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An Ode to Mother
my mother’s love was fierce like dragon fire and tender like a peony’s petal
In the Arabic language the words for womb and for compassion share the same trilateral root: R-H-M. In fact, two of The 99 Names of Allah are derived from this trilateral root — Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahīm. Muslims frequently hear that the entrance to paradise lies at the foot of all mothers and several passages in the Qur’an advise humans to honour our mothers. Mother, the ultimate symbol of the truest, fiercest + most powerful love. Mother, the bringer of life and of wrath and the ultimate mercy-giver.
Like a flower, each mother represents a universe to her daughter—the same mother provides an entirely unique universe to each of her children. Like flowers in a garden, each mother differs from the others—in fragrance, shape, texture. Like a flower, my mother released her fragrance when her children crushed her heart. Sometimes that fragrance felt powerful enough to slay the entire room, and to inject an existential fear into the tender + steadfast heart of my otherwise fearless father. Like a flower, mother dazzled and moved us with her flamboyant + delicate + joyful + electric + utterly profound capacity for transformation.
Mum could transform her daughters with some kind of magical force I still cannot reckon. We would call her, incendiary + electric with rage, or broken-hearted + jagged in some betrayal from some dumbass neanderthal man, and she would wave her magic mama mojo and fix that sh1t. Even my sister Diane, who, in her early twenties, had an astonishing dragon temper that would leave you breathless—it could make her a frightening force to reckon with to be very honest—mum did not fear her rage, Mum leaned in + loved that rage, she told me once that she saw herself in Diane’s white hot rage, she saw herself in us. Mum could see a thing to love in our very worst + most wretched behaviours—how magical is that? Mama had a magic all her own. Watching her with my sisters, and experiencing that level of mothering (as I grew older) for myself—I can only describe it as a love language unique to a child + mother.
Mother had a powerful heart, so wise + knowing—she could see what we each needed. I didn’t always see what she did, until much, much, much later. She never said I told you so in an arrogant haughty manner, just would only say very earnestly something that reminded you, that often, she knew your heart better than you did. The only other time I have felt so held and loved like I did when I was with her is in prayer with God—in sujud, wailing into the carpet, praying in that secret gutteral language only God Himself can understand. God can take those animalistic + gutteral keening sounds coming from my voice-box and turn that into graceful nourishment for existence.
My connection with Mum resembled this kind of primal + compassionate connection.
Mum transformed me from the despair-riddled hyperventilating ugly crying creature who called her in some dramatic life-plummeting crisis on the edge of sanity from a pay phone in Heathrow Airport, into the determined + fierce + poised dragon she raised me to be—the one who finally put her grown-up pants on and got on that flight to Canada and faced head-on the certain fate I had a few months earlier run away to England to avoid—the end of my married life, a life which spanned nearly two decades. Mum did this kind of transformation thing on more than one occasion. She never tired. She never complained. She always made room in her heart to listen and comfort—her love made it, whatever it was, lighter to carry.
I am number four of 4 daughters, and number six of 6 children—so by the time I had my life crisis, Mama had nursed at least 2 other daughters through an analogous traumatic relationship rift. Not to mention living through hers on her own, with no one, before my gestation and birth. If I’m honest, the two eldest girls tended more towards Ms Independent I Can Fix It and the two youngest girls tended more towards Mama I Need You To Make it Better. Whatever the dynamics amongst us grrls, damn Mama made it look easy, I say to myself as I weather my own wild mothering adventures.
Imagine the seed husk bursting to germinate the growing life. That is every living moment of motherhood—forever, like, even when they grow up and become adults, dude. It fcuking hurts like the deepest Hell. And, I’ll be honest and say that I have really really hated how much motherhood hurts the heart and I have wished to never have tasted from the cup of motherhood in the darkest moments of that hellish heartbreak which feels like the emotional equivalent of a second-degree burn. Yet, motherhood also thrills the heart with a frightening joy I cannot describe—the child who broke my heart so many years ago with his heart-wrenching departure also taught me how to use my heart.
When we consider motherhood, we fixate on the female body and what it does to bring life into this world. We sell ourselves short, though, when we stop here, in our consideration of what a mother is + does—I wonder if that does us a disservice? Do we stop to consider the incredible transformation motherhood requires—for the duration of life? What if we stopped to consider cervical dilation + effacement, together with uterine contraction, as representing the degree to which motherhood stretches the ego + heart + psyche + soul?
Mum died on May 11, 2022–just two weeks shy of her 91st birthday. I think of her as a fiery and formidable force a nature—a beautiful dragon. I think of her as a complex and gorgeous creature with a heart like the Silmarils. I think of my mother as the Silmarils—jewels whose beauty exists beyond all rational description, jewels containing the light of the universe.
One of the last things Mum wrote to me is in a birthday card I keep in the drawer of my nightstand — she purchased the same card two years in a row for the last two birthdays she ever send me a card, a reminder of her undying and unchanging love for me —
… de ta maman qui t’aime et t’aimera toujours …
Maman, I’m not certain I could ever love you loudly or largely enough. I wonder if you deserved far more than we all gave you in life and I hope you are receiving every grace and joy and blessing that I cannot imagine, now that you have gone Home. Most of all, I am sorry you never felt the mother’s love that you so freely and ferociously and facilely gave to me and to the rest of your babies. I can only burst with love when I think of how you didn’t hesitate to comfort that mother whom you didn’t believe loved you in her grief for your father. I was 5 or 6 and I remember what you did and I felt how much it cost your heart—silently I felt that.
You were the sky, Maman—I did not know how much until you weren’t there anymore.
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