On the 14th October at 15:40 my mother France died in Paris after a very long addiction related illness. She is called France, like her country, due to being born in 1945. A marking, through the women, of the end of the second World War. I wonder how this impacted her life...
...This post is not actually about my mother's life. It is about the precious gifts and deep mystery that were woven into our last few weeks together. I had the healing privilege to accompany her all the way to her death and beyond until today the 40th day after her death.
This post can be read as a story that also refers to our dying structures and eco systems...How do we accompany who is dying, what do we do with our dead ones and how do they become ancestors to support the living ones.
The first 3 Thresholds of our I am feeling into are our Conception, 9 months Gestation in our Mother's Womb and our Birth. I will write about my findings and reflections in an other blog post. I could not talk about death without inviting Life to have a seat.
When my mother decided that she did not want to be kept alive by brutal means of prolonging life her mask was taken off. We were told it would take 2 or 3 days for her to go. It took 4 weeks... a brutal and cruel journey for all.
The first Death Threshold presented itself: How to accompany to her death the very same being who brought me to Life? It was a hard, pain-full and complicated relationship between my mother and I since conception. The stories were many that could take me away from this sacred invitation. The invitation to hold her hands, massage her feet and sing her soulsongs as she crossed.
I cancelled everything planned 'knowing' that I would stay to the end. The separation stories vanished into ether. All I knew is that as the eldest of her three children I had the role to accompany here to her last breath. I had no idea of what would happen, nothing in my bringing up neither my culture contained and guided me .
Intuition and instinct took a front seat. The mind calmed down. Soul and her deep waters guided my moves and choices. I let her.
But then as I kept placing the blue print of an intact culture onto the Parisien system an immense grief required attention and release. The brutality that comes from the disconnection with other than humans, the land, water, beauty, songs and village ripped me apart. I was shredded into a million threads...
I started weaving mother a belt, a WomBelt and a bridge. It was I understand today a way to calm and mend. 5 belts were eventually woven with the same balls of wool... one for each member of my family.
The crows made their appearance outside her window. Good company to keep. I went to the river, la Seine, to bring Water to her room secretly placed under her bed with little stones. I started sleeping there during the last 10 nights sensing that to be alone as we die is not humane. I did not know how to become a whole village how could I ?
My family was going through her own ways and paths not replacing the intact earth based culture that my bones and marrow sensuously and intensely began to remember. The weaving became coherent.
Second Threshold appeared ~ What do we do with our dead ?
Death took my mother when she was alone, 40 days ago. I arrived 5 minutes later. The air was thick and expelled me from her room. It took me a short while to touch her dead body. I refused to be scared of Death. Death longs to be met and matter. I was not familiar with dead ones.
She looked very beautiful, free. I caressed her hair, felt her temperature change, put a bit of lipstick on her lips as she would have wanted.
In Paris you rent a space for burying your dead, 10, 30, 50 years depending how much money one has or not. When 10 years pass the body is moved along. Cremation being cheeper and more convenient it has become the prefered way . Even our dead do not touch soil anymore.
So mother went to a big fridge in a grotesque blue plastic shirt while we worked out what to do, how much we could spend and who we were when death turned up. Death brings up a strong mirror to what binds us and what scatters us further apart. Death also calls for remembering the deepest humane way, the original way of the longest gold thread connecting us to our 2000 generation ancestry.
There again the poverty of our culture, when it comes to rite of passage, initiations, rituals and ceremonies, hit me very hard. I hang on to the few threads gathered in the last few years of awakening my animist and studying ancient earth wisdom ways...sanity must be found somewhere. With only a few thread to create a frame we can start weaving again what resonate to our world today while being held by all that have been here before... I held the Dagara people threads, the threads of the ones who are still breathing as one with other sentient beings.
My Mother was in a fridge alone... it is a BIG business the business of death. Her body does not belong to us??? We cannot take it away because we do not have a strong religious recognisable tradition. I am not able to convince or inspire my family to have a wake for her at home in her bed with her clothes...
I reached out to my chosen village. By email and phone I called for presence, for knowledge and to create a frame on which to add the threads of deep memory. All would otherwise fall on concrete like so much does nowdays.
My mother stays in her blue plastic dress alone in Paris's largest fridges... A bit of me dies with her. I am so sorry Maman. What ever you did, who ever you have betrayed and hurt in your living state no-one deserves such in-humane set up. Human's roots come from 'ground'. Humus roots come from 'Soil'. Each in-humane acts takes away a bit of our own humanity. Fierce love is required then, one woven with passion and compassion and much imagination. To then create a shrine with the prayers and praises of an intact culture's guidance matters.
Third Threshold ~ What do we do for the crossing of our dead to becoming ancestors
In many traditions there is a 40 days crossing after the death for the crossing of Soul. I had to make a choice and then bring form to that choice while listening carefully to what wanted to happen.
There again I felt alone within my immediate circles . Our amnesia being real, a night mare visited my days, what was I to do with my dead mother? What can I do to stay a human and feel humanity flowing in my veins?
It is told that our tears become the river on which the soul make her way on a boat to the other side where the Ancestors await for our return. We the living ones make our Ancestors happen. It is the tears, the grief, the stories, the shrines, the yearly celebration, the photo albums and the compassion for our humanity that weaves a passage.
Each morning I sing diving into the unknown praying grace and soul will catch me with at least one thread, the same one that connects me with 2000 generation behind her. I sang and drummed to my ancestors. Asked them to start singing and drumming day and night so my mother would hear them and feel their joy and readiness to see her again soon.
I sang and drummed for the living ones with a lit candles each night so my mother would not be lost as she did while alive. 4o days and nights from the 14th October takes me as I said Ito the 23rd November , the birth date of my son...all the gateways are opening for a deeper remembering and weaving of the world of our longing. May it be so...
This path of remembering our sacred ways is woven with total lostness, deep grief and singing gratitude. My sense is that without it our Soul and our Sanity will perish totally.
Mother thank you for letting me accompanying you to your death and beyond. Thank you for the 3 Thresholds that were revealed and remembered. It informs my work of how to accompany what is dying in our world, how to lay it down, how to show gratitude and grief and how to weave them back to ancestry.
1- How to accompany the dying?
2- What do we do with our dead?
3- What do the living need to do for our dead to bring ancestors back to work with us.
Tomorrow I will go to the sea once more Maman, to see our ancestors welcome you on the shore where you can sort out what needs resolve . Then we will call on you to help the living ones to mend and serve Life, Death, Love and Grief. I will also celebrate my son's 25th bEARTHday... <3
May it be so.
Some links you might like to read:
ACCESSING THE WISDOM OF OUR ANCESTORS: An Interview with Sobonfu Some'
Ancestralizing our Dead by Malidoma Some
Beautiful, Azul. Brave, wonderful, deeply good.
My deeply good friend what a joy to see your words here, thank you for your words of encouragement and share how this also moves within you. Death, Life, Grief and Love...you know the story I saw in the forest... So much love! Azul
A guiding light for our loved ones journey, deeply touching and affirming thank you Azul.
Dear Paula I am thankful for you reading this post and to hear about how it affirmed what you already sense. It is a collective weaving that can make visible what is rapidly withering . Grateful to you !
Thanks so much for all you do I was touched and inspired. It is a honour to be present at the death of our loved ones.
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River of Words and Images by Azul Thomé: