’m jealous of the little girls who hold their mother’s hand as they walk down the street, or feel their mother’s touch on their face or their foreheads.

I am so jealous of the mothers and daughters who go on trips together, or go shopping together, or sit and drink tea together. I am jealous of any people who still have the opportunity to apologise to their mothers if they have said something that might have been hurtful. I am jealous of those who when they call out to their moms get an answer back.

Sometimes I stare incessantly at kids and their mothers, or even adults and their mothers. And I watch all the little nuances between them- the smiles, the tears, the hugs and love and connection. And I yearn to get even a little bit of that back. Even writing that causes my throat to close up a bit as my emotions just build up inside of me.  It hurts so much to not be able to go to your home and see your cute face opening the door to greet me.

I am jealous of the girl I was when I was younger, the one who was able to sit on your lap, and lay next to you, and be cradled and rocked by you, and picked up from school by you. The girl who had her lunches made by her mom. The girl who enjoyed her mom’s scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches. The girl who got to wake up to her mom’s face and warmth.

I am jealous of the girl who had her adult years with you The girl who could always just go to Mom’s place when she needed anything, especially when she just needed to be accepted for exactly who she was, without having to prove or do anything special. The girl who was special because of her mom. The girl who had a mom who made her feel so special.

I am jealous of the woman I became who, when she needed to apologize or right a wrong with her mom, could do so whenever she wanted. I am jealous of this woman who had her mom’s forgiveness, sweetness, compassion and strength around her always. That simplicity in living and loving that made her know exactly what was important in her life.

And then I realize I am jealous of myself.  That the time I had with you has passed and I wish so much to have it back. But I need to recognize that I was so lucky to have had it at all. 40 years of it. It sounds like such a long time. But it feels like it went by too fast.

I can’t be jealous of what I already have, can I? Maybe others can be jealous of me, because I had you, for those forty years. And you made me who I am today.  Everything that is beautiful about me came from my beautiful mother.  That is not something to be jealous about, but to be so proud of I’m trying to remember that, Mom.

I just miss you so much.  And Mother’s Day is coming up.  How do you celebrate a day dedicated to a woman who is no longer here with me physically but who gave me anything and everything I could have possibly wanted? and didn’t even know I wanted.

Mother’s Day is not a day, is it? It’s a lifetime. A miracle. Beyond one lifetime. It’s an energy. An everlasting love. An eternal love. A magic that I was so lucky to experience.

Thank you, Mommy. You are my everything. Always and forever.

Love Tas

Together Again

Dear Mom,

I know my letters here aren’t the most uplifting, or just seem full of sadness. But I wanted you to know that I am trying to keep my spirits up and stay hopeful, to believe in what I might not be able to feel yet, but that I wish to feel. Actually, it’s more about what I wish you feel- safe, free, happy, worry free, at peace and without pain or regret.

So I found a new song -well, it’s actually an old song, but it’s new on my list of songs to sing to you, for you- to keep me moving towards my wishes. My wishes for you.

It’s the song “Together Again” by Janet Jackson. She is Michael Jackson’s sister. Maybe you already knew that. Or if you didn’t while you were here, maybe you do now because I am imagining that you can see and know much more now that you are with other angels.

It’s funny how I grew up listening to a lot of Janet Jackson songs, and I know this one, or I thought I did. But it wasn’t until now that I actually listened to the lyrics more deeply. And it’s amazing how fitting they are for my wishes- that we will be together again, that I could feel you shining down on me, that I could feel your love around me.

I guess when I was younger, the words wouldn’t have had the same meaning to me anyway, or I wouldn’t have known what it would feel like to want these things yet.  Maybe I could have wished them for Mama and my’s relationship.  But I don’t think I was old enough to fully understand how much these words could mean to me, and speak to me.

I love the chorus:

Everywhere I go, every smile I see

I know you are there, smiling back at me

Dancing in moonlight, I know you are free

‘Cause I can see your star shinin’ down on me.

To imagine you dancing in moonlight… wow! That would be amazing, and make me feel so happy, to see your freedom and happiness. Your lightness. Your shine.  (I just realized that I must have been singing some very wrong lyrics to this song when I was younger.  I had no idea she was saying “Dancing in moonlight.” What had I been singing all this time? That’s the great thing about the internet now, we can look up the lyrics to see what they really are, and then make fun of the silly things we used to make up because we just didn’t know any better).

