With The Sign: A Mother’s Gift

With The Sign: A Mother’s Gift -- Kathie Madonna Swift

My plane touched down in Dunedin, New Zealand and I slowly awoke from what seemed like a coma. It took me awhile to get my bearings and figure out where I was and why I had “hitchhiked” as a standby passenger all the way across the world.  Grief can do that, I discovered. It can lead you to a place that allows you to tuck yourself deep into the uncomfortable wound of sorrow, for however long it may take to emerge into life again. 
But I had promised my daughter that I would come visit and we were looking forward to spending some time together. She, too, was feeling the painful loss of her spunky grandmother who had lived with us for the past few years while she fought hard against the ravages of ALS. Both my children, Kadan and Michael, had been dedicated guardians in her caretaking.

Kadan greeted me with a welcoming smile at baggage claim in the small kiwi airport. She had a worried look on her face when she saw me. We hugged  firmly and I assured her it was just exhaustion from the long trip. But she sensed it was the hole in my heart from losing “gram” that was reflected in my obvious, rundown appearance.

Kadan drove me to my temporary quarters, a comfortable suite not far from the center of town, thoughtfully chosen so I could roam about while she was at her university classes. In a few days, she would have time off and we would head out to venture around the South Island, exploring both sea and shore. But for now, recovery from the trip and acclimating to the time zone and my surroundings was in order after a light dinner at a local eatery.

With The Sign: A Mother’s Gift -- Kathie Madonna Swift

The next morning after an energizing “flat white” I headed to the nearby Botanical Gardens. I meandered around for hours, observing the beauty of this abundant green space that can spur even the most dormant landscape artist in all of us. I continued walking down pebbly paths lined with flowers and plants that stirred my soul and at last, I was in the rose garden, alone. And it was there in the rose garden that a feeling so deep suddenly came over me. I looked up to the cerulean sky above, and without a second’s hesitation, my voice cried out to the vast space, “OK, Mom, you promised -- Now please, tell me where you are!” 

You see, when I was younger, my mom had shared with me the story of the rose blooming in the midst of winter, “the sign,” the message from someone dear who had passed on from this life -- that they were OK. And for years, my mom and I had agreed on sending each other a “sign” that would convey to the one left behind where we were after we passed on and that all was well in our new life!

My eyes were immediately drawn to the ground, and there in front of me was the most beautiful pink rose, its delicate petals gently stretched out in wonder.  And on the small name post in front of the rose, was my sign. The name of the rose was “Paradise”.  I welcomed the tears that were washing my face. Hands on my heart, I knelt down, and touched the soft petals of Paradise, grateful for my mother’s sign.  

With The Sign: A Mother’s Gift -- Kathie Madonna Swift

I shared this story in a workshop at Kripalu recently, and several physicians attending came up to me afterwards and thanked me profusely. “Why don’t we share more stories like this?” they asked. Maybe the broader point is that death is so suppressed in our society -- yet it’s part of living a whole life. Let’s make it part of the conversation around self-expression, and loving and honoring family, friends, and life. 

What are your thoughts? 

Kathie SwiftComment