"For a second I was almost jealous of the clouds. Why was he looking to them for an escape when I was right here beside him?" ~ Kamila Shamsie, Kartography
My mom loved clouds. Whenever I look at the sky, I think of her, whether there are tons of clouds, or just one, or none at all. She was always taking pictures of clouds wherever she went. Usually at sunset, frequently with palm trees in the foreground, almost always with a pink blur in one of the corners - her finger.
Yesterday I was on a plane for the first time since losing her. I was in a window seat, which is rare, but fitting, because as I looked out the window while we soared into the sky, through one layer and then the next of cloud after cloud, I suddenly thought, "I wonder if this is how she felt when she left?"
Until then, I'd been mostly terrified every time I thought of that moment when she finally let go. I always think how scary it must feel to exhale for the last time and silently slip away, knowing what you're leaving behind. Knowing what you'll never see or feel or touch again. And not knowing where you'll go.
But then the thought creeps in that maybe at that last minute, that last breath, somehow you do know exactly where you're going, and it's amazing, and that's what helps you release your grip on this world, and turn toward whatever awaits you in the next.
So when I looked out the window and saw all white, and realized I was completely within a cloud, I wondered about her. I wondered if at her last moment she inhaled deeply and smiled and said "Finally!", outstretching her arms, tipping her head back, and letting go as her spirit found it's buoyancy again and she soared, leaving behind the frustration and the pain and the cage that her body had become.
A friend of mine sent me a card and inside she put a poem. It describes the departing soul as a ship with beautiful white sails, gliding towards the horizon. And as she sails, everyone who watches her slip further and further away says quietly, "There she goes." And those beyond the horizon wait expectantly, and when they see her coming over to their side, they cry out in jubilation, "Here she comes!"
I keep that card with me in my purse, and I read it from time to time. I'm comforted by the reminder that she is not alone. It helps me step outside of my pain and realize that in order for her pain to end, she had to go towards the horizon, towards the unknown. And that the second she let go of this world, as I crumbled, she became whole. She took hold of my sister's hand for the first time in eleven years. The joy she must have felt to be reunited with her first girl lifts my broken heart up, and while it doesn't heal it, it gives me a soft place to land when I stumble and fall.
When I returned from my quick trip, Nine, Eleven, and the traveling husband all welcomed me with bright faces and open arms. I breathed them in and looked up at the sky knowing that as my Mom has become the clouds, I have become her. I want her with me like my girls want me with them. And while I can't have what I want, I can give them what they need, and I know that my Mom is watching, smiling, finally, from a place of peace.
We are both home now.
We are both home.