The line There are times when I feel you smile upon me, baby gives me goosebumps, especially when I really sing it out loud in that higher key change in the music. A good cry to the heavens.  I can feel how much I want it. How much I want to feel you again, your smile, our connection, your love not just as a memory but as a presence that still exists. I want to believe that it does and it will always continue.

I just need to change the word “baby” throughout the song to “mommy” and it would all fit, including the part about drawing strength from your words, your love and what you’ve taught me.

And then to be able to see you again one day. “Always been a true angel to me, now above, I can’t wait for you to wrap your wings around me, baby.” My angel mother.  Together again, someday.

“I’ll never forget you.”

I wonder who Janet Jackson was thinking about when she said those words.
I will never forget you, mommy. You are with me and thought of every moment of every day.  This song is going to be one of my new prayers to sing for you, Mom.

Good Mother

Dear Mom,

I have a new prayer song I sing at Karaoke. For you. To you. It’s called Good Mother and it’s by one of my favorite singer -songwriters- Jann Arden. She’s Canadian.  She is really funny and great in live concerts.

Imother's hand used to really like the song Good Mother when you were here, physically (saying “when you were alive” just hurts my heart).  But afterwards, it felt like I was lying when I was singing that song- tricking people, including myself, that my mother is still around, because the words are in the present tense.

And it was this one line in particular that would choke me up- “and her voice is what keeps me here.” I couldn’t finish that line ever, once you passed away.  It felt like a reminder to me of how crazy and painful it is to be living when you are not.

So I put it aside as a song I wouldn’t be singing.  I don’t remember what it was recently, however, that made me want to sing it again. I don’t know if I heard someone else sing it, or someone mention it.  But I was trying, line by line, to get through. And I’m sure that “killer” line for me was scary for me to approach each time.

But the more I sang it, the more I felt the truth of it.  I mean, I DO have a good mother. I have had a good mother. The best mother I could have ever asked for. And if all this stuff about life after death is true, I still have a good mother, just in a different form. It’s still you. No one could ever replace you, as I’ve said time and again in my other posts.  And I have to remember that it is your voice that keeps me here. I am trying to believe and trust and hope that it’s not just the words of your voice that I remember- from past memories- that keep me here. But words from you that I hope to hear presently and in the future. New words from you, because I want to feel that you still speak to me through all that time and space.  I want to believe that my mom is still here with me.

So in that case, it is not unbelievable that I am still living even though my mom has passed away. With this new way of thinking for me, this new perspective, it is in fact the reason that I am able to live on, after you passed away. The reason I am able to keep here, “feet on ground, heart in hand,” is because of my mother’s voice. It has to still be with me. She has to still be with me. You still must be with me if I can keep on going and growing and learning and living. This is what I have to believe.

So on most days when I am out at karaoke, I start the night with Good Mother.  I imagine singing it to you. And I hope that you can hear my prayer to you.  My thanks to you. My undying gratitude- yes, pun intended- for having you as a mother. Not in the past, but in the past, present and future. Forever and always. You are the best mom I will always have. Thank you for keeping me dreaming and grounded, balanced, and feeling loved.

Each time I sing the song, I try to let those two lines- “I’ve got a goooood mother. And her mothers handvoice is what keeps me here” – ring out louder, richer, and prouder. I’m still working on getting it better. I need to sing it without wavering or cracking from over emotion or sadness. I need to get to the point where it is powerful and resonant from utter gratitude and love.  I need to get to the point where I sing it so deeply and strongly that I feel you feeling it.

I am tired of the people who tell me that I need to move on and let it go. This is not some breakup with a boyfriend or a silly romance. THIS IS MY MOTHER. I am not putting that behind me, because she is with me, every step of the way. She has to be.  She is not my past or something to move on from. She is my whole being. And I am taking her with me, respectfully. Not to hold her back or take away her freedom. But to allow us both to soar. And to let her know she will never ever be forgotten.

Love you, Mom.

