Recollecting my mother as she lay in the ICU in Africa, space surrounding her, space overpowering, space engulfing her fragile body, appearing frameless. Laying motionless upon her back, white hair entangled, eyes closed. The wrinkled skin of her 94 years draped loosely across her features. Skin pale like a sheet, concealing her.
A sculpture in bone and skull. Lying still, oblivion to all activity beyond the inner world. Where are you mother? Has your rich memory faded into the unconscious?
With that, a painful awareness, a disturbing presence. Seeing immense creativity and life power fade, a swallowing into shadows.
Now far removed from this scene, another continent, another time. Its night in this cabin, on board a ship called home. Night lights of city toss timelessly upon the waters of a wide river flowing beneath me. Children are sleeping, no words fill their fragile space. Sleep sweetly. Dream. Without worldly ambitions, with no thing to do. Be. When you sleep, when you wake. Be. Powerfully, vividly. Aware.
I have returned from Africa. Returned from ICU. Intensive Care Unit. Blessed or cursed with 9 months in that place. Africa, place of nostalgia. Africa, homeland. Africa, birthplace of humanity.
Place to bear witness to one’s mother, holding onto the string of life. Together watching, in a realm of insanity and love. Blending this realm in a cup from which you drink, to quench your thirst from the fight for existence.
What will these nine months give birth to? Why do we cherish that that we are separated from? Immense dark forces: human emotion. “I will take you for a ride, bite your lips… till they bleed, till you hide…” Such are the voices calling from these red soils of my past. if you have nothing to say… don’t say… if you have nothing to say… remember death.
Madness isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. Through you mother, I have learned. We cloak our madness. We clothe it. The superficial structures called norm.
To help her through her night, I whispered: Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha. She whispered it back so sincerely, so willingly: “OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA…’ then added, either in the spirit of rhyme, or her personal needed ceremony: ‘…Andre Rieu!” We continued, in this bizarre exchange, through the many hours of night, until we were both utterly touched by the blessings of our merged sanity insanity.
Be without censorship. Be without break. Be like a writer without a reader.
Be in touch. Be the mirror to the flow that passes. What can the critic do but cut off the sentence before its complete? Words and desires, they have their worth. Appearance like any other… like blueness at day, like darkness of night. Creativity is cramped by the cynic. The ghost of censorship.
We are cramped by judgement. Writing is for, another. Like talking, speech is for the other. May this white space surrogate for the natural appearance of thought, uncensored.
In bygone years, mother’s vision took upon a likeness of ‘white space’. Her thoughts took flight. They were like wings of creative energy, expressed without pause, without censorship. They never lost the river’s stream, the thread of which, she humorously called ‘The gospel according to your sainted mother’. Yet chapter one, two and three, resided in a drawer, somewhere in Africa.
Whilst moving mother from her home, it was my reluctant task to sort through her personal belongings. My task to decide for, select for her, what to keep and what to throw away. I discovered, whilst ‘working as the hands of mother’, our habit to keep. Keep and cherish pockets of possessions, the ‘memoirs’ of our secret, and somewhat dusty spaces. Hidden here and there, all forms of collections appeared. Like little packages of life’s memory. A leather-bound collection, an enveloped collection, a hidden-in- the-pages- of-books collection. Letters and photographs, intimate collections from those near and dear, from those living far beyond our space, time and access. Postal deliveries across oceans of by-gone, the ‘air-mail’ collection, stored together with the ‘ashes collection’.
Mother became my sole focus of attention. How her body worked, or how it didn’t. Whether she was clear or delusive, whether she had pain, whether she was happy, hot or cold. I joined her in all of these motions. I noticed, that her spark of motherly instinct – was the very thing that could protect her from herself. I was available for her, as though her life depended on it. Maybe it did. Maybe attention and closeness was the very thing that kept her together during exhausting weeks, that became exhausting months. She called it purgatory. When would she get out of this place, this purgatory? Why did she have to stay here? There were no real answers, other than the process of falling, of losing clarity, has placed you here, in this purgatory. Will you ever, ever escape?
The bardo of our unchosen purgatories which we unconsciously begin ourselves.
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