Friday, August 28, 2009

Mother of All Questions

As you begin reading this, I’m sure your suspecting it will be something about children and “the question” they inevitably all seem to ask us at some point during their childhood. How close am I? Yeah, if you have children then I’m sure you’ve already had the joyous opportunity of attempting to respond to that age old question, without lying, yet without arming your child with more details than Wikipedia for them to simply take back to school and compare with the notes of other children.

That question has long since come and gone in my household (and if I do say so myself, I was brilliant in my response, but then of course, I was pregnant at the time so my memory of the event is a bit fuzzy). Yes my then six year-old daughter was very matter of fact in her line of questioning, managing to derail me with an even tougher follow-up question at every turn of the conversation. I finally had to counter with “Perhaps you should check with Yaya?” when she had officially cornered me for the last time. “Yaya”, for those of you who don’t know, is my Mother. And yes, as always, she was able to clean-up my mess and put things right again in my life; something she’s been doing since I was at least 18, if not before.

No the question I am referring to actually has to do with mothers. Being a mother myself, I get where mothers come from and all, but what I don’t really seem to understand is where exactly mothers go. It was, in fact, my now seven and a half year-old daughter, or so she claims to be, that got me thinking down this path. “Mommy”, she said to me innocently the other day, “I’m really going to miss you when you die.” Now, if there had recently been a death in my family I might have been on the look-out for such a statement, but since the most exciting change of events in our family’s recent history was that of the birth of my other daughter, I didn’t have the foggiest warning of what question was about to knock me out of my firmly planted seat. “When you die, I know I won’t be able to talk to you every day, because you’ll be busy visiting with Yaya and other people in Heaven, but do you think you will still have time to visit me sometimes?”

I should probably explain that I have one of those special children that most people just read about or watch being portrayed in a movie as they think to themselves, “Yeah, that doesn’t really happen.” Ever since she could talk, and if you know my baby girl, that’s pretty much been since birth, she’s talked; talked to me, talked to other babies, talked to the elderly, talked to our cat and yes, talked to what I innocently thought, at first, was to herself and random imaginary friends. Suffice it to say, my child has had entire conversations with people whom I’ve known to be dead for years, since she was at least two.

So keeping this background of my child and her grasp on the entire “life after death” gig in mind, because we had that talk many, many years ago, one would think, then, that questions like that wouldn’t throw me for such a loop; but a loop it did. “Of course”, I replied while hugging her. “I’m your mommy and I’ll never be far away, you know that.” Did I really just promise that? How was I sure I was going to be able to back that promise up?

Perhaps this would be a good time to explain that I was a Biology major in college, so I’m a big believer in the facts – just the facts ma’am. Here’s some more background: my Grandfather was a Chaplain in the Army; his father was a Church of Christ Preacher; my “god father” was an Episcopal Priest; and my Great-Great-Grandmother was a Cherokee Indian. My mother, a devout, continually learning and growing free-spirit, taught my sister and me to 1. live by the Golden Rule, and 2. to always be willing to learn as much as we possible could; the entire World, as I was taught, is not only your school, but also your Church, so treat it well and leave it in a better way than you found it. So you can probably imagine that my background is, well...well-rounded and a bit eclectic when it comes to topics surrounding death and the after-life.

My daughter’s question really left me in a pondering state though; as I said before, being a mother myself, I now know where mommies come from, but really, where do they go? After several days of working through this question in the back of my mind as I carried out my various activities, I came across the answer. They don’t go anywhere.

Looking around my house I can see the imprint of my Mother in the way I display my various chotchkies around my house. The colors and tone of my house are based on a variation of my Mother’s house. There are photos of all the great women of my family dancing across most of the walls of my house. My iPod is jam packed with songs reminding me of moments of my childhood, moments when those women would sing and dance with me.

It’s true, mothers aren’t born; they are made over years and years of careful cultivation by the amazing women surrounding them throughout their childhood and early adult years. Those same women become our sounding boards as we the dip our toes gingerly into the pool of motherhood upon the birth of our first children. They guide us through the treacherous, yet extremely rewarding, roads of being parents of teenagers. These same amazing women then become our Oracles during our own middle years; they fill our souls and minds with all the final teachings and memories they can before they physically leave this Earth. Then at the end of their own journeys, those blessed women become our guardians as we ourselves, assume the roles of Oracles for our own daughters. They watch over us from the walls of our houses and prop us up on days when we get knocked down by sneaking into our subconscious minds via a song from our iPods.

So looking back on the conversation today, I no longer fear that I lied to my daughter. Nor do I feel that I gave her an answer strictly based in faith alone. No, looking around my house today, sitting her in “my space”, I know I gave her the best answer to that, the mother of all questions...mothers never leave.

And that answer is based in fact.

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