Home > Death, Family, Grief, Love, Music, Personal, Reflections > The greatest constellations (or, “My mom, a driveway and the night sky”)

The greatest constellations (or, “My mom, a driveway and the night sky”)

When my siblings and I wrapped up our last Christmas in our childhood home, my sister Rachael voiced concern that I hadn’t really had a chance to say goodbye. Living as far away as I did, I hadn’t helped prepare the house for sale, nor spent any time just sitting within it and remembering bygone times good, bad and in-between. What little time I had spent there since our mom passed away was devoted to toddler-chasing.


I waved off Rachael’s concern. What greater merit was there in quiet time to say goodbye, compared to the good of being with those both alive and present?

Visiting my hometown for a few days, I’ve had a chance to revisit Rache’s words.

On Wednesday morning, Rache and I walked our hometown’s annual Butte to Butte race together with a couple of friends. I enjoyed the walk, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. It took me most of the nine miles Rache and I walked that morning to realize what it was: I walked not as Mom Deb, but just as Deb. Virtually my every moment of every return home since my son was born has been spent tending or preparing to tend to him. Without him beside me that morning, I felt I was only half a person. Understanding the feeling helped me shake it. Mostly.

Last night, after a few short, frantic days back home, I found myself pleased with new, sweet memories made . . . and overwhelmed in the face of much busyness and little time to myself. As an introvert, I need a lot of time alone to recharge, but I’d waved off the need as unimportant on so short a trip, only to find myself at wit’s end come trip’s end.

I snapped at loved ones over a couple of moments not worthy of note, let alone ire, only to realize just how much I really did need time alone. Even on a short trip. I retreated to watching a sitcom on my cell phone, falling asleep what must have been only a few minutes in.

When I came to, I found it was almost midnight. I’d missed a chance to say goodbye to one sister, her husband and her young son. The rest of my family was all tucked in and ready for slumber in their respective rooms.

I was saddened by the chances I’d missed to catch up and wrap up with them, but determined to do something more than watch TV with some of my last waking moments in Eugene this trip. I slipped on my shoes and paced the neighborhood in my PJs for a few minutes before sitting down in Rache’s driveway and looking up at the sky.

It was calming, but not enough. I leaned backward and folded my hands behind my head, laying down in my sister’s driveway and staring at the sky. So much of it.

As my eyes scanned the stars so readily apparent without a concealing sheen of L.A. smog, I found myself easing into memory. I was six or seven years old and camped out in my mom’s backyard, enjoying the sense of freedom in stepping outside of my day-to-day routines. Looking at the stars and moon then, I thought of An American Tail and wondered what future friends might be staring at the same sky at the same time. The possibilities open to the people sharing that night sky seemed endless.

I remembered sitting almost a decade ago in another of my sister’s driveways the summer my mom’s mental illness consumed her. I watched the sky then and hoped Eugene’s never-ending supply of clouds would stay away until I had a chance to see meteor showers illuminate it. The song “Let it Be” kept me going as I watched the sky and prayed for all kinds of things that had nothing to do with meteor showers.

I thought about my mom. I thought about how we hadn’t spent a whole lot of time looking at the night sky together, but how she feels present with me every time I remember to look anywhere but straight ahead.

I thought about how I haven’t visited her grave my last few trips home. Thinking of that called to mind her burial. The words of “The Gambler” spilled softly from my lips, and it wasn’t so important that my body hadn’t been to visit that particular site that has so very little to do with the parts of her life we shared.

Next came “The Rose,” another song beloved by my mom. After that, “The Boxer” fought its way out, and I smiled as I sang some of my mom’s favorite words from any song:

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him, till he cried out,
in his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving,
but the fighter still remains!”

The fighter has left, but she remains in the spirits of her children and her grandchildren, and the moments we remember her when we look up at the sky and wonder about everything that’s left to come. And yet, that wasn’t the right song to end on, somehow, so I returned to “The Rose.”

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember, in the winter,
Far beneath the bitter snow,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.

Since my mom died, I’ve felt the essence of her spirit with me in a few moments I shared with my son. Until this evening, I hadn’t found her essence on my own.

Now, with imprints of gravel impressed upon my shoulders and the shine of stars still twinkling in my eyes, I am filled with the goodness of understanding that I don’t need my son or a song or a particular memory to remember how it felt to be my mom’s daughter. I need only remember to stop, gaze up at the sky and know that my mom’s feet once rooted her near the same places I may now sometimes remember to stop and gaze in wonder at  the same constellations and planets that once earned her wonder.

It is with thousands of brilliant constellations of feelings within my heart that I shut down my laptop, thinking as I do that the vastness of the sky is matched only by the endlessness of love.

This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
Reposted 7/21/15

  1. July 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Nearly right. I think you will find that the the vastness of the sky is dwarfed by the endlessness of love. And both are a gift. A precious gift.

  1. August 2, 2015 at 10:54 am

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