Poetry, Motherhood & Connection

 Raindrops cling to irises at The Tree House. Symbolizing royalty, faith, wisdom and valor, the delicate blooms are named after the Greek Goddess Iris, a messenger to the Gods who used the rainbow as a bridge between heaven and earth. The ancient Greeks planted purple iris flowers on the graves of women, believing they would entice the Goddess Iris to lead their loved ones in their journey to heaven. ( FlowerMeaning.com )

Raindrops cling to irises at The Tree House. Symbolizing royalty, faith, wisdom and valor, the delicate blooms are named after the Greek Goddess Iris, a messenger to the Gods who used the rainbow as a bridge between heaven and earth. The ancient Greeks planted purple iris flowers on the graves of women, believing they would entice the Goddess Iris to lead their loved ones in their journey to heaven. (FlowerMeaning.com)

In Hebrew, neshama is one of three words used for soul. I learned this from a mother I met. Literally meaning "breath," God's exhaling a soul can be likened to a glassblower forming a vessel. Of the three levels of the soul, neshama represents thought and is considered the highest and closest to God.[i]

Mother’s Day can trigger a timebomb of emotions in anyone…from gratitude to guilt to grief. For mothers themselves, the transitions of motherhood are never easy. Sometimes they are brutal. Mothers can never fully prepare for them, because motherhood is an experience like no other. It is difficult to communicate that experience, that way of being. Even to oneself.

Motherhood evinces one of the few universal understandings. There is a shared experience of deep emotion, of being, of survival at the primordial level that transcends culture, time and language. We “get” each other. The joy. The sorrow. The enormity.

In our written meditation, Selling Your Soul, we share our stories of connection, communication and being. Sometimes this takes the form of creative storytelling. Because the stories we tell are fundamental to how we are in relationship with self and each other, storytelling is critical to the understanding and practice not only of communications but of being. So today I share a poem of an experience I had years back with another mother.

 

for Sara

She was pretty.
Somewhere around 50.
When mothers remember how to be
After doing for our children what they cannot do for themselves.

Checking me out
At the end of the service
The torn black scrap of fabric a contrast
Against her white blouse
Dangling on the gold safety pin
Perpendicular to her heart.

I'm sorry
Have you lost someone?
Eyes brim with a dew of startled gratitude
I have.
Silence. Pause. A whisper.
My daughter.
The smash. Like a cricket paddle full-swing to my chest.
I'm so sorry.

She slid my credit card through.
I will pray
    for her. 
    for you.
Shadow of a nod
Lights flew across switchboard.
Buttons pushed. Puzzled. Receiver cradled.
These phones don't work today.
Silence.

It was three weeks ago today.
Slam. Paddle hits mark.
Teetering off balance
I'm so sorry.

You must have an affinity for Jewish people.
No one seems to know.

Fingering the small tear of black cloth
No one asks.
It's obvious.

She had a beautiful neshama. Soul.
Gestering towards her heart
    Like you. 
Lights flash. Buttons pushed. Receiver cradled.
These phones don't work today.

How is your family?
    For my son
    it’s difficult.

Pause
He turns 22 today.
Whiff of a smile. Glimmer of maternal pride. 
No wedding band.

She was so beautiful.
Her friend wrote about her.
You can have this.
 Folded photocopy passed across counter.
Whiff of a smile. Glimmer of maternal pride. 
Testament to a beautiful neshama.

Unfold. Glance.
    Today I went to my friend's funeral.
    She was 18.
    On August 31, my friend, Sara, took her own life.
BAM. BAM. Heart scurries backward, grabs hold of spine.
Eyes locked. Breath caught.
Faintly
I'm so sorry.

She didn’t want to get help.
I will pray
    for her. 
    for you. 
    for your family.
Thank you.
Please pray that she is at peace.
She had a beautiful neshama.

In my tradition, we believe she no longer suffers. That angels comfort her.
The wish to believe with me swept across her eyes
    and what were once laugh lines.
I hope she is with my parents.
Reach across counter. Touch.

In a note later,
    mailed to the counter at the dealership
Thank you
    for your grace. 
    for your strength.
I pray
    for Sara. 
    for you. 
    for your family.

I hope you won't find presumptuous this suggestion:
As mothers we do for our children what they cannot do.
Please continue to do for Sara what she cannot do for herself.
Please seek joy
    for Sara.
Please love God
    for Sara.
 Please live
    for Sara.
Thank you for teaching me the word neshama.

[i]The Soul: Understanding the source of our soul and its eternal essence,” Rabbi Ayreh Kaplan, www.aish.com, reprinted with permission from The Handbook of Jewish Thought, Vol. 2 by Rabbi Ayreh Kaplan.

Ellen Yui