Yesterday, I went to the sea to put a flower on Mother's grave. It's been over a year now since she died after a long illness and extended hospital ordeal. I thought I was ready for her death since I had "prepared" myself by anticipating its eventuality and noting the terminal disease Mother had fought for nine years. Of course, one can never be "ready." It was awful. It remains a great loss. So I went to the sea yesterday, Mother's Day Sunday. Dad sprinkled her ashes last year in Florida, a continent away, in Tampa Bay which connects to the Gulf of Mexico which connects to all the oceans.
I live near the Pacific. I picked a small lavender wild flower (Mother loved flowers). "Why," I thought, "why do this? What's the point?" Something inside me drove me on. I had to cross a busy highway barricaded with construction. I did not have much time (I was at work). The beach is wide at that point, and the water seemed so far away. I pressed on. The sand was loose and difficult to walk on. The sea was beautiful — blue, with long waves breaking a little way from shore and gently lapping the sand. Mesmerized, I approached the shoreline. Children were playing, running from the waves. I went to where the waves were just lapping the sand, stood a moment thinking of Mother, and gently tossed the tiny flower into a receding wave. It stayed stranded on the sand until another wave carried it out a little further. I watched several more waves move it about and almost did not see the big one. Rapid backward steps saved my feet from a dunking — all but the very end of the sole at the toe.
I had stood at, practically in, Mother's grave, and placed a flower, swallowed by the sea. I turned and walked back, deeply moved. My job brought me out to that shore again an hour later. The sea was very different. I knew it was not terribly physically different — the addition of one tiny flower to the vast ocean is surely not significant. Yet the sea looked and felt so very different for me. I had made a gesture out of love. I had done something for Mother's memory. I was a little more at peace. I felt she was too. I felt her presence, as if she were saying, "Thank you."
Thank you, Mom.
LARRY BERNARD writes us that his current line of work is "operating electric streetcars, modern and historic, for the San Francisco Municipal Railway."
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