Finding Meaning in the Heart of Life
Written on the floor of my basement.
Sent energetically as I read it aloud, right there on my floor…
It’s okay to go…
I see you floating in and out of semi-consciousness. I see you writhing in pain. I see you looking filthy and smelling like sickness. So unlike the beautiful woman you were before all of this.
The doctors say we have to give you time…
Time for what? You’ll never recover. At least, not enough to ever make the suffering of the last month worthwhile.
But you decided many years ago that you were done with life, didn’t you? And you sat on the couch. You shrank and turned away from life and simply faded away.
Throughout my life, you’ve always sat at one end or the other of light and dark. Mom, I believe that for you today, lying in that hospital bed…choosing to stay alive now that your breathing tube is out is to choose darkness and pain and suffering. If you were to choose to slowly stop breathing and to pass on, I believe you would be choosing light.
The complexity of this astounds me. How can I, your daughter, wish for your death? I wish it because I love you…and it is the hardest thing I have ever had to decide. But you didn’t make this easy for us. You left no will or directive, so what do we do?
You have left me with these horrible decisions to make about your life. Seemingly, no care for how it would affect mine. But luckily, Mom, being your child has made me strong. I’ve never wanted to be like you, and yet I am so very much like you. You have been my greatest teacher. Your lesson plans, drenched in tears and self-pity, taught me about life. Your lesson plans, full of laughter and adoration, taught me about life. It’s strange that you also somehow taught me that I had a right to choose happiness or sadness. But you yourself didn’t believe that you ever had a choice. Your emotions have ruled your world, taking you down like vicious demons wielding swords and cutting you to the quick whenever they felt like it. Then they would lift you up and dance you around the room, laughing and singing. Yet somehow, you instilled in me that I was different, perhaps capable and stronger than my current emotion.
It is time make a decision.
Mom, walk with me, one last time. I am strong. Let me take you to the light. Drop your demons. Lay them down. Lay them at the foot of the gate. Allow the light to cleanse you, purify you. Forgive yourself. Turn away from your pain and walk forward. Yes, you made mistakes. You were cruel. You hurt others… me. I forgive you. I forgave you long ago. Time for you to forgive now.
I will be just fine. In fact, I will be better than fine. I will use your life as a testament to living my life: big and honest and brave, everything beautiful in you that you rejected. This doesn’t mean you weren’t brave. You were so brave! Be brave now, Mom. Do you feel the warmth? Do you feel the light? Do you feel the peace?
It’s okay now. Go. Please Mom, go.
I love you so much,
Your loving daughter,
This letter was important to write. It was a sacred contract. The more I allowed myself to come apart, the more I came together. The more I saw that I found nobility in suffering and carrying her, the more I realized I needed to do things drastically different from her. My final contract of suffering and a declaration of my life.
My mom died on March 13, 2015, after being in a coma for 30 days as a result of a drug overdose and complications with diabetes. Her name was Joyce Marie Glenn. She was only 75. She was a gloriously complicated woman, and she was my mom. She lived in chronic pain and struggled with bipolar disorder much of her adult life. Her mental illness and pain shaped her in profound ways. And much of my childhood was shadowed by her mania and depression. That said, my mom had a vitality and a zest for life that was unparalleled by anyone else I know. She was amazing and beautiful. I hated her and I adored her. She was my greatest advocate and my greatest adversary. She couldn’t love my greatness. It threatened her. She was only able to love me when I was broken. So, I learned to find her love by taking care of her, by diligently working to break my own spirit and by shrinking myself. Whether that meant hiding my accomplishments or literally starving myself, that’s what I did.
Ten days after taking her off breathing support (around the time I wrote the above letter), my family directed the doctors to remove my mother’s feeding tube. The final artificial life support. They said it would take three to five days for the lack of insulin to finally take her. I was scheduled on the first available flight out later that day to California. However, she died within three hours of removing her feeding tube.
My sister was physically with my mom at the hospital. I happened to be on the phone with my sister when she passed. It was mid morning, and I was driving home from the office to grab my suitcase and head to the airport. We were making arrangements for me to relieve my sister in the hospital later that day.
Suddenly, she said, “Jen I think she’s going right now.”
Stunned, I immediately pulled over and shouted to my sister, “Put the phone to her ear! Put the phone to her ear. Please!”
I shouted, “I love you, Mom! I love you, Mom! It’s okay! You can go!”
And then all was quiet, except for the sound of my mom’s rattling breaths and an occasional soft gasp. I couldn’t hear my own breath or that I was crying. I couldn’t hear the birds, or the cars speeding by. Just her breaths slowing down. One last breath and gasp—and then they stopped. Silence. I don’t know how long I sat there.
At some point, my sister came back on the line and said, “That’s it Jen. She’s gone.” Just like that.
I am forever grateful that at least I got to hear her take her last breaths and be with her in some form as she left this world. In my car on the side of the road, I closed my tear-filled eyes and a strange thing happened. I smiled. My mom was finally at peace. No more fighting, no more demons, just peace.
I had this dramatic realization as I opened my eyes. I was still here! My mom had passed away from this Earth and I was still here! I was filled with an overwhelming sense of love, sacredness, and joy for my own life. In the midst of her leaving this world, I came into mine a little more. I do not have to die to be at peace. I can choose it right now, today. I can walk to the light now. I can lay down my burdens and my demons today. Why? Because I choose life. I am alive. It’s time to live.
Sure, life is hard and we have all suffered greatly. No one wins an award for living a terrible life. The reward is simply life. The reward is trusting the sacredness of your pain and your joy. It is through experiencing pain that we have the ability to feel joy. Sure, your life may be a hot mess, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one. Today, your life can be a testament to the light within you. Even if you feel scared, hopeless, angry, exhausted, trust that you carry a spark of divinity within. Just like you trust that the sun, nestled behind thick clouds, is still shining brightly. Light and dark, joy and suffering, life and death, are inextricably linked.
Are you living a life more aligned with the night-bound eyes of the owl? Are you trusting in your dreams to burst forth and offer you a new spring? Can you embrace it all as a sacred gift?
This day…your light…your life…all of it is sacred.
And let it shine!