She Used To Be Mine

Dear Mom,

waitress-a-r-t-jessie-mueller.jpgI went to see the musical Waitress over the weekend. It is a stage adaptation of the movie Waitress which I guess came out a long time ago, or awhile ago. I never saw it and can’t find it on Netflix.  I started using Netflix after you passed away. Sorry. If I had figure it out before, I would have shown you how to use it.

Anyway, the reason I went all the way to Seattle to see this show is because

1) It didn’t look like it was coming to Canada, or at least not to Vancouver.

2) One of my all time favourite singer/songwriters Sara Bareilles wrote the music for it.

3) She Used to Be Mine- one of the songs in the musical.

I’ve been singing Sara Bareilles’ songs now for sometime.  Her lyrics and compositions are so unique and full of memorable images and pauses, and syncopations and she has a beautiful voice.  I love how every song really says something. I mean, the something is always profound, or playful, or poignant or all of the above.  I feel changed after going through the stories in her lyrics and music.

But in particular, “She Use To Be Mine” gripped me almost from the first note, but definitely from the first few phrases.  I first heard it at a live concert of Sara Bareilles’. My roommate Karen and I went to see the concert in Seattle a few years ago.  At that time, you were still around, and the song still spoke to me, gripped my heart, and made me catch my breath a little. It made me sad, and happy, and feeling alive and inspired, but also pained and empathetic as well- towards the subject of the song or to myself, I don’t know.

It was explained to us at that time that Sara Bareilles wrote the song for the musical, and that the musical would be out in a couple of years. It was also explained to us that the song came about because the character in the play is pregnant, but she doesn’t want to have the baby. She is with a guy who doesn’t treat her well, and she doesn’t have a good paying job or much stability. So she feels like she has nothing to offer the child, and also seems to miss the person she thought she would become.

So at that time, the “She used to be mine” chorus made sense to me as Sara Bareilles meant it- that the person who was the dreamer and beauty, and go getter used to be a part of the main character. I think her name was Jenna. But that Jenna was mourning her passing- as if that part of her had gone and died. Was no longer there. As Sara Bareilles said in her concert- it is a concept and feeling we can all probably relate to- when something in our lives passes over us, and we don’t look or act or have the time to be or do that thing anymore that used to be such a part of us.

I fell in love with the song instantly, and when I got back to Vancouver, I wanted to sing it. I learned it and kept practising it. And something in it always brought me to tears, whether I heard it, was singing along with it, or just singing it on my own.

But after you passed away, I couldn’t say the chorus lines anymore without just breaking down.  The “She used to be mine” line made me think that I was somehow referring to you, especially when I had to sing the whole line, “She is gone but she used to be mine.”

I found out recently that one of the karaoke places I go to often has that song available for people to sing. So I started singing it again. I try to imagine that I am singing it for you, or to you, or to tell people about you.

But there is a change that I make in mind when it comes to the song and the lyrics.  Whether I imagine the “she” who is gone to be a part of me or to be you, I don’t allow myself to believe the “used to be mine” part.  You are still mine and will always be mine, mom.  As I have written to you before, no one can ever take your place. No one can every be or try to be my mom. You are the only mom I want, the only one I had, and the only one I still have. There is no “used to”. You are still mine. My mother.  I hope you know that. I hope you know that I never forget about you and never will.

In the play, the main character ends up loving her daughter the moment she was born, and deciding to take care of her on her own. She doesn’t want the father to be around because she knows that he is selfish and doesn’t know how to love the woman let alone a child.  And I thought it was so beautiful but also so sad, how selfless this woman becomes to give her all to her child.  Without any help.

She would speak to the baby when she was in her stomach. Dear baby, she would say.  She would tell the baby her fears but also her dreams for the baby, that she wished that she could give her everything.

I know you were that kind of mom, but you didn’t have to tell me what you hoped to give me. You just did it.  I don’t know how. And it breaks my heart a little every day to think of how much you sacrificed for me. How there may have been so many parts of you that went away or had to go because you ended up putting me first, putting both of your kids first.

So I feel like apologizing and thank you all at the same time. I am sorry for all the things you had to do day in and day out to keep us safe, and cared for, and fed and loved, when sometimes that meant you didn’t have the time or energy to give that same caring and love to yourself.  Thank you, Mommy for having me, for caring for me, for sacrificing for me, for standing up for me and keeping me protected and happy.

