My mother, a walking dictionary of clichés and witticisms, frequently said: “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relatives.” At one point on my spiritual journey a Shaman said to me “Each child in spirit form chooses its parents before birth so that s/he may learn the next life lesson on the path to enlightenment.” After my immediate thought of “See, Mom, you’re wrong…you CAN choose your relatives…” I pondered his comments and decided that I must have been asleep during class at Life School or I had gotten off at the wrong bus stop when it was my turn to choose my family.
My mother and I were as different as two people can be; physically, emotionally, spiritually, politically…you name it, there was hardly a topic on which we were in agreement. And the framework of our lives and the choices we made seem to reflect this. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t love each other. We did. In a deep and complex way we both loved needed each other, although the expression and demonstration of that love and need was a point of contention between us.
My mother was married for 57 years to the same man. I am twice divorced. My mother lived and died by the belief that your choice of partner was tantamount to personal success and happiness. She died very suddenly one afternoon, just as my second marriage was spiraling out of control. In her last years, my mother knew of my personal and marital struggles. I told her of my disillusions and dissatisfactions. She knew I was having an affair. She witnessed the humiliation of events in my first marriage. She observed the transition into a new relationship and second marriage. She was privy to my grievances and transgressions. But through it all she observed me through a sheer veil of curiosity, telepathically communicating “I don’t understand who you are, nor do I understand the choices you make, and because of that I can’t help you. But I really want you to be happy.”
I woke up this morning in the hazy warmth and sun of a spring morning. The space next to me was empty but rumpled, and the aroma of coffee wafting up the hall indicated the location of the person whose hand I was reaching for. I smiled with contentment and satisfaction, thinking of conversations of yesterday and anticipating the coffee and conversation that would shortly ensue. Every morning my father would bring my mother coffee in bed. They would talk and plan and be a couple. My memories of those moments are ones of peace and contentment.
I thought of my mother as I lay in bed this morning, wishing I could tell her that I am happy. I wish I could tell her that I have found my mate, and within that relationship I have found myself. I wish she could know that even though I chose a path that was turbulent and fraught with anxiety, that I have found the peace and contentment that she wanted for me. I wish I could tell her that I appreciate her allowing me to find my place at my own pace and in my own time. I wish I could tell her that our differences brought us to the same place.
Perhaps that is why, in spirit form, I chose the family that I did.