I woke up this morning to a message from a friend and client. It read, “Some people just make you feel better when you’re around them. They are sunshine for your soul and medicine for your mind. That’s you my friend.”
It was that sweet moment in the morning between sleeping and waking, a time when my heart is open and my brain hasn’t clicked on enough to tamp my emotional stirrings down. This message flooded me with memories of my mother, a distant recalling that she used to tell me I was good medicine. She’d say it slowly and in a deep tone like she was from the south, “You’se good medicine,” always a flare for the dramatic.
Riding my bike later in the day I found myself crying big tears, remembering my mother in a long forgotten memory – a trip in the car to buy healthy groceries. She was having a particularly hard day, and I can still feel the weather that matched her mood, overcast and grim. I remember feeling calm and gentle around her that day in particular, as though I knew she needed soothing even at such a young age. This was the first time she called me Good Medicine. This memory washed into me with a deep longing for her and also such immense love because I know that she’s with me, now more than ever.
At this exact moment three sandhill cranes crossed the bike path, two parents and their baby. Thoughts of mating for life washed in and also an unfamiliar sense that I am still my mother’s child. I don’t think of that often, and it was incredibly comforting. Imagine feeling somewhat orphaned for the majority of adulthood, how refreshing it might be to remember all of a sudden that you are that person’s child.
Mating for life became a recurring theme as I grew up. Hawks, wolves, cranes – they all mate for life, and my mother became somewhat obsessed with the concept. I will never forget this one day, again driving somewhere, my mother weeping unconsolably at the sight of a dead duck on the side of the road. I remember how much I didn’t understand the depth of her sadness as she kind of mewled out, “Don’t you understand, they mate for life!”
Looking back now, I understand that her own mortality was intertwined with that moment, the grief she felt for the partner left behind.
I was twenty two when my mother passed from metastatic breast cancer. She was fifty four, diagnosed at forty seven. Even then it felt like she was stolen from us too soon. Now that I’m nearing forty myself I understand the truth of that feeling all more deeply. When she passed I distracted myself for years in a desperate attempt to not have to deal with it. I laughed and smiled and partied, worked non-stop and did everything I could to try and crawl back into myself, the me from before, an impossible attempt.
I was so overwhelmed with sadness – and in many ways in total denial – when I was younger that I lacked the ability to look for the spiritual gift in the experience of losing my mother. I was also more than a little scared to open the door to the spirit world, as though I might open to something so big that I wouldn’t be able to turn off. My mother had an intense flare for drama and a rather peculiar obsession with certain dark things – the Black Plague, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Terms of Endearment. So there was a certain fear that she might haunt me to suit her own amusement.
What I have discovered is that by cracking open and open, by stepping into my own personal work and deeply healing, I have made space for her to be with me once again. I talk to her out loud on a regular basis. I say evening tidings to her and to my grandparents through a giant silver maple in my backyard. I laugh with her, ask her questions, and take notice of the small things in nature that might be signs from beyond – a white feather, butterflies, birds of prey soaring unnaturally close, the sandhill cranes, cardinals where they’re least expected, a song she loved coming through the radio.
I don’t fear her haunting me anymore because I have opened to the delight of keeping our relationship as it was before it was wrapped in pain and fear … before when we laughed and cooked and played together. I hold her close and feel that honoring her in joy keeps her alive in the way she’d want to be.
Today clients alive in the physical world living with and affected by cancer are finding me, like an unseen push from beyond. After all this time, I find myself sitting in a small and sacred space tucked in the back of the barn with men and women who share so much of my mother’s biggest fears while she lived with cancer – leaving family and loved ones behind, not having accomplished what one was meant to in the time they had, the indifference of cancer.
The pain, the frailty, the constant mental climb. The grief, the chaos … all of the unknown.
The denial, the daily battle, the exhaustion.
The hope and the horror.
Today I sit across from women who could be my mother.
Life has brought me to this place where I support and nurture men and women with cancer. Like some grand alignment that is greater than the physical. I know that I am giving them a form of good medicine, if even a moment of peace, compassion, a bit of expanded awareness along their journeys. What they give back to me is a gift beyond my wildest dreams.
I get to hear the voices of women who could be my mother.
She’s been with me more and more with each passing day, as though the more I open to who I’m meant to be, the more I offer myself to others in a clear and vulnerable way, the more I can feel her presence.
Out at the barn I ring a wind chime and can feel her with me. Red tailed hawks follow me on country drives, and I have a knowingness that they are partly her, watching over, making sure I notice.
This past fall I went out to see Magic on the anniversary of her passing, heavy heart with missing her, rang my chime and called on my spirit guides to send me a message. Thoughts like, What am I doing? Am I on the right path? What message does my heart most need right now?
Eyes closed, heart open, I pulled the Seahorse card from one of my favorite decks and laughed out loud through my tears. What a loving affirmation.
Nelle, this is beautiful and moving. I can relate. My mother died from Leukemia when I was in my early 20s. And also, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 42. I went through a lot to get a final diagnosis and as you know, actually survived. I have since run Breast Cancer Support groups (but not since moving to Wisconsin from overseas).
I’d love to discuss sometime, let me know if you’d like to.
Hi Carina, Thank you for your kind message! I would love to connect some time, and it would be fabulous to have you out to the barn some time. It’s always nice to know that words and connections touch someone else’s heart. Let’s be in touch ~
I am reading this with tears flowing from my eyes and a huge lump in my throat. What you do for others from the pain you experienced is so unselfish and so giving. I’m so glad you came into my life.
Thank you Michelle – I appreciate your kind words so much! I am beyond grateful to know you, too. To many more adventures in horses, healing, laughter and tears when we need them! I appreciate your knowledge about feathered horses and your free spirit immensely xo
With tears in my eyes it’s hard to see what I’m typing (from my phone I guess it’s texting). This message is so beautiful and powerful.
We have the same story – our mothers died of breadt cancer.
Yet so different… If only I felt a connection to my mother, if only I had memories of my mother.
You are so blessed to have this lasting connection – a healing knowing…
Thank you for sharing, for helping others and being what your mother knew – Good Medicine!