Category: Bereavement

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”   -Anne Lamott

I finally watched the movie, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. It was selected by Mindful.org as the “mindful film of the year” and really struck a chord. I’m drawn to stories of people embarking on pilgrimages of self-discovery that involve backpacking through the wilderness, and Wild features a woman who is grieving the death of her mother and decides to hike 1,100 miles solo along the Pacific Crest Trail to reclaim her life, which had been thrown into disarray in the wake of her mother’s death. Unlike my sister, I watched the movie prior to reading the memoir on which it was based. Now I want to read the book!

Watching the movie made me aware of a deep-seated desire to do something out of the ordinary to honor my own grief and rebuild my life. I yearn for a rite of passage – a touchstone for transformation.

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Part of me longs to take a backpacking journey – as portrayed in Wild or The Way – or to retreat to the solitude of a simple cabin in the woods for a few months to get some perspective. I just want to stop the world for a little while to take inventory and forge a new vision – because my world changed ten months ago when my mother died, and it will never be the same again. I will never be the same. I want to create something fresh and vital from the ashes and make the most of this “one and precious life.”

At the end of Wild, a voice-over summarizes the woman’s journey:

But if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently. What if I wanted to sleep with every single one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if all those things I did were the things that got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

It took me years to be the woman my mother raised. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it without her. After I lost myself in the wilderness of my grief, I found my own way out of the woods. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there on the last day of my hike. Thank you, I thought over and over again, for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know.”

-Cheryl Strayed, as quoted in the movie adaptation of her memoir, Wild.

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I have some of my own “what ifs.”

What if situations that seem dreadful or unfortunate on the surface teach us something? What if walking through the darker corners of grief is part of our journey? What if people who appear as adversaries are actually helping us to awaken and move on? What if getting pushed to our limit is exactly what we need in order to change?

What if I’m here to do my work in this world by using my particular nature and programming to the fullest, rather than trying to force my nature to conform to incompatible situations? What if my nature/essence/personality is no accident and serves a purpose that I have yet to understand and utilize fully?

During the winter, I prayed for clarity…and received it. And I’m grateful for it, even though the timing feels inconvenient. I have resolved to walk through a door that, for years, I’ve been afraid to walk through, even though doing so still scares me. And that’s why I’m now praying for courage – because not doing it would be too great a compromise. Certainly, there will be other “problems” that arise when I walk through that door, but at least I will not compromise my spirit any longer. That is a burden too heavy to bear.

I think of how preoccupied I was with what “to do” with my life – meaning what kind of work to do. For a long time, I equated work with livelihood but have since come to define it much more broadly, as the energy we give to the world. The specifics of it don’t seem as important as the context in which it is carried out. I acknowledge the importance of being in an environment that is aligned with my principles and values what I have to offer, an environment in which I have freedom to be myself and to release my best, most authentic energy and talents into the world. I’m realizing that if conforming to a system or environment devastates your spirit, you must have enough self-respect and faith to move on. When a situation isn’t compatible with your nature, you owe it to yourself to say, “No, thank you,” and move forward…because it would be a waste of your precious life not to. I think it would be a tragedy to get to the end of this life and see that I wasted time failing to express my highest nature by remaining stuck in something that requires me to be someone I’m not – something that binds my wings and has lost its spirit, meaning, and purpose. Remaining stuck is like clinging to a rotten branch. It’s allowing the lower, fearful self to be in the driver’s seat. It’s not living.

No, thank you. I was made for more than that!

I wonder: Does everyone go a little crazy while navigating the wilderness of grief – each in our own way? Can you ever be the same again after losing your mother? And is “sameness” something to even wish for? Or is it one of the great delusions? (As a photographer, I would answer yes because it is becoming apparent to me that, based on the interdependent nature of this world of form, nothing remains exactly the same from moment-to-moment.)

In recent months, I have been spending time watching the Battenkill River flow. Its movement is much more dramatic than the flow of the Hudson River in front of my house. The roaring Battenkill inspires and influences me greatly and has been teaching me about letting go and dislodging the fear-based belief that my present set of circumstances is the safest, healthiest place to be.

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The only thing I know at this point that my mother’s death has awakened me to the gift, opportunity, and brevity of our human life. Status quo appears to be over. And rather than focus on the time, money, and energy wasted on something that ended up not being a good fit, I can be thankful for all I have learned and the ways in which I have grown as a result. No stepping stone on our path is for naught. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without it. But it is not the end of the path. There is more to come.