In the play, the main character’s mom has already passed away. But she was taught to make pies from her, and so she continues to do so- talking about some of her mom’s favourite pie flavours.

What would I choose as a pie name for you? Sweet, Laila Mama pie?  Whatever it is, it could never capture all that you were and are to me.  I don’t know how to ever repay you for all that you have done for me. I wish I had done more to show you how grateful I was for you during the time you were here. Please give me signs as to what I can do now for you. I know it is not the same, but I want to try.  I cried so much in the play- for not being able to tell you all that I want to now.  For not having mother daughter moments with you anymore. Is there a way to still have different kinds?- that surpass time and space? I need my mom still, and always will.

 

Vicks

mother and daughter6

Dear Mom,

I think I suddenly got some sort of cold. I was fine yesterday, but then at the end of the night and this morning, I felt so tired, with a runny nose, and a bit of a scratchiness and cough in my throat.

I reached for the Vick Vapo Rub of course.  It’s strange how such a small bottle, and the smell from it, can bring back so much sweetness, and love but also sadness and sorrow.

Vicks, and just that smell, makes me think of how I had such a loving mom- you- who took care of me when I was sick, no matter what age I was.  Even though I got frustrated over you “babying” me at those times, God, what I wouldn’t do to have you do that for me again.

I am sorry if I ever gave you a hard time over caring the way you did. It was such gift I was given- to have you as a mom, to have you take the time to rub Vicks on my throat and forehead and nose.  And your hands. Vicks conjures up the feel and look of your beautiful, soft hands, oozing love through every finger. Giving me your healing and warmth and motherly magic.

mother and daughter2

So I wish I could go back to those days, to appreciate them more. And more than that, I wish I could go back to them to tell you how very much they meant to me, how much you meant to me, and still do. And I wish I could give you back that same tenderness, and caring and time.  You spent so much time with me- as much as was needed to help me through, especially when I got sick.

The soups, the hurder (tumeric), and blankets, and tea and your hand on my forehead. Everything soothed me right into my core, into my heart. And so when I think of you lying there in the hospital, and me not being able to give you back that soothing and comfort, it tears me apart.

Vicks brings me back a warmth and smiles- the tenderest of memories of the most love I received, and will receive, from any human being ever. But it also breaks my heart and brings me to tears because that love is gone. Or the love isn’t gone, but the touches and what I can see and hear- your voice unlike no other and the words you chose that no one else could. Even the way you said my name.

mother and daughter5

The thought of if already brings a ache in my throat. And this is not from a cold, but from grief. From anger, from pain, from losing you. But mostly from not being able to help you the way you helped me. I am so sorry, Mom.  I wish I could have brought you a bottle of Vicks and put my hand on your forehead, and make everything magically better, the way you always were able to do for me.

I keep being told you are no longer in pain.  But the people who tell me this are here, alive. So how do they know what you are going through? I need to see and feel it for myself.  Please give me more signs.  I still, after 3 and a half years, don’t feel it- your peace.

Please reach out and tell me or show me that you are okay.  Please.

Morning Prayer- 3 years now

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

~ Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi~

 

daisies

Dear Mom,

I can’t believe it’s been exactly three years now since you passed away.  It doesn’t feel that way at all. I can remember all the details as if it was yesterday. And it still is painful, as much if not as more, because now the reality of it all has settled in.  And that is so much more unsettling than anything I’ve ever had to face.

But I’ve included you in my thoughts- my morning prayers- every morning since then. I don’t think I’ve missed a day.  It’s not the usual kind of prayer. It’s more like me asking you what we should do for the day. How we should treat people, what choices we will make. It’s me asking you to the guide the way. I wonder if you hear me at all when I say the words.

I still put that picture of you and me off the window sill each morning, and say this prayer or list of questions “to you” while walking over to my little wine coloured shelf near the kitchen. I place your picture of us on the shelf once I’m done. And it stays there for the whole day. And in the evening, I take the picture off of the shelf and put it back on the windowsill, and turn on the little while string of lights that rest there, so that the picture and you are illuminated. I love it when the moonlight also adds to this.

