The gift of death.
Recently I heard, through facebook of course, about the death of one of my oldest friends
and surrogate mother. She knew me from the age of about two, at least until the last few years, when she didn’t know me at all and asked her husband “who is that, why did you bring her here? I don’t like her.” I wept. The last time I saw her she was asleep and while the nurses asked if they should wake her up, I said no, she will only yell at me. Then I wept again, right there in the hall of the nursing home. As I did not cry for my own mother.
This was the woman who first told me it wasn’t my fault my mother was sick; that I was not crazy, that I was a good person. She was the only one for some time.
I felt her death as an inconsolable loss, although she was 91. Then I started reading The Fifth Agreement, by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz and in the process of that reading realized that Lil’s death is a gift to me.(besides the fact that it is about her and not
about me at all.) The end of life of one of the people who has held my story the longest means that parts of my story are forgotten, but it also gives me an opportunity to let go of the story I have come to identify as me.
To Lil, I was poor Amel, the girl who is always so quiet and so polite and so grown and
so alone. The girl with the sick mother who is awkward and doesn’t have friends(except that tomboy, what was her name? Amel, how is Nancy?). Her story about herself, as a housewife who only used her Masters in Social Work for one year of married life, was that she cared about the downtrodden and rescued hopeless cases. I was downtrodden. While it was very comforting to have a rescuer, someone who saw me as needing to escape my mother’s clutches and sickness, someone deserving of love and pity, it also entrapped me. She did not see me as someone who could actually escape, just as someone
who was put upon and sad. She never once gave me nice clothing, any more than my mother did. There was nary a birthday or Hannukah gift; she bought my mother’s line completely that nice things were not for her children. She did take me to the symphony a few times, but there was never a shirt or a sweater or a piece of jewelry like you might give a girl child you called close as relative to you. I had never thought of this, until I wondered why I’d never sent her a present, except for one bouquet of flowers. And a Medicine Buddha talisman, which she scoffed at.
Now that Lil is gone, I have an opportunity to stop being “poor Amel” who needs a rescuer and someone to feel sorry for her. I am not the girl with the sick mother who is always a little out of place and underdressed and too quiet for her own good. I am not the trapped one who only has friends who feel sorry for her. I may even be deserving of nice clothes, not from Artie’s Secondhand and Irregulars(it doesn’t matter, you can hardly see it) clothing store, but from this year’s rack of new designs. Maybe. Maybe I will have friends who do not think they are doing a public service by befriending me; who can enjoy my company without thinking they are saving me from someone else who has done me wrong. That would be nice. Who are not trying to be a hero; who are not trying to be anything but who they authentically are.