In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.” And when it’s time to move on, may we do so with love, gratitude, and confidence.

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\© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Last Christmas Present

The Last Christmas Present

During the summer, my dad gave me some money that my mom “would have wanted me to have” after she died. I knew immediately what to do with some of it: It would be my last Christmas present from my mom. So around Thanksgiving, I bought the wide angle lens I’d been wanting for a long time but couldn’t afford on my teacher’s salary, wrapped it, and placed it in a gift bag my mom gave me last Christmas. I wasn’t around on Christmas and didn’t put up a tree or any other decorations because I just didn’t feel up to it. A few days after Christmas, I was still waiting for the right time to open it.

When this morning’s colorful sunrise interrupted a long string of gray days, I knew the time was right. I opened the present with the excitement of a child and then ran outside to use it right away and send a big thank-you into the beautiful sky.

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The idea of buying a lens “from my mom” came from a dream I had of my grandmother after she died less than four years prior. My grandmother came to me in a dream and seemed excited because she wanted to give me one last gift. I recently had been given some money from the sale of her house and woke up from the dream knowing what to do with it: I used it to buy my first “real” camera. It was probably the most important purchase I ever made because nature photography – and sharing it online – has completely transformed my life and given me a renewed sense of purpose.

And speaking of dreams…

On Christmas morning, I dreamed – twice – that my mom was picking up the phone to call me. After waking up from the dream fragment the second time, I decided to meditate. When I did, I heard my mom’s voice telling me to call a certain relative. I resolved to make the call a little later, only to hear my mom’s voice once again, saying, “NOW.” So I did. The person seemed very depressed, and I am so glad that I called when I did and passed along the story of how I ended up calling sooner rather than later. We talked about how my mom seems to communicate with us through one another.

So it seems I received two Christmas gifts from her this year. One was planned, and the other was a surprise to be shared.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

This first Thanksgiving without my mom is a holiday I’m experiencing from the sidelines. Even though I’ve been cooking all day, there is no formal, sit-down meal to share with family, for we are scattered in different directions. (I think the cooking is mostly therapeutic.) My dad’s neighbors have adopted him, my daughter is in Georgia, my son is spending the day with his dad in their new home, one of my siblings is in New York City, and the other is celebrating with her in-laws. I had considered volunteering at a soup kitchen and made some phone calls to explore possibilities but didn’t follow through. The bottom line is that I just want to lay low this Thanksgiving. It is quiet here in this little empty nest on the river.

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Yesterday, we had our first snowfall of the season. This morning, I woke up to a snow-covered world and went out in search of beauty for the first time in a while. I took a walk in my special sanctuary close to home, where I spent many frigid mornings last winter in silent solitude. It occurred to me that the last time I walked there in the snow was when my mom was sick. This is the first snowfall since she died, and I’m filled with gratitude for how the snow-kissed beauty of this special place saved me almost daily last winter. In this place, I found tranquility, inspiration, beauty, and joy. I was elevated above the challenges and filled with energy to attend to everything that called for attention. I’m grateful for the snow-covered trees that were here for me last year and transformed my grief into gratitude today.

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While walking, I contemplated gratitude. In addition to family, food, good health, and shelter, the following blessings rose to the forefront of my mind:

