A tale of forgiveness and an angel.
In many ways, this story is my core tale to tell. It deals with my central soul decision to be born to a Mother whose profound damage and mental illness shaped my entire journey and the fulcrum of the events that I am about to describe was the beginning of my path to healing.
Today 22 November (11:11:11) Full Moon on Thanksgiving feels like the day to take the plunge. I am not going to edit much, just let it flow and not give the inner critic any purchase on the rock face of my tender self worth as a writer.
Growing up with (or mostly without) a Mother with Schizophrenia/Bipolar/Psychosis – in chronological order of the various opinions of the Doctors – impacted my life in so many ways, the tectonics of which are too vast to tackle for this piece alone, suffice it to say that I have had LOTS of therapy.
The one item of note for here is the almost telepathic and instantaneous radar one has for noticing mania or insanity. Any child who is ‘raised’ with mental illness, addictions and violence quickly grasps the ability to read the climate of any given situation very very quickly.
So it was this chemical and visceral burst that hit me the day I was driving to my friend Rowan’s. She and I were born in the same hospital (three days apart) and have literally been friends our whole life. Her dad always tells the story of how he met my parents in the hospital; “There were two of the most beautiful people I had ever seen, sitting on the floor in the corridor and drinking champagne.” It sounds really romantic, and by all accounts they were iconic members of London’s swinging 60s, but the geometry of it is a fractal and blueprint for how their parenting style would remain: I (and later, my sister) was being looked after somewhere else, and they were drinking.
So, Rowan was at home with a new baby, her hubby away on business and they had both been felled by an awful stomach flu. I had offered to come round and help and made a quick stop at one of those small roadside supermarkets to grab some basic supplies. Armed with bread, milk, Tea and magazines I saw a bunch of yellow roses and, despite never having liked yellow ones particularly, grabbed them thinking they might brighten Rowan’s kitchen.
Driving away, I saw him at the end of the road. Literally guts lurching with that same burst of adrenaline and fear that almost has a scent, I knew he was nuts. Rocking back and forth, manic and ranting to himself, he looked like he had been plucked from the streets of Nazareth. He was dressed in a knee length brown hair vest, bare arms and big exposed Buddha belly; a loincloth -literally- and barefoot. It was early December and FREEZING. A tall and powerful black man, bald shiny head and wild eyed. Heart pounding not from fear of him per se, just PTSD automatic response from all the times I had experienced my mother the same way.
I drove past him, breath ragged, and found my hands turning the wheel to go left and double back around. I really didn’t quite know what I was doing or why, but I parked a short distance from him and scanned the contents of the car to find something I could give him: bread? no. Grazia mag? no. The roses.
I took one of the roses from the bunch and got out of the car. His rocking stopped and he had turned away from me as if to make off as I approached, but he saw the rose in my outstretched hand and stopped to face me. He was hesitant, wary and almost shy as he looked at me and said,
“Is that for me?”
“Yes, my darling, it is.” and I held it out to him. The soft luminosity and joy that suddenly burned out of his previously contorted face, and the reverence and gentleness with which he took the flower from me – like a father being handed their first child, awkward and unsure what to make of such fragile beauty – still makes me weep as I sit here to write. He looked up at me, beamed a smile of stunned joy and walked away marvelling at the rose and cradling it like he had just been given the world’s greatest jewel.
I just about managed to get myself into the car before I literally broke wide open with deep seismic sobs that heaved out of me for what seemed like hours. I managed to get to Rowans but put it all away until later, when clarity started to bring meaning.
The background of where I was at with my mum, Sally, (who I had never actually called “Mum” she was always Sally) was that I had, the year previously, cut her completely and hermetically out of my life. For good this time. She had crossed a line during one of her manic episodes and threatened my kids. Two of my now three were little at the time and I was pregnant with my third and an Iron guillotine of a wall had rocketed down across my mother bear heart, sealing out any shred of care or love or obligation to her.
‘You can abuse ME my whole life, traumatise; insult; blame your insanity on my being born and everything in between, but fuck with my KIDS? I am fucking DONