A dear friend lost her mother in April of last year. We attended her memorial service in Kingston; at last, her five children and their families were able to say goodbye to her properly, and as she herself would have liked. Sitting by the open window in the church and staring out at the parked cars in the mid-morning heat, the tangled traffic, the hills ever-present beyond, my thoughts turned to my own mother. The date of the service, June 30, happened to coincide with that of her passing, in 2006.
It is easy to hide one’s feelings behind a mask. We were social distancing, and we seemed to be waving at our friend and family members from a distance as we were scattered among the pews.
I reminded my husband that our friend’s mother had given us an otaheite apple tree as a gift, a small seedling, not long after we first moved into our house. It grows near our back verandah, and it flourishes. When its blossoms are out, it is beloved by bees. As the dark, glossy fruit ripens, it is plundered by birds and fruit bats. We eat what’s left.
Here are some thoughts from Thich Nhat Hanh, which were printed in the program for the memorial service last week.
When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.
I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple half-way up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet…wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and my great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.
From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear
Meanwhile, the otaheite apple tree near our house will always remind me of Winsome Joan Jamieson, a beautiful, upright lady, born on June 11, 1925.