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My Mother’s Gift

Today would have been my mother’s 96th birthday. She left this world on the full moon day of Oct. 5, 2017. (This full moon day was especially significant as it was the same October full moon upon which a great being, who has been a part of my life, departed in 1982.)

My relationship with my mother in this lifetime was fraught. In many respects, she represented the anti-mother. She was highly intelligent but in the ambit of emotional wellness, she was not well.I don’t think she knew how to mother. None of us are given a manuel beforehand on how to manage and execute this most wonderful of duties, but something - as I noticed with my two sons - does seem to kick in very naturally as motherhood comes along; and - I would imagine in most cases - ancient reservoirs of deep love and care arise to inform in this ambit of life.

With my mother, I sense this did not quite happen. Her volatility and insecurities seemed to inhibit this natural arising. I do know if she had known better, she would have done better. She struggled emotionally in this life and this greatly inhibited her expression as a mother. I know she would have fulfilled this marvelous role more successfully if it had been possible.

This not to say she did not have her good points. Of course she did. She was talented and highly intelligent, as mentioned previously, and she offered what she could - given her emotional state - as a mother. But, in short, she did not represent for me, in quite an acute fashion, a soft place to land…

(And, just so you know, reader, this communication is not meant as a gratuitous criticism of my mother. Not at all. I am simply attempting to describe this relationship in this lifetime…)

I made my peace with my mother when she was 90, and in so doing I was free to love her. This process is described in another post on this website entitled, “A Valentine’s Day Rendezvous.”

I write about my mother today because something really beautiful and significant happened after her departure, on her birthday the following year…

On September 18, 2018, I had made the plan to go to the the downtown Basilica here in St. Augustine to offer a candle in her memory. My mother was Catholic in this life, and I thought she would appreciate this. It had been a long day. I had worked at a school and also had swung by to do some voluntary work at a local office. Part of me just wanted to forgo the plan. The thought of driving downtown and then having to deal with parking was not attractive. But, something in me urged me on.

I dutifully got in my car and did the necessary to eventually arrive at the entrance to the basilica. Upon walking up the steps, I was greeted by a group of people who happened to be meeting at this time. As it turns out, the church was locked but they had the key and - upon describing my intention - they allowed me entry with them.

They proceeded to gather at the back of the church to the right and I to the left where the candles were available. I chose a candle for my mother, lit it, and offered it through the window panes of the doors to the main part of the church. (This main part was locked.) I moved the lit candle in a clockwise motion several times (a more eastern, Indian, tradition) toward the altar at the front of the church. I then proceeded to do the same, as well, with another candle I chose for a friend’s mother. Coincidentally, she had recently informed me that her mother shared the same birthday and had also departed this earthly realm. She asked me to do this as a favor. I was happy to comply.

Upon completing these offerings, I found myself down on the ground rummaging through my purse to find the suggested monetary donation. Suddenly, all the lights went out in the church. This was very odd as it was an early evening with clear blue skies. No rainy weather had come our way.

The folks in the back all looked at me, and then they laughed remarking that they didn’t know why they did that, as if I had something to do with this sudden loss of electricity! A few seconds went by and the lights returned as quickly as they left. We all just figured it was just one of those things…

I departed into a sunny, lovely evening and started my way back to my car, when suddenly it hit me. I don’t know if I actually stopped in my tracks, but that was the feeling. I suddenly knew with absolutely certainty it had been Mom. She was acknowledging my gift, my time, my effort. She was saying thank you.

You see, that love is always there. And she wanted me to know that.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

Annie Kiyonaga

September 18, 2021

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