Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy,

Folks who know me well know the past several months have been tough for my little nuclear family. My goal now is to mark and honor my beloved mother’s recent death as the explorer of all things human that I am at my core. Doing so moves me forward in a way that feels real to me now.

Feature Rather Than Footnote

One of my reasons for this piece is my reluctance to skip noting such an immense experience while contributing to life through a weekly column. The sense I have is that stepping over my mother’s death would block me from continuing in a healthy way to the writing process I committed to for 2019–so I’ll trust this reflection as another contribution. There will be readers who can relate to exactly where I am right now. To the fact that my mother’s death has catapulted me into unknown country.

Because the truth is, though my mother’s fast decline over the past few months and her death four weeks ago rocked my world, I’ve also had to describe her passing as magnificent. Strangely, like witnessing a woman give birth and who knew what she was doing. The awe that I feel now offsets the mountain of pain that comes with losing her. Even the phrase “losing her” feels bizarre to me. Foreign terrain, indeed.

New Phase, New Questions, New Explorations

Death brings up so much. So much about life. About who we are. What we believe. About what really matters to us. What do I believe—and care about—now? And how does my mother’s death effect, well, everything?

Yes, as a lifelong explorer of the human journey, her death ushers in a new phase for me. I’ve never been here before. There’s life before her passing, and life after her passing. And yes, I have a new exploration now. It began last fall with her complicated surgery and my intense fear of losing her to some terrible complications–with the profound loss of control my family in central Florida experienced when Hurricane Michael hit a few days after she finally came home from the hospital to recuperate. And with little professional help available to her from the decimated medical community for weeks, while the aggressive cancer her surgeons thought they’d contained spread instead.

Dying and Death as Part of Life

So, behind the scenes of all my work and everything I couldn’t control, I began studying end-of-life issues in ways I haven’t been ready for before. And as I’ve said to a few friends lately–these studies don’t feel temporary. I’m experiencing them as a natural next expression of my passion for the human journey and my life goal of contributing to others. So that’s something I have right now. In this moment, at the beginning of this period of grieving, I’m grateful for my intention to contribute to life in ever deepening ways. My intention aids me these days. It brings me moments of peace. Gets me up in the morning.

Natural Culmination: Strong Words for a Strong Woman

As I was wheeling my mother out of a surgical follow-up almost exactly a month before her death–one that, in all the confusion after Hurricane Michael, I’d flown across the country for, thinking it was finally a first meeting with an oncologist–and after we’d gotten the bad news that the cancer was now pervasive, she said, “I’ve never really thought about death.” I replied, mid-stride, “I know. You’ve always been a rather pragmatic person.”

Part of my amazement now is how she got in her own private heart whatever there was for her to get in the four weeks that followed. Such that she was done with the situation.

So the unknown territory I’m in now includes a new layer of respect for the seemingly vulnerable, wrecked woman my once vital, self-possessed mother had become. In fact, she showed her husband and children in her final hours that at her core she wasn’t wrecked at all. She got about the business of making her passage to whatever comes next, and without waiting for a muted deathbed birthday celebration. She did it the day before her birthday. On a soul level, she did it her way.

And Magnificent Mystery at the Heart of Everything?

Mystery for my mother in some afterlife dimension? For me as loving, grieving daughter? As facilitator for folks intent on living their dreams? Yes. Yes. And yes. I feel freed by her peaceful passing after years of her progressive physical difficulties and all my anxieties for her. I feel free to invite her into my life and the lives of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in all kinds of new ways in the present and future. Free to learn everything here of value to me and all of us.

On that note, I’ve begun a journal of related, already delicious synchronicities, including an amazing exchange I had yesterday—while writing this paragraph—with a soulful child. And I’m making unusual new choices every day now. About decor. Fashion. And my mother’s other passions like hair, makeup, and skin and nail care. Inviting her ever deeper into my life. Exploring this unknown territory with her.

And I already feel, just weeks after her death, the truth that my relationship with her will continue to unfold. I feel that mystery. It’s beautiful to me in a way I’m profoundly grateful for at this point in my own life journey. So today, right now, I know this: the mystery that I take time to attend to, accompanying beauty, and my gratitude for my still fascinating mother are lighting and lightening my way as I get back to walking my path this season.


Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy,