For reasons my long-time readers will know, my feelings about some holidays are conflicted. For my newer readers and those who haven’t explored some older postings, read this series of posts that were part of the original raison d’être for this blog. Mothers’ Day is no exception. In the first few years after my mother died, Mothers’ Day was an in-your-face reminder to me of someone I felt was unfairly and painfully ripped out of my life, and the lives of those close to her. The first Mothers’ Day after my Mom died came just two months after her death. It was not an easy day to say the least.
Now, five or so years on since she died, it’s much easier. I think it is true that time does heal many wounds, and it is healing the wounds of my parents’ deaths. I’ve been able to move forward in a new and fulfilling life, and my constant gratitude goes out to my parents and their final gifts to me that facilitated this life transition.
Mom and I had a complex relationship for most of my life with her, and when I was younger, it was often a conflicted one. To put it simply, we just didn’t “get” each other. We had diametrically opposing points of view on almost everything. Success and worth to her was measured by the size of your bank account and the job title on your business card for many years. Mom was also somewhat critical at times of those who lived different lifestyles than she thought were “normal”, and at times was mildly racist. Conversely, she was adamantly pro-choice, and believed strongly in equal opportunity without consideration of race or gender. She especially despised conservative Christianity and social conservatism, as did my Dad.
This was contrasted by my father, who looked to careers that were emotionally fulfilling, if not always lucrative, and tended to take a “live and let live” attitude regarding people who chose what he considered to be “unconventional” lifestyles. I remember him once responding to a secretary of his who expressed homophobic views regarding a couple of employees, “what they do in their own bedroom doesn’t matter to me.” My values in these respects have fallen firmly to the end of the spectrum my Dad occupied. I have never earned huge amounts of money, but I’ve always been comfortable, and never been broke, and I’ve always sought jobs that would make me happy. Mom often commented that “you should get into management, you’d be good at that.” Management jobs have never interested me and never will. I’d rather do the work than make somebody else to it. I also vividly remembering her saying once that she hoped I would never bring home a girlfriend who wasn’t of the same “colour” as we were. I gave her an earful on that, and she never mentioned it again. Later on, her views in this respect reversed.
Mom’s views were a product, I realize, of the times she grew up in, and the influences of her own mother, who was a very distant, cold, and extremely judgmental person. My grandmother taught her children well how to not express love and affection, and to value money above much else. The fact that my Mom, aunt, and uncle turned out to be the good (but imperfect) people they were, is a testament to their own strength. Also, my Mom was an unplanned pregnancy, and my grandmother rarely passed up an opportunity to remind Mom of that. She also thought my Dad was a “useless bum” who couldn’t provide properly for his family. In later years, my Mom’s views softened greatly; and in many ways, especially on racial and lifestyle opinions, reversed completely.
On the other side of the coin, Mom and I shared some very deep similarities, and Dad often felt it was those similarities that were at the root of some of our conflicts. The deepest and most affecting similarity we shared was that Mom and I are (were) both very introverted. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, and enjoy very strong and deep friendships, but I also deeply value my “alone” time, and if I go to a party, I often deeply fear that I won’t know anybody there. Throughout my life, I’ve always formed deeper and closer friendships with a small core of people, and this circle has changed throughout my life. Some folks I was close to in the past have completely left my life and others have come in.
My Dad, on the other hand, was the complete opposite–highly extroverted, sometimes annoyingly so. He’d walk into a room full of people he’d never met, and within an hour or less, it would be like he’d known them for years. He had friendships with many people. He was that way. Mom and I were not. She was awkward and uncomfortable around groups of people she didn’t know, although she hid it very well, as do I. While Mom could talk your ear off if she was close with you, idle small talk, especially with those she didn’t know well, wasn’t her thing; neither is it mine. My introverted nature is a large part of the reason I write this blog anonymously. I could never share what I share here with an audience of people I do not know if my identity was known.
Personality-wise, I would say I’m a mix of both of my parents. I share my Mom’s introverted nature, and her tendency to develop deep and close relationships with individuals, rather than having large groups of friends. I share my Dad’s tendency to view success not by material measures like my paycheque or job title, but by how I feel about what I’m doing. If it makes me happy, and makes at least a small corner of the world better, that is more important to me. I also share my Dad’s deep love of the outdoors and the environment, especially the mountains. I’m most at peace when I’m out hiking or on my kayak. I also believe that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities regardless of race, religion, sexuality, or lifestyle choice.
With my Mom, I also share a highly analytical and somewhat critical view of the world–my nice way of saying that I don’t suffer fools and bullshit (well except for my tolerance of Christian Science for over 40 years) for long. Mom was rarely afraid to call things as she saw them. Like my Mom was for most of her life, I was also a lukewarm Christian Scientist, and when the occasion pushed me hard enough, I sought “material means” for healing and relief. She did as well, although she took great pains to hide it. I remember many years ago, she feared she might have breast cancer, and sought the care of a doctor. I do not know what the diagnosis ended up being, but I don’t think it was cancer–she wouldn’t have been able to hide that for long. However, in her latter days, as a tumour grew in her abdomen, she uncharacteristically sought radical reliance on Christian Science for healing. She died in excruciating pain in a Christian Science nursing facility with what a cousin of mine (not a Christian Scientist) described as a tumour the size of a basketball growing in her abdomen, and unable to take in much food. Since she died in a licensed care facility and was elderly, no autopsy was required, and my Dad as a dutiful Christian Scientist who would not want to know anything of “material causes” did not have one performed. So, her cause of death is listed simply as “natural causes”.
When I think back on my Mom’s last days, and the choices she made, I’ll be honest, I’m angry. I’m angry that she chose to radically rely on a system of healing, Christian Science, that not only failed to heal her, but it also caused her to die in absolutely unimaginable pain. In a Christian Science nursing facility, such is the deep state of denial of anything human or material, that even basic pain abatement medications are strictly forbidden. In my opinion, these “care” facilities are little more than licensed torture chambers where the ill and infirm go to die. Walk down the halls of one of these places and you will hear the occasional cry of a patient in excruciating pain; peek into a room and you’ll see a patient languishing in bed with a horrible growth protruding from their body. That was my Mom’s fate. She chose it; foolishly, I think. Christian Science did not heal her, and it does not heal many others. In fact, I have seen no evidence at all that Christian Science heals anything. It is one of many great frauds that have been inflicted upon humanity throughout history.
For me, this is part of the horrible legacy of Christian Science in my family. I deeply love my Mom, and the fact I feel anger about her choices in her last days tears me up inside. I don’t want to second guess her choices, but I do. I feel she was unduly influenced by my (and Dad’s) Christian Science Teacher who is extremely radical in his reliance on Christian Science, and strongly influenced my parents to do the same. To the last days, he maintained, as did the Christian Science nurses in the facility Mom died in, that she was “making progress”. Oh what a giant load of bullshit that was! Christian Science makes its adherents make some very terrible choices. It promises much, and delivers little. In the end, it caused a woman I cared about very deeply to die in a way nobody should ever die. To say I hate Christian Science and what it has done not only to my family, but to many others is an understatement. I’ve read too many horrific stories of conflict and abuse in so many families that has Christian Science at its roots. This is a religion that has caused too much pain for too many people. It has to stop.
Within all of us, there is “yin” and “yang”, good and bad. This is true of everything and everyone around us. It is how we balance these forces within our own lives that make us as individuals, imperfect as we all are. For so many years of my life, I artificially, thanks to Christian Science, suppressed and denied this very basic fact of life. This caused me a great deal of mental and emotional pain, anguish, and conflict. I now feel so incredibly liberated to acknowledge this simple truth in my own life. I never realized how painful and damaging the denial was until I walked away from it. Like chronic physical pain; chronic emotional pain, in whatever way it manifests itself, is something you eventually get so accustomed to that you forget about it, until you rip off the band-aid and actually deal with the wound. I am ever so grateful to friends and family who’ve helped me deal with it over the last few years, and for the tools I have at hand to actually deal with life’s trials, instead of denying them as Christian Science would have me do.