Sunday, May 12, 2013

leaving the grief behind--for mom

the "weeping buddha"
my good friend marlene has a number of weeping buddhas in her home, and she told me that she finds comfort in them. there are those who doubt the veracity of the figures as an actual expression of buddhist principles, but as an existentialist, i could give a shit about whether "meaning" is officially authorized or not.  if you get something out of something, then in my book, it has validity.  anyway, as the story goes, the figure depicts a warrior who has discovered that he has just killed his own son in a masked battle.  the warrior sits on the ground with his head in his hands, consumed with grief.  they say that the figure has the power to take away one's grief if a person rubs its back.

okay.  i have heard crazier things.

once, when i was visiting marlene, i noticed one of the figures on a table, and i decided to test the theory and rub its back.  mind you, i was not actively grieving over anything at the time, rather, i was excitedly anticipating a lovely homemade dinner with conversation from the aforementioned marlene.   but i thought to myself, there is the buddha figure, what have i got to lose?  so i rubbed its back.
the backs on the weeping buddha figures are usually very muscular, which, in my opinion, accentuates the poignancy of the weeping.   you might agree with me that there is great power in the image of a strong man displaying the vulnerability of emotional pain.

very weeping buddha-ish
the wooden back muscles of the figure felt smooth and cool to my touch, yet there was "life" to the surface of the figure, perhaps due to the fact that they are usually carved out of wood.  i don't know if i can honestly report that i felt calm and serene, but there was certainly a sensual aspect to the rubbing, and i will leave it at that.  i don't blame marlene one bit for collecting these things.  i don't blame her one bit.


my mother lost a child, a daughter, but i never saw her even once approximate the weeping buddha pose.  had i known of the depths of her loss and grief, i surely would have purchased a weeping buddha for her to rub.  as it was, i was scarcely aware of the incident at all, due mostly to the fact that it happened before i was born, but also due in part to my mother's reluctance to talk about her daughter's death--at least not until i asked her about it as an adult.  when i did finally discuss this with her, i discovered that my mother was nearly destroyed when it happened.  fortunately for her (but not so fortunately for me), i popped out a month after my sister's death and demanded immediate and constant attention, thus distracting her somewhat from the paralyzing grief.  the role that i played in this drama was one that i never auditioned for, nor was it one that my mother intended on casting me in, and yet it was a role that created a certain unbreakable bond between me and her--even if it was a bond encased in ice.

and yet let it not be doubted:  my mother loved me beyond the stars and the moon.  of this there is no question.

Mom as a young woman
she died years ago, and during the stage of her dementia when she was aware of her failing body and mind, she was buoyed by the belief that when she died, she would finally, after nearly 50 years, see her beloved daughter again.  i get that. she didn't have much else to look forward to at the time.  a once strong, stylish, and beautiful woman, she was, in her 80's, slowly reduced to a frail, old woman who wore sweatshirts everyday, and she was aware that her time was nearing the end.  i can't fault her for finding comfort in the idea of a long overdue reunion.  i can't fault her one bit.  but i don't believe it myself.  the way i see it, my mother is not with her daughter, she is just dead.  not an easy sentence to write, but then who said that death was an easy subject to write about?  my personal grief has mercifully faded in color over the years after the initial burning shrapnel of losing her, though i am certain that it will never fully recede.  there is simply no preparation for living without the one person with whom i had been connected to since i came into being.  there is no "closure" when it comes to that grief--but that does not mean that one can't go about one's life.  (i would like to strangle the person who coined the term "closure".)  my blogger friend ron writes similarly about his journey through grief around his mother's death.

mother's day used to be hard, but now it is more like valentine's day and easter--just another holiday that everyone else celebrates while i go about my usual day. and yet, and yet, it seems a bit unfair that i no longer get to celebrate the holiday just because mom is gone.  i have written previously about what i would do on mother's day if she were still alive, and i hold to that imagined plan, but these days i am more likely to reminisce about how close we always were, and how much i miss her on a daily basis.  there is a bittersweet gift one gets when their mother dies, in that you stop being someone's child.  figuratively speaking.  that, in itself, is an unexpected "gift from beyond the grave", in that it has forced me to consider my own legacy in this world, knowing that one day i too will die.

but not yet!

with the average life expectancy rising to the age of 100, i am with all probability square in the middle of my life, as it were.  though i often miss being my mother's "child", i do relish being an adult with purpose and agency, a celebration that could not have happened had my mother not given birth to me in the first place.  in that respect, i will always be my mother's child.  and so i leave the grief behind, somewhat, and move into cherished recollection and increasing gratitude, because, let's face it, i am alive.  

happy mother's day, mom.  happy mother's day, from your child.

the last picture i have of us together, in the care home.  she was holding her "baby doll".


  1. I was truly touched by this beautifully written post. I've never heard of the weeping buddha but it's a fascinating concept. I wholeheartedly agree that there is no "closure" for grief. Time doesn't heal pain, it only serves to obscure it.
    My Mom passed away over three years ago. I never fully recovered.

    1. thank you, jon. this comment means a lot to me.

  2. nice pix of you and your mom. she is always with you in spirit, if not bodily present. thanks for sharing her story with us!

    1. she is with me in my personality and values, anne marie! she is often in my thoughts. i do not believe in souls, but i do believe that loved ones live on in our thoughts and actions.

  3. This as a touching post, Tony. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Tony, this is a very heartfelt tribute to your mother. I liked the calmness in your writing about a very emotional event in your life. Your mother 'did good'!
    I will definitely look into that 'weeping Buddha'. I have two who aren't weeping but are there as reminders to pull me back from 'crazy thinking'.

    1. i have a feeling that you, especially, will love the weeping buddha, jim!

  5. Oh, Tony.....
    I am moved beyond words. And I am so gratified that that my Weeping Buddhas stimulated such a profund expressions of your love for your mother and anotherr aspect of your self-discovery. Thank you for sharing this with me and so many others. And, oh yes, he certainly does have some kind of back to rub!!! xxxmarlene

    1. Marlene, I have decided that I must get one of these for my own home.