If you’re over 20, then you have an eclectic collection of emotion swirling around you on a day like Valentine’s Day. You’re feeling love or loss, anticipation or frustration, expectation or disappointment, touched or forgotten. By the time you’re this age you will have given cards and gotten them from raggedy cut out hearts with glitter glue to elaborate store bought numbers with sentiments that could only have been created by the writers at All My Children, circa 1979.
I was fishing around my emotional cabinetry as this day approached and I found an anomalous emotion rising like a chunk of parmesan rind in a pot of simmering red sauce: anger. I grabbed at it and started to pull the feeling towards me to find out what it might be anchored to and up came a memory of my mother.
Not a huge surprise given that she passed away on Valentine’s Day in 1998 after losing a long battle with emphysema. She loved her cigarettes. Even after the diagnosis, she was the one pulling off her oxygen mask and trying to reach for her cigarettes as we flew out of our chairs to stop her before the living room became a scene from a Transporter movie. She didn’t get the whole oxygen/fire thing. Her doctor told her if she quit right then, she could have at least another 10 to 15 years. She said she didn’t want to “get fat”. She’d rather be dead than fat. Wish granted. She weighed about 87 pounds in her casket. Very
I realized that I was mad that her use of cigarettes as a dieting tool meant that she never saw my daughter play soccer or volleyball or my son play lacrosse; both kids as captains of their varsity teams. I was mad that she wasn’t at any of their graduations from high school or from college. I was mad that she was already too sick to travel and her last years were spent, not near her beloved Lake Michigan and the fresh green smells of the Mid West, but in the cement and scorching heat of Phoenix; a city she reluctantly moved to when my father was transferred and vowed to leave one day. I was mad that she couldn’t, no scratch that; wouldn’t do the one simple thing that could have let her be there for all the kids, grandkids and great grandkids, at least for a little while. Put down the cigarettes. I did it. She could have too. She could have been here right now.
As I was swimming around in the angry soup that morning, I reached for my blood pressure medication and holding that bottle in my hand the divine irony of the situation poured like ice water over my head. How is not taking care of my own body any different from what she did? Who am I to hold a grudge about her stubborn continuation of a lifestyle that, literally, killed her when I was doing so little to improve my own?
The Hawaiian Huna culture has a beautiful practice called Ho’ Oponopono. It’s a healing ritual of forgiveness and completion and though the traditional practice is a much longer prayer, I can boil the essence of it down for you. There are four things we must voice if we want to be healed and complete with any one or anything in our lives and it does not matter if the other person is present or not, living or not. This is between your own higher self and theirs. The words are simple and profound. Here they are;
I forgive you.
I love you.
That’s it. There is nothing that can’t be covered within the boundaries of those four statements. Think of them as a mantra. I am spending a little photo visit time with mom today to tell her this and then I am going to say this to myself and start to do for my own kids what she wasn’t able to do for mine; be there as long as I possibly can.
Happy Valentine’s Day Mom.