The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend on January 7th, 2020. It has been modified it to be shared with a wider audience. I am grateful to the dear ones in my life who hold space for the free expression of radical vulnerability. I am grateful to my readers and fans for your kind and respectful viewing. My intention in sharing is that others may find solace in my process. Thank you.
My dear friend,
Happy new year to you! I have owed you an email for ages and well, here it is. Please be forewarned that the content is heavy, but not unbearable. I encourage you to time it at your discretion. Thank you for reading. All love to you. <3
After several years of relentless travel, I had projected in 2018 that this would be a time of slowing down, connecting with my parents and returning to school. Over the spring and summer months I began building upon an energetic framework that I had laid the previous fall; creating sanctuary, harmonious beauty, cultivating receptivity and loving kindness in my relationships with my parents. What I could not predict is that I was actually coming home to hold space for my mother in the final months of her life. I had not seen coming the flurry of appointments and phone calls, my mother becoming increasingly overwhelmed and weakened as the cancer ate away at her physical body.
Being self-employed, I cancelled my tour plans immediately. My mom and I have always had a deeply close love/hate relationship; our love heightened by our shared birthdays and having literally everything in common, the hate a result of lingering effects of her unhealed childhood trauma. After coming home from India, I felt as though I had entered into a state of grace, in which I was capable of loving my mother unconditionally, even when she was being exceptionally difficult, which was often. I was more affectionate than I had ever been, constantly hugging her and telling her I loved her. It was incredible to experience our relationship in this new way. After 29 years, I was finally able to forgive.
In her final months, we had many long talks. She told me stories about her life, many I had heard before, but some that were new. We worked together in the garden, she taught me about planting bulbs, and which months the hydrangeas and the roses needed to be cut back. We took walks in our neighborhood, then drove to other neighborhoods, arm in arm we took ‘garden tours’, gathering inspiration and discussing plans to remodel the deck, replace trees, plant vegetables; designing together a future we knew she would not see.
My mama lived her life fully and was nothing if not tenacious.
Born in Camden, New Jersey, she experienced intense poverty and abuse at home. She escaped by spending all her time at school. She excelled academically, was top of her class; a prom queen in spite of being an unpopular 'square'. She eventually paid her own way through college, even though her mother said they were "not the kind of people who did that."
Over the years she embarked on many adventures of self discovery, and she was passionate about exploring the world. In her late 20's she rejoiced in exploring the west, traveling to San Francisco in her VW bug, studying dance under Gabrielle Roth at Esalen, and plein air painting on Mt. Tam. After returning to the east coast, she went on to get her Masters in teaching, later investing in real estate while running her stained glass business, a bed & breakfast, and teaching art to high schoolers in a small New England town.
In her early 40's, a health crisis led her to liquidate most of her belongings and travel to Central and South America. It was there that she met my father and realized her dream of building the Amazon Botanical Gardens, an ecological sanctuary in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest. On her 46th birthday, she had her first and only child... me.
Ten years ago she was backpacking in Nepal, alone, for two months. Ten weeks ago she was yelling at me because I moved her painting canvas supplies in the aftermath of a plumbing disaster.
And then, in a whirlwind of intensity, she was gone.
The final weeks leading to her death were, without a doubt, the most difficult experience of my life.
She passed away at home. With the help of our gracious hospice team, my father and I were able to care for her in her final weeks, and for that we are immensely grateful. I had been sitting with her for some time and went downstairs to burn sage and ‘do ceremony’, as they say. In the weeks previous I had been focusing heavily on magic, prayer, and manifestation, when not drowning my sorrows in cannabis, ice cream, and Netflix. One’s personal rituals are hard to describe, but suffice it to say that at the moment she died, I experienced a powerful sense of knowing wash over me, as I released the girl I have been and stepped into the woman I am becoming. Moments later, my father called me upstairs. She had called him in, then taken him ‘to a ceremony in the jungle’, referring to their experiences working with shamans in Peru.
It’s hard to believe that it happened just five weeks ago. Everything that followed seems so much harder to describe. Time seems to stretch or compress depending on the quality and intensity of experience. So much has been shifting on a subtle level, intangible or strange to others and a definite concern to the more scientifically-minded, i.e. my father. I have no illusions about seeing or hearing ghosts, but there is a sense of being tuned in to the Great Infinite Mystery, which is somehow closer now that I have someone on the other side. In many ways, my mother was so deeply a part of me during her lifetime that the lack of boundaries was problematic; at times we both seemed to have trouble discerning who was who. With her off traveling on the next adventure, I finally begin to see clearly who I am.
Over the last fifteen months, the synchronicities have been increasing exponentially and timing has been spot on in ways that can only feel like kismet. I feel full of purpose and everything is falling into place. In some ways, my mother dying has been the most transformative and important gift I have ever received.
I could never have imagined that life would lead me home in this way, or that the power of death could be so beautiful. I never knew I could love this deeply. I have tried and continue to attempt, to the best of my ability, to open myself to the experience of this loss and allow it to wash over me.
When the worst happens and your heart breaks that wide open, there is nothing left but love and freedom. Fear is no longer an option. It is time to do what I set out to do.
I see 2020 as the year of clear seeing, the year of cultivating deep intuitive knowing. So much wisdom is available to us when we dive beneath the waves of our tumultuous minds.
Thank you for reading. I have actually been struggling with writing this letter (or anything that isn't completely reductive) about my mother’s death, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to do that. Thank you for being a friend who writes proper letters! I love that. Take care and be well. I am grateful for your friendship.
The following photos are from our family album and personal collection, mostly depicting our home and life at the Amazon Botanical Gardens.