  • Reconnecting with old friends. Many friends from high school and even earlier resurfaced in my life upon hearing of my mom’s illness and death. Connecting with long-lost friends is like collecting lost pieces of myself. Some people who were little more than acquaintances in high school have showed up most faithfully and literally have offered me a shoulder on which to cry. As much as I’ve tried to forget the teen years ever took place, there is an undeniable bond that is forged through growing up in the same town and sharing a common history.
  • New friendships formed by shared grief and understanding. Knowing that others in my circle are experiencing the same loss gives me strength and comfort. I know I’m not alone. And the most wonderful gifts are the stories we share with each other – of dreams, peculiar occurrences, and awareness of our loved one’s presence. Many times, I have experienced a tingling, hair-raising sensation from head to toe when listening to friends’ stories. I long to hear them and share mine freely. We speak the same language, describe the same sensations, and transmit hope and joy to each other. The friends with whom I was close when our children were babies always have held a special place in my heart, and clearly it is the same with the friends I have made in the wake of our parents’ deaths.
  • The helpers who stepped forward out of the blue. Often, they weren’t the people closest to me but natural helpers who find their way to those in need – for example, one of my dad’s neighbors who shows up frequently on his doorstep with home-cooked meals and even an apple pie (with a heart-embellished crust) on Thanksgiving morning. These dear souls fill me with hope for this world and inspire me to be more helpful and giving.
  • Having a closer relationship with my other family members. My mom was the only extrovert in my family of origin. She was like a puppy that greeted us gleefully at the door. She did most of the talking and often talked for us by being the default family messenger. A large percentage of our communications took place through her. Now that she is gone, we have to step out of our introverted comfort zones and communicate with one another. I’m building a much closer, direct relationship with my dad, and my sister and I turn to each other when we miss our mom and when we feel upset about matters we would have brought to her. I think it would have been unfortunate for my dad to have died without experiencing a more direct relationship with his children. It used to be that we would talk with Mom on the phone, Dad would come on and say hello, and then Mom would fill him in on all the news afterward. But now he doesn’t get the news from her; he gets it from us. He is able to receive presence and love directly from us now. This is perhaps the greatest gift my mom could have given him – and us – by leaving us.

All of the above are blessings received as a result of losing my mom. It’s easy to sink into sorrow when thinking about what her death has taken from us. But I know that on Thanksgiving – and every other day – my mother would want us to celebrate the ways in which our lives are richer as a result of her life – and even her death.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Shifting Sands of Grief

The Shifting Sands of Grief

This blog has been uncharacteristically quiet in recent weeks because I have been taking inventory regarding where to go from here. My intention all along was to pair nature photography with contemplative reflections. Why was I drawn to a certain image in the first place? What feelings and insights arise?

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And then my mom became ill and died, and I find myself grappling with Big Questions and the many manifestations of grief. My writing has become more personal than I ever intended to share. Am I writing an autobiography of grief? Is it useful to share such personal feelings and experiences?

Much of the time, I honestly feel as if I am losing my mind – which I realize is one of the primary manifestations of grief. When I was in my twenties, I volunteered for an organization in Syracuse called Hope for Bereaved, which published a book called Hope for Bereaved: Understanding, Coping and Growing Through Grief that consists of short articles that address all kinds of losses. The title of the very first article is “I Wasn’t Going Crazy…I Was Grieving.” How reassuring!

It’s not only the loss of the deceased loved one that makes this season of grief so challenging. It’s the way relationships shift, like aftershocks from an earthquake. It feels as if the very foundation on which I stand has been removed from underneath me. Life feels unstable, unsupported. Even my sense of self feels like shifting sands. I have been floating in teardrops, releasing inhibitions, and dwelling in questionsBig Questions, like:

  • Why am I here in the first place?
  • Where does my responsibility to others begin and end?
  • Is my ultimate responsibility to myself, to live fearlessly and follow my soul wherever it leads?
  • How do I balance my own happiness and peace of mind with caring for others?
  • Is there some kind of divine blueprint for my life, and if so, how am I doing so far? How can I tell?
  • Or perhaps when all is said and done, is all the content from this lifetime just information to process and understand rather than to judge? (Will we review our life with an omniscience that allows us to see things as they really were, rather than through the limited, skewed lens of our own ego?)

Sometimes these questions threaten to overwhelm me, for I don’t have the answers and can be very hard on myself. Sometimes I wear myself out by giving in to the temptation to seek external stimulation by filling my mind with the voices and opinions of others, when true peace and fulfillment is an inside job cultivated more effectively by sitting alone and still and filling with light from the inside out. Only then can I beam light to others. But I can’t do that when my own battery is depleted.

It is more important than ever at this dark time of year to kindle the inner light and to be gentle with myself – especially now that my mom’s nurturing presence is absent from my life. Yesterday, it occurred to me that there’s nobody to buy me gloves and socks anymore. Sure, I can buy them for myself. However, that was something my mom always did – and that I often took for granted. She came through with sweet, small, comforting gestures that nobody else thought of. There’s a certain kind of love and care that is missing now and that needs to be cultivated in other ways. And there’s also the question of how to navigate new and unfamiliar relationship patterns. Who picks up the pieces? Who (and to what extent) cares for the most fragile family members? I try my best but cannot fill my mom’s shoes, and my attempts often feel awkward and clumsy.

