I asked my dad a couple of times before the one year anniversary of my mother’s death if he wanted to do anything on that day. The first time I asked him he simply shook his head. A week later when I brought it up he said, “No, it isn’t something to celebrate.”  I wanted to say I wasn’t thinking we’d go out to the bar or anything, but I let it go, knowing we each need to grieve in our own way.  When the date arrived I went to the store and bought one white balloon like the ones we released at her memorial service. I drove to the park where the service was held and I walked up the hill to the clearing where we all had gathered. I held the balloon under my arm, cradling it close to my body so the brisk fall breeze wouldn’t take it from me until I was ready to let it go.

I’m not sure if I went to the park to honor my mother, remember that sad day, or if it wasn’t really for more selfish reasons. Because the prayer I murmured out loud to myself that afternoon was for me, not my mom. I prayed that the anger I had been feeling since her death would go away once and for all, and I asked that my nighttime dreams be about my healthy mom and not my sick mom – the mom who’s suffering broke my heart over and over again, day after day during the last months of her life.

As the autumn wind swallowed my words I let the balloon go. It sailed almost straight up into the blue September sky. I stood squinting in the bright sunlight and watched as it rose higher and higher, determined not to take my eyes off it until it was lost from sight. Several minutes passed, and then, at the exact moment the balloon left my view for good, a hawk swooped in just over the treeline and flew directly over my head. It was the only bird within sight, the only bird I saw the entire time I stood on that lonely hillside. The hawk soared and dipped on an invisible current of air and I turned and watched as it flew in the opposite direction of the white balloon.

13 thoughts on “transformation

  1. I’m so happy you left a comment on the lakewood snap which brought me over to your blog.

    this is a beautiful post. I find that having a ritual to honor our beloved departed can really help buffer the pain of grief and loss.

    the release of the balloon is a beautiful gesture. maybe one day you dad will be able to see that some comfort can be had in such gestures and traditions. the arrival of the hawk is very powerful and I think, perhaps your mother’s spirit was one with that hawk and she was reminding you that she is free from suffering and pain.

    I am reminded of a poem called “breaths” by birago diop which was adapted into a wonderful song by sweet honey and the rock. it goes:

    Listen more often to things than to beings
    Listen more often to things than to beings
    ‘Tis the ancestor’s breath when the fire’s voice is heard
    ‘Tis the ancestor’s breath in the voice of the waters.

    Those who have died have never, never left
    The dead are not under the earth
    They are in the rustling trees
    They are in the groaning woods
    They are in the crying grass,
    they are in the moaning rocks
    The dead are not under the earth..

    on an october day nineteen years ago my son died, the year after his death I started a tradition of planting some tulip bulbs near or on the anniversary in order to honor his spirit. every spring when tristan’s tulips emerge I once again can feel his light and beauty….

  2. It was a beautiful thing to do, letting the balloon fly high into the sky as a symbolic reaching out.

    I so understand the need to remember ~ even though the death of a parents is so tragic.
    My own father died some while ago now ~ but I always remember on the anniversary of his death. He died a painful and difficult death of Cancer too ~ but on the day of the anniversary of his death, I like to think of him at Peace. I shall never forget ~ how can one forget such a momentous event in your life?

    Blessings to you.

  3. I really enjoyed your commentary, and the picture was the perfect choice with the words. I’m sorry to hear of your loss, but I’m so glad you had the experience you did on the one-year anniversary. What a wonderful way to spend it.

  4. bookbabie, I’m so sorry about your Mom but what a wonderful story this is! I hope the hawk took your anger and pain away on its wings, never to return again!

  5. The picture is beautiful. The ritual was nice. I hope it helped you. I like things that are unexpected but seem like they were put there just for me. (The hawk.) I hope your prayer is answered soon. That’s a tough thing.

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