When she goes between worlds, so do you. This is where I live.
In the days weeks months after my mother dies, the ocean calls. I am to be reverse-born, back into waters. In the true middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is an ancient green rock that juts out, bearing life on its crest. It is a rock so old you can feel its age transmit through your tiny human body like some kind of prehistoric current. The waves that crash against this rock’s jagged shores mark three weeks motherless. They are like death to me, the waves. You might think this dark, pitiful, but I am telling you: When death swirls inside of you, when you swim in a death space because your mother dies in her bed on Christmas eve morn, your only solace is something of this measure. Nullifying, life-giving. Death and ocean, they will take you. And thank God for their relentlessness, the waves.
Give me an ocean stronger than death, stronger than the demon forces I have been looking in the eyes while they are taking my mother from me over a lifetime, and I am normalized.
In a life world, where living is happening, where those around you conveniently are forgetting or just not knowing the other side where you now live [where she must be] you must sit by the ocean and feel the jagged rock beneath you, feel her spray, her force. Feel her unafraidness. Feel yours. It is okay to not think. Your body will feel and will know that this is real. Dive into her because she is your one respite. Nothing, anything matters.
As I was saying, how can I say—let’s postpone this if you don’t wish to speak of death.
When your mother dies, though, it is like a reverse-birth. What I mean by this is that she is expelled from your body too, as much as from her own. You birth her death. And she returns to you, pure. This happens in contractions like births do—all muscle, heaves, a spirit-flesh interface. Converge two worlds in your body. For a moment, let yourself imagine the reverse of an earth birth. Contractions closer together at first, then long pauses—weeks—months—between them. They say it will continue to happen over your new lifetime, the one that starts the day your mother becomes dead. What they don’t tell you is that this is all a bio-spiritual mechanism for: her exit, her return to you, and the glorious and painful event of your reverse-birth. Because, after all, your mother is dead. Her body, your body.
My mother’s body burned to ashes on the evening of my thirty-sixth birthday. They thought they would wait one more day to burn her because it was my birthday, but it had already been ten days by then. Let this be her gift, I thought, as much as one can have a true thought in this hollow and drifty grief space.
My sister and I, we put on our suits, we squeeze hands, and we plunge into a hotel pool the moment her body is said to enter the fire. Those hands—my sister’s and mine—they are what we have left of our mother’s, and so we are holding on to them tightly. Her remains: these hands like hers, her daughters’ wet bodies. The whole scene decorated with chlorine and the glimmer of leftover lights from Christmas, hanging quiet beyond the glass on empty branches of early January. In these dripping bodies she remains.
The moon is full this night. My body bleeds. A mini-version of the way her body bled, thirty-six years back to this date, in the same gray-blue city that can barely hold on to day this time of year. I never heard her describe childbirth as anything but pleasant.
The way the story goes is that we have two euphoric hours together, she and I, this first day of my breathing life, until the hospital sheets grow an urgent red around us. They rush her off and throw me into my father’s arms. We look at each other, he and I, a merged messy fear download ::: we are losing her. Happy birthday, little one: welcome to your life.
On this day she is not dying.
Abundance is the drugs in my mother’s dead body. Diazepam, tramadol, oxycodone, and ethanol. Diazepam, tramadol, oxycodone, and ethanol. Diazepam, tramadol, oxycodone, and ethanol. I want to know: What is a body at this point?
Abundance is the forms which grief can take. It is the new yous that push themselves out from the inside.
Abundance is the gifts she is leaving under the tree: trains and boxes of cars that fit perfect a child’s palm, endless little boy love packages for the smallest life animated by her blood. Grown daughter gifts. Her generosity pulses as her body lies in her bed, losing heat. Abundance is her garden that is blooming wild purples and reds in the wake of her, each dahlia lily rose chick-and-hen laughing the exact laugh of my mother that I am preserving in the hearts of my ears. Abundance the mother in my sister and the woman in me.
And the vacancy of my face, a distant replica of a me who will not return unchanged, is telling you about the hollowness where I have been living. Six months less six days, and if this is me coming back, please don’t let me forget. Her. And thank God for their relentlessness, these waves.
Sara Chandra Bowes is on an airplane in an in-between space. She will have a sparkling water with no ice. She won’t sleep, since her head is too heavy for upright sleeping. She was told once by a salesperson in a hat store that her head wasn’t actually abnormally large, it was just that she had a lot of hair. She was told once by a reputable astrologer that she’s a lot gentler and less intimidating than her chart suggests. She’d like to wear more hats and be just a tiny bit more intimidating. She lives and works in the lush city of Portland, Oregon. Discover more of her and what she does M-F in the daytime at http://www.milluminomedicine.com.