It reminds me of what it was like to become a mother. Having a child changes your life monumentally, and I remember wondering: When will life return to normal? The reality was that it never would return to what it was before. You become accustomed to a new “normal.” And I think that’s what I’m dealing with now, in the wake of my mother’s death.

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I find that when I feel overwhelmed by questions about how to manage relationships, the best I can do is to avoid taking the tempting detour into the thinking mind. Instead, take a deep breath and slow down. Return to the moment and practice self-care faithfully. Get enough sleep, to begin with. Meditate. Exercise. Eat right. Speak the truth. Say no when saying yes would overload my circuits. Channel the energy so it doesn’t get stuck inside me. Listen to and follow the internal compass known as intuition.

These responses might not provide the answers to the questions that arise. They might not be exciting. However, they restore me to a more centered, balanced state from which I can discern the next step. And that’s probably the best I can do. One step at a time, may I be led by the best and highest within me and honor the Self that unites us all.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

All the Places I Find Her

All the Places I Find Her

Although I connect daily with the light that shines through each and every one of the five-year-old angels assigned to my heart this year, some weeks are more trying than others. After a brutally long week of what felt like mothering the world, I wish I could pick up the phone and call my own mom and get a little mothering, myself. I’ve been missing her a lot lately.

Every morning on my way to work, I ask for blessings on my mom’s soul, send out prayers for loved ones and myself, and then express gratitude for everything I can think of. Yesterday morning, I was in a dejected mood but did this practice anyway. Immediately after I said, “Amen,” I received a blessing. It felt like a spiritual wind embracing me (yes, while I was driving), and I was filled with an inner knowing that everything (is and) will be all right. It felt like a response to my prayers.

Is that how my mother speaks with me now? (Or some other benevolent force?)

Fall, my favorite season, has arrived in all its colorful grandeur. However, there’s something about this particular fall that makes my mom’s absence feel more real. Perhaps it’s because summer always was her busiest time of year and the season in which we saw her the least. She was more present during fall. But on top of that, I realize from my earlier work with bereaved populations that we are heading into a challenging time of year – a two-month span that includes my parents’ anniversary, both of my children’s birthdays, Thanksgiving, my mom’s birthday, and Christmas. My mom’s absence will be felt big-time, by all of us.

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In the past few weeks, I’ve caught traces of my mom’s essence several times. It’s a far cry from picking up the phone and talking with her – and even from the supra real dreams in which she has appeared. And yet, sometimes brushing up against her imprints makes me feel closer to her than ever, as if she truly does live on inside of me. As if there are no boundaries between us. Sometimes it even feels as if the qualities that were expressed through her actively seek expression through me (and others, I’m sure) now that she’s moved beyond this world.

A couple weeks ago, I found her a few minutes after dropping off my son at a friend’s house for the evening. Alone in the dark car, I turned on the radio and heard a song I’d only heard once before – when my dad and one of my mom’s best friends from 50 years ago sang it around her deathbed two days before she passed away (after we’d belted out a few John Denver songs). The song is, “Eddie, My Love,” and my dad told us she would sing it to him all the time when he was taking his time getting out of the house. I’d never heard it before but remembered enough of the lyrics to recognize it – and gasp – when it came on the radio in the car. Certain that was the song they sang around her bed, I pulled to the side of the road, took out my phone, and recorded it so I could play it when I returned home. (Interestingly, right when I took out my phone to record the song, I received a text from my sister asking for one of my mom’s best-loved recipes. What timing!) It turns out that yes, it was the song, and when I played it for my daughter, she explained to me wide-eyed that the very same song popped into her head completely out of the blue earlier that day, and at the time she wondered how she would feel if she ever heard it on the radio – for she, too, only had heard it once before, at my mom’s bedside. And that is the truly amazing thing about sharing such experiences. Had I kept it to myself, I would not have received the information my daughter had to offer that took the experience to a more intriguing and powerful level.

Needless to say, I let my dad know about the song coming to both my daughter and me the same day, and it made him happy.

That same evening, while sitting at the kitchen table, I happened to notice that the bag of ecologically grown apples I’d bought that afternoon came from the small town in Vermont where my mom grew up. I’ve never before seen or heard any reference to that town other than in my mom’s obituary and in her stories about her childhood!

Last weekend, I was surprised to find one of her memorial prayer cards on my bed. It was the only thing on my bed.

And then there’s a certain kind of longing that is entirely new to me.

