While I felt very lucky to have the gift of time to say goodbye over a long period of time, the grief and pain was tough to manage day by day. One of the tools I used for support was getting a regular massage and helping my body release the sadness, providing a moment of peace from the storm. When I would visit mom in Austin, I continued this practice and extended it to her. We would have someone come to mom’s house and we would each enjoy the calm following each massage. On this trip in April 2006, my discussion with the massage therapist took a little different turn. Down a path I was not expecting or even could have imagined.
As Amy worked on releasing the tension on my muscles, she started to talk about how she had lost her mother at a young age, something I did not know. She described the need to feel connected to her mom and grasped at the smallest symbol that might have represented her mother once she died. She talked about how she would get excited at first to see a certain kind of rock, and then quickly questioned her belief and dismissed it. As she spoke, she started to make connections to my mother. How she could tell mom was preparing to leave. Amy said in that moment that I had a choice to create a lasting and true connection to mom, and work with mom to define what that was. In the midst of my grief and pain, it felt like a glimmer of hope. I didn’t fully grasp what she was saying. It was so very foreign to me. Why I chose to act on her advice I will never know for sure. Maybe it was the extension of believing in something magical as a child like Santa Claus or the Easter bunny that led me down this path. Helped me feel in my heart that it was ok, that I was not crazy.
The thought stuck with me so I decided to ask mom. I shared Amy’s advice and mom was open to hear it. More reinforcement I should continue down this path. Mom wanted to figure it out together with me, what that symbol might be so that I could be sure it was her. Mom’s request was for me to go down to the lake and think about it. Clear my mind and allow the answer to come forward. I was not quite sure of what I was headed to do. Probably my desire to continue my deep connection with mom pushed me forward on this journey. I walked down to the lake and stood there taking in the beautiful view. Something I had done many times. This moment was different, calm and peaceful. I felt a strong sense of love around me. I closed my eyes and asked God for an answer. What kind of symbol would be meaningful to both mom and me? Surprisingly, the answer came quickly. I just didn’t understand it at the time.
I walked back up to the house, somewhat in a daze thinking of this answer, not sure what to make of it. When mom woke up, I went in to share it with her. She said it was perfect. Silently, I questioned how it could be perfect, since it was not something real. Mom beamed with joy when she spoke of this symbol of our connection- it was the favorite color that we shared, purple, and our favorite insect, a butterfly. A purple butterfly. Not something I knew existed in nature, only make believe. But something unique to our connection for sure. I set my internal critic aside and decided to cherish this special moment with her. The moment of co-creating a symbolic connection that would last forever. I had no clue at the time what this all meant. How I would see something that didn’t exist once mom passed. How quickly I would learn otherwise.