A couple nights ago, I had a dream in which I had entirely forgotten that my wife was dead because she was present in the dream. It was illogical as dreams often are. For some reason she needed to check in with a doctor about her Multiple Sclerosis, and I remember asking her if she had considered consulting with her original MS specialist, not her oncologist.
Of course, when I awakened I remembered that Holly had died and that both her doctors had long since moved on with their lives. Her MS specialist had retired to Colorado, leaving behind a clinic bearing his name (the first of its kind in America). Her oncologist was in semi-retirement in a small Minnesota town, leaving behind him a career in which he had risen to the post of medical director of a large Twin Cities hospital system. But the point is, in the 22 years since Holly died, they had gotten on with their lives and Holly had not. So everyone had moved on in his/her own ways.
Now I don’t begrudge the fact that Holly’s doctors have lived while she did not—it’s just the way that things are. In fact, I have learned that there are certain “advantages” to being a widower. One year when Holly was alive, I forgot all about Mother’s Day and earned her wrath. She was really hurt by that lapse, yet since her death, I have never been at risk of repeating that same mistake again. When my own mother died a year after Holly, Mother’s Day became the Hallmark Holiday it always was, and it is now is a day almost like any other.
My only living ties with the past are the survival of Holly’s mother, now 93, and her life, too, has moved on. In this morning’s call, she talked a lot about her great-grandchildren and other things that remind me that I have endured a major fork in the road of my life. And then there is Henry, of course, whose observance of Mother’s Day has always been unspoken, as if making too much of it would reopen a wound that has never entirely healed.
This is not to say that Mother’s Day—or Father’s Day, for that matter—is entirely buried and forgotten. If anything, the role my parents assumed in my upbringing and the role I assumed in my own son’s, have moved to the forefront of my thinking almost every day.
A couple weeks ago, Travis Montgomery sent me a letter that asked, why did I first get into this work on behalf of kids accused of parricide?
When I ask myself why I do this work, I think of my own parents and how they always supported me. They weren’t perfect people, but I always felt loved. They set a standard of behavior which is second-nature to me after all these years. When I hear stories like Travis’ where a parent did harm to their child—well, it just seems so inconceivable to me and is the antithesis of how my parents were with me. Years ago I came to the realization that some young people have grown up without ever knowing first-hand what being in a healthy family is like, and there’s something in me that wants to try and correct it.
So for me, it is Mother’s Day every day.
That all may sound pretty selfless, but the deeper truth is anything-but. Because I believe in reincarnation, I want to create a legacy that some future “me” may notice. There are so many things in my life about which I say: “If only I’d known then what I know now…” For me, this work is a chance for the continuity of experience.
The beautiful thing about believing in reincarnation is that you get unlimited second chances. In my own life, I’m willing to gamble that I can do something that will not be forgotten, that people I have helped will carry on my mission after I am gone. And who knows? Maybe in a future time or life I will “remember” it. If not, nothing ventured, nothing gained. There could be worse failures.
Yet as long as I perpetuate the values which animated the actions of my own parents and my wife, I feel as though I am keeping them alive outside of dreams. And that is immediately satisfying.
Groove of the Day
89° and Clear