Recently, I was preparing for a meeting about which I felt quite anxious. As the day of the meeting approached, I found myself wanting to channel my mother’s energy for the first time in my life. It continues to astound me that it took a terminal diagnosis before I was able to perceive and appreciate fully the gifts she gave to the world through the kind, gracious, and hospitable manner in which she lived her life. In an effort to differentiate myself from her and become my own person with a strong backbone and the ability to say no, I had rejected and discarded some of her most salient qualities, considering them weaknesses (for nobody experiences a parent’s shadow side as clearly as his or her children). But that week, I was nearly desperate to retrieve them, for I was neither whole nor balanced without them. If only I could channel my mother’s energy, I knew I could relate to the other parties with loving-kindness and handle the situation with grace and poise. As an extra measure, I wore one of her bracelets that day – a delicate chain with gold hearts and pearls – as a visual reminder to stay calm and rooted in kindness. It worked, and I left the meeting feeling relieved. (Thanks, Mom!)

As I floated in my kayak one afternoon this week, the following words drifted through my mind as I thought of my mother:

As Jesus taught us to pray

And our mothers taught us to love,

Let us forgive our parents’ mortality

And embrace our divine heritage

Which is unconditional love and light.

When I write my way through grief, there’s a natural tendency to want to tie it up neatly by the end. But the human reality of my mom’s death is not neat. Pardon my language, but it sucks not to have my mom physically in my life. I derive strength from knowing I am not alone in this journey and that losing a parent is part of the natural course of human life. But I also find strength in the recognition that my mom’s legacy lives on through me. Integrating the qualities that I used to push away is a journey towards wholeness and a blessing. To discover my mom’s essence inside the very breath I breathe is a joy to which the only response is gratitude. Gratitude like mighty rays of sunlight that evaporate the tears of the clouds that temporarily cover the luminous sky.

It cuts through the sadness.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mom Moments

Mom Moments

If you know me or have followed my blog for any length of time, it’s probably clear that I’m quite open-minded when it comes to spirituality. However, there is a part of me that is surprisingly skeptical and discerning and searches for logical, rational explanations whenever something out of the ordinary happens – probably because I am so open and want to keep myself in check. So I’m not as easily convinced as I let on and tend to be more impressed when skeptics or non-believers have profound experiences than when I do. But I certainly have been having my share of “Mom moments” lately.

Here are a few examples:

I was driving home from grocery shopping one evening and felt a gentle nudge to turn on the car radio. The song that was playing was John Denver’s “Back Home Again.” Not only did John Denver hold a very special place in my mom’s heart, but I don’t recall hearing any of his songs on the radio in recent years. Hearing this song was out of the ordinary enough to really get my attention. And the refrain hit home: “Hey, it’s good to be back home again.” Not to mention, my mom grew up on a farm (as the lyrics continue).

I had another experience while driving. Every day – usually when I’m in the car – I say a little prayer in which I ask for blessings on my mom’s soul and guidance and support for myself and others. Then I express gratitude for various things. This particular day, right after I said, “Amen,” the car CD player turned on by itself! It clicked to a new CD and played the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song, “Teach Your Children”!

Here are some lyrics that really spoke to me:

And you of tender years
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by
And so please help them with your youth
They seek the truth before they can die
Don’t you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you

Now, that was really weird! But sometime after the fact, my inner skeptic wondered if it was possible that I forgot I’d turned on the CD player. However, the surprise I felt when the player clicked on led me to believe that was not the case. The moment I got out of my car, I saw a friend who also had lost a parent recently. I told him about the “moment” I’d just had, and without missing a beat, he said the same thing had happened to him six times in a row. The player turned on, and my friend turned it off – six times! After the sixth time, he acknowledged his parent’s presence, and the player didn’t turn on again.

And then there was the time I sat in the living room with a basket of Universal Cards on my lap. Each card has a word written on it, and there’s a companion book that suggests some possible associations for each word. I was really missing my mom that morning and asked for a message from her. I closed my eyes and picked a card, which was a card I’d been choosing a lot lately. No big deal. I put the basket of cards away and went about my business. About a half hour later, I returned to the living room and found one single Universal Card lying face-up on the floor in the middle of the room with the word “Healing” written on it. The entire “Healing” page in the book resonated with me. It began: “Healing influences and energies are around you… They can be called on to heal any aspect of your life.”

