burn on, bright candle

When death got personal, I couldn’t turn away the questions.
Where are you, mom?
Can you hear me?
Can you speak to me?
How are you doing?
I ask the questions often, while going about my daily life. Sometimes I’ll be in the car. Sometimes meditating. Sometimes in the shower. I just want to know. Even knowing that I can’t know.
Can you give me a sign, mom? Something to go on? A whisper of your soul?
Interestingly, I generally do hear from her. “I’m here, Char. I’m fine. Things will be okay. Take care of your dad.”
Do these thoughts just arise from my own thinking? Not really from mom at all? How would I know the difference? Does the difference matter?
Traditional ideas of afterlife would help here. Unfortunately, I don’t hold to those. I do believe in something more, the continuation of the soul, the continuity of life and death. I just would like to know more about what it is.
When my daughter Emily was born, for the first few days it looked like she might not make it. Blessedly she survived and thrived. But what if she had not? Had she passed back into the void rather than continued in this world, where would she have gone? Just nowhere? Three days on earth and that’s it, the end of Emily forever?
This does not compute for me, that a soul would come and go so quickly, leaving no mark whatsoever save for a few fragile memories. It just doesn’t figure that a life so miraculously conceived would so casually cease.
So it is with mom. Nearly 90 years on this earth, and then she is just gone? Nowhere ever again? Surely there is more to her than that, more to this life than that. Mom could hold her own conversation for an hour without breaking a sweat. She’s not going to stop talking just because her body is through.
Yet I don’t delude myself that it’s not possible. Maybe life is just that way, playing out its part for as long as the spotlights are on, then no more.
Out, out, brief candle! as Shakespeare had it. Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.
Powerful image, but no, it doesn’t compute. The flame of mom is not so easily extinguished. She burned too brightly, with such intensity, with such a joyfully dancing flame, to go dark entirely.
Her soul burns still, somewhere. She speaks to me still, somehow. She lives still, in some way that I do not understand. Probably never will.
Until, perhaps, we shine together, out there in the mysterious vastness that surrounds this little stage we call life.

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4 Responses to burn on, bright candle

  1. marg says:

    Char, this post touched me deeply.
    I still hear her too.

  2. Maureen Honey says:

    As her daughter, I too ask these questions and wonder where she is. She can’t be gone. I can’t accept it. I’m talking to Mom directly in a journal, asking her where she is, and telling her my thoughts about her. Does it help? I don’t know. I just have to do it. This is a beautiful tribute, Char. Thank you for sharing it with me.

  3. Hi Char,

    That’s a beautiful meditation, especially with the photo. I go around every day with this fear that my memories may be slipping away, already. Your thoughts here help me to bring her back. Which is more painful, bringing memories back, or fearing they are gone? There are so many good things to remember that it has to be the first option. For that, I especially need to be with the family who loved her. I am thankful that we are still here to remember Betty. love, mike

  4. Ken Wolf says:

    Wonderful, beautiful piece, Charles. I share your view of how the universe must work.

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