I don’t leave the picture on the windowsill during the day because

1). I don’t want it to fade from the sunlight. I don’t need more things to add to this fear of you fading. Not that you ever will from my heart or memory. But time is not always a healer, I don’t think. Sometimes, it can blur my memories. And I don’t need one of my favorite pictures of us being blurred or washed out as well.

2) I don’t want the frame or the picture to get scorched by the heat like it has done to some other little trinkety things I have put there in the past.

I think I’ve posted about this before, but I’ve added more questions to it, so I am reposting it with the updated version.

Here it goes:

Hi Mom, 
Good morning. 

What are we going to do today?

Where are we going to go? 

What are we going to see?

Who are we going to meet?

What are we going to say?

What are we going to change?

What are we going to cry over? 

What are we going to laugh through?

What are we going to stand up for?

What are we going to believe?

What are we going to choose?

What are we going to create?

What are we going to paint?

What are we going to sing? 

What are we going to dance?

What are we going to write about?

Who are we going to date?

Who are we not going to date?

What are we going to achieve?

What are we going to dream?

Who are we going to help?

Who are we going to inspire. 

And then I usually sigh and say, “Oh mom.”

My heart hurts. But I know I need to keep going to make you proud, and make this life you blessed me with worth living.

Thank you, Mom. I hope heaven is treating you well.  I wish that sometimes you could show up in my dreams, the good kind of dreams, and tell me a story, or tell me how you are doing. I still worry about you.

 

Navroz Mubarak

Dear Mom,

Guess where I went AFTER dance class this time, instead of before? Khane! Yes, I know I said it’s only a few steps away from my zouk class, but I usually would drive out to the zouk social after, if I have the energy to do any dance.  But you know what I danced instead last night? You’ll never believe it. Rasra!!!

No really! You don’t believe me, do you? Or maybe you do, because you were there somehow in spirit and were the reason I even got the urge to do it?

I did tell everyone that I was joining the rasra circle for you, my mom.  It’s true. And I was with a whole bunch of boody mas- older women. And men, too. But mom, some of these women can dance!!! How do they keep it up for so long? I was exhausted after just a couple of songs. But these women in their 60’s and even older were just going on and on and on. And with a LOT of energy!

That dance takes a lot of cardio. Man. I had my zouk class before then, but we move in a less jumpy way. This rasra stuff was definitely taking my breath, or pumping my heart. And when you do it properly, it really works your calves. Who knew?

This older woman in front of me was trying to teach me, because I seriously felt, and obviously looked, lost when I first joined them.  And because I am a dancer, I wanted to not just get through, but also do some impressive turns and get the feet in rhythm and all of that. It looks easier than it is, for sure.  But I tried to get some spins in there to see if you might feel that energy, if you might be able to feel the reverberations of it. Of me sharing it with you.

I am sorry I didn’t have sherbet. You know I never really liked that stuff. Maybe without the nuts and stuff. I like stuff a little plain. I did have cake though. Just for you.  It was not as good as your cake though. No one’s ever will be. But that’s okay.  Yours and you will always be my favorite. Nothing can compare.

So yeah, if you haven’t already guessed, I went out there because it was Kushiali- December 31st.  They had a cake to celebrate Hazar Imam’s birthday. My friend and I were laughing because the candles weren’t being blown out. We were a bit worried that they would just let them die down on their own on the cake.

I don’t know many people at all in that Khane. I felt out of place, to be honest. Not in a non-welcoming way.  But just in a “what am I doing here?” way.  And then I remembered- I am celebrating for my mom.  I am sorry I didn’t celebrate Navroz enough with you,  Mom. I just never resonated with it. I felt disconnected from it. But I see now that it would have just kept us more connected. Given us more of an excuse to share more memories together.

But now I cannot bring back those days. I cannot turn back time to change the opportunities that I missed. All I can do is celebrate them with you in another way now.  I hope you can feel it, somehow. I hope you know that if I had the chance again, I would get out and have cake and do some rasra rounds with you, and even have sherbet. Anything to spend more time with and around my mom. Now I can only hope that you are surrounding me in another way.

Love you, Mom.

Navroz Mubarak.