Hmmm…

There was the woodpecker pecking on the outside of the house right next to the window. I had only experienced that once before – when a woodpecker knocked on the door right after my mom received her cancer diagnosis. And there was the unexplained pounding on the window (heard by my husband, who was startled and looked for the source) when my husband was becoming impatient with me for taking so long to get out the door.

There was the sweet yet vulnerable cheep…cheep…cheep! of the baby birds in our yard who had just left the nest and were learning about flying and independence as the mama bird watched protectively over them from a distance.

The unexplained smells. The music that arrives fully formed and comforts me – and gives me goosebumps from head to toe when I sing it softly (without letting anyone else hear it because it feels too tender). Transcendent experiences that I wouldn’t even attempt to describe because the feeling element is lost so easily in translation. (Honestly, I don’t know if the emotional charge of any of these experiences can be transferred to another person.)

And then there are dreams.

Over the weekend – exactly one month after my mom passed away – she showed up in my dreams for the first time. It happened during a rare, late afternoon nap. I can’t recall what I had been dreaming, but all of a sudden, I was at the performing arts center where my mom spent her 34-year career, talking with a few people at the very back of the amphitheater.

I noticed a woman who looked like my mom (about 15 years ago) coming toward me down the hill on one of the walkways. She was wearing a navy blue and white striped top and navy blue slacks and looked very happy, pleasant, and totally in her element. Yet, she was in a hurry, as if she had important responsibilities to attend to. She scurried by me, en route to the seats or (most likely) backstage, and I turned my head, thinking that she looked like my mom. Then I realized she was my mom, and I gasped and woke up, heart pounding! It felt so real!

A few days later, in preparation for a meeting with a newspaper columnist who is writing an article about my mom, I came across a video from her retirement celebration, which I’d never watched. At the end of the the video, there were a few photos of her with her very favorite artists, and in two of them she was wearing the same outfit she had worn in my dream!

This morning, I dreamed of her for the second time. In the dream, it was about 10:30 at night when I received a phone call from one of my parents’ neighbors, who told me something we both felt my dad needed to be aware of. I wanted to call my dad right away, but my mom was still very sick, and I didn’t want to disturb her by calling the home phone. So I called my dad’s cell phone instead – and my mom answered. Then she was immediately in the room with me. I was in bed (where I actually was asleep and dreaming this dream), and she was standing at the side of the bed looking over me in a peach colored nightgown. I can’t remember exactly what she said to me, but she acknowledged that she was dying. With tears streaming down my face, I replied, “I wish we had more time together.” She bent over, and we hugged each other. I could feel her shoulder bones because she was so emaciated. But mostly, I felt the love.

I was at a used bookstore the other day and felt nudged to pick up a certain book and read the page I opened to. The words on the page were about the regrets you have after the death of a loved one being different than the ones you had previously. An example was regretting that you put your loved one through radiation treatments and all the related suffering. When I opened the book, I wasn’t aware of any lingering regrets, for I felt so much healing took place between my mom and me during the past year. But when I awoke from the dream, I knew better – and cried a river of tears – for it occurred to me that my mom and I never really said goodbye. We never grieved together over having to part so soon. I tried my best to help her let go and to assure her that it was going to be okay and that what she was experiencing was normal. I did all my crying when I was alone. She read my blog faithfully until she was too sick to sit down at the computer, and some of my writing from December through May was a means for me to communicate to her that I knew she was dying without forcing the issue. I happened to arrive at my parents’ house right after she finished reading one of my posts, and she came downstairs, gave me a hug, and told me that I have always been loved. In the week before she died, she beamed and exclaimed, “You’re great!” The last understandable words she spoke to me were, “I love you so much.”

We said goodbye between the lines but never came out and said it while she was still lucid. We had some conversations in which she indicated that she realized she was dying, but she didn’t seem to want to talk about it. There was a line I felt I couldn’t cross. I wasn’t able to tell her how much I’ll miss her and that I wish we had more time together – until she wasn’t able to communicate. Most of all, I didn’t want to burden her with my sorrow. I wanted her to let go and move on without worrying about anyone else. I didn’t want to hold her back.

But in dreams, we get a second chance. We get to say goodbye. And it was for real.

Looking through photos, I realized that the peach nightgown my mom wore in the dream was the same nightgown she had on when she died.

There have been other experiences that leave me with a sense of awe, peace, sweetness, love, and/or relief, and my “Mom moments” have much in common with what other family members and friends have experienced. But I think that’s more than enough for now.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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