Something about my mother

April 13th, 2008

She was standing on my front porch, right where I would find her. I rushed up and hugged her. I was so happy, although she was dead. Her body was like ash in my arms, crumbling and decayed. She was dead, but I was not afraid or repulsed. She took me up, like in a flying dream, but not a flying dream. We flew into space, into the vast darkness and pulsing light. I felt celestial wind in my face. It was exhilarating.

I asked, “Is there a heaven?”

She said yes.

“What’s it like?”

Like this, she said, like this.

***

My mother died on April 13, 2001. Seven years, and this is how I remember her.

It was an attribute of her deep Christianity and her final, modest confusion that my mother believed she was dying on Easter, and it was, for her. But for the rest of us it was in the small hours before Good Friday, the dark night after Maundy Thursday, the day commemorating the Last Supper, when Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them.

***

Not too long ago I chanced upon a telling of what has become a bit of family lore, that my mother, a devoted Lutheran and good churchgoer, had never known that I was Buddhist. She would not have stood for that, the reasoning goes among my relatives, who have mistaken the strength of her faith for hardness.

What is true for me, what I remember, is what my mother said when I told her of my first encounter with my Buddhist teacher and the peace that I had found. What she said then, 15 years ago, was what today I recognize as the ultimate sanction a mother can give.

“Now I don’t have to worry about you anymore.”

***

It’s not that she was flawless. She did a lot of things I know she wished she hadn’t, a few things I wished she hadn’t, and some of them, like marry my difficult dad, she did more than once.

Still, none of that stays.

What stays is something else, something that is replenished with every recollection, with every blink and heartbeat.

When my father died four years after mom, he had just begun to keep company with a sturdy and decent woman. I told her of my dream about my mom and she made it real.

“When you can remember it,” she said, “it’s not a dream. It’s a visit.”

***

My mom brought me right back home, to the front door, and then she said something.

“There’s only one thing I want you to do.”

What is it, I asked. I would have done anything she said. I was filled with immense joy and thankfulness.

“Love Jesus,” my mother said.

I will, I said. I will.

Only later, upon waking, did I wonder. And then I stopped wondering.

***

I am sorry.

I am sorry that I am too often clever, unkind, rude, and critical. Too snide and quick. Sometimes when I am like this it causes others to hurt. Even when it inflicts no outright pain, it causes confusion, and that is the most chronic and enduring pain of all. So for your sake, for my mother’s, and for all of us, I’m sorry.

I offer this reparation not because I am a Buddhist. Not because I was raised a Christian. I say this because I am my mother’s daughter. Being my mother’s daughter is the only way I can know who she might have been, and the only way you can know her is through me. This is how I keep her alive. This is how I keep peace. By loving as she asked me, as she showed me, as Jesus loved.

There are many names, but only one love.

Rest in peace, Mom. You don’t have to worry about me anymore.

***
Artice Patschke Tate
June 20, 1933 – April 13, 2001

33 Comments »

  1. thank you for sharing this.

    what beautiful, inspirational, loving words.

    blessings,

    tammy

    Comment by tammy — April 12, 2008 @ 5:48 pm

  2. namaste

    and

    thank you,

    beloved Karen

    Comment by kathryn — April 13, 2008 @ 3:03 am

  3. As I struggle and comtemplate my own spiritualness, this post came just at the right most beautiful time. Thank you.

    Comment by Mollie — April 13, 2008 @ 4:06 am

  4. Your words do far more good than harm. I think your mother must still be proud of you. And she doesn’t have to worry about you anymore.

    Comment by RocketMom — April 13, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  5. I am in awe of the tremendous love between you and your mom. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Comment by Meg Casey — April 13, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  6. I am sorry too.
    xo m

    Comment by Mika — April 13, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

  7. There is enough love to go around.

    Comment by Shalet — April 13, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

  8. Such a beautiful post, Karen.

    Comment by Jena Strong — April 13, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

  9. This post moved me. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Shelli — April 13, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  10. Beautiful post. I love those kind of “dreams”…. so powerful.

    Comment by Robin Westphal — April 13, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

  11. A beautiful tribute. You shine a light on her that leaves me with inspiration whenever you write about her. — s.

    Comment by Shawn — April 14, 2008 @ 12:50 am

  12. It’s wonderful that you have such beautiful memories of her to pass on to Georgia.

    Comment by Kristin H. — April 14, 2008 @ 2:58 am

  13. I wish my mother and I had been able to reach that don’t-worry place.

    Beautiful and kind.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by marta — April 14, 2008 @ 4:36 am

  14. this is one of my favorite things you have written. perhaps that i have ever read. our blood is no doubt one blood. one love. namaste to you, your mama, jesus and all the rest. we are all One.
    and i don’t like saying things like that because i know nothing about oneness in my fragmented self, BUT, i do know that. that there is only one Love. This, I am sure of.
    mb

    Comment by mb — April 14, 2008 @ 5:08 am

  15. so beautiful. this is a post to revisit, for sure.

    Comment by nyjlm — April 14, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  16. “When you can remember it,” she said, “it’s not a dream. It’s a visit.”

    I especially appreciated that part, as the dreams about my father have stopped being just me yelling and angry at him. Last time, it was me not recognizing him and him reminding me it’s dad. Maybe someday, when I grow up a little more, they’ll be happy visits…

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — April 14, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

  17. Beautiful.

    Comment by She She — April 14, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  18. Love, connectedness, these are our healing realities. Thank you for connecting us to you and your mom today. Beautiful post.

    Comment by Judy Merrill-Smith — April 14, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

  19. This is a deep and lovely tribute to a mother. I love it.

    Comment by TheElementary — April 14, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  20. This is so beautiful. You are so beautiful. I am continually amazed by how succinctly you pare down the essence of the most complex. this post has inspired tears, and I am reaching out to you across the country for a hug :). No, your mom does NOT have to worry about you.

    Comment by Courtney — April 15, 2008 @ 2:21 am

  21. Dear friends, I really do feel your hugs and love, and I really do need them too.

    Comment by Karen — April 15, 2008 @ 2:50 am

  22. Thank you for this post. It moved me to tears.
    A sincere hug for you, Karen.

    Els

    Comment by Anonymous — April 15, 2008 @ 8:42 am

  23. Beautiful, Karen. Just beautiful.

    Comment by Mama Zen — April 15, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  24. sweet beauty.
    this touches me in the most important of places.
    i leave being affirmed that i don’t need to worry about myself or anyone else.
    one love.

    Comment by jessamyn — April 15, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  25. no worries.
    only love remains.
    You come to my dreams. your mother to comes to yours. asleep. awake.
    I so often don’t know where I really am in this circle, this cycle of things. But I rest in being here with you.
    i love you.

    Comment by bella — April 15, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

  26. Lovely post. It helps on this night of my eight-year-old being constantly angry at me for being too angry too often during his short life. It reminds me that there is something underlying and bigger than that, even as we figure this out, too.

    Comment by Sandra — April 16, 2008 @ 4:33 am

  27. Beautiful, Karen. Thank you for sharing this. I dream about my mom a lot and then there are times when she visits. I love that this can happen. And that it’s not just me. 🙂

    Comment by Mary Ann (Moanna) — April 16, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  28. Lovely. And it’s got me thinking about Thomas Merton. Time to go back and read him again.

    Comment by Gemma — April 17, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  29. Beautiful. (thank you; i’m going to share this post with my mother)

    Comment by Allison — April 18, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

  30. Thank you so much for sharing this. It leaves me bleary. Once again, I am so grateful for you.

    Namaste.

    Comment by Lisa — April 20, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

  31. Thank you so very much for sharing this with us, I find it uplifting, wonderful and wise. Take care Jen xx

    Comment by Jen Ballantyne — April 26, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  32. Dear Sister,
    I have had visits from Mom this month, too–in fact, I felt her presence last night. It made me long for her, for Texas…and even for Aunt Nancy, who is so like her. I remember what Mom said to me about your Buddhism–that she was happy you had found something to comfort you. I miss her every day…

    Comment by Tricia — April 30, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

  33. I’m catching up on my feeds and after reading your post I felt compelled to reply. Today is my first mothers day without my mother. She crossed over on July 7th (07/07/07). Your post had me in tears…good ones and sad ones. Thank you.

    Comment by Joanne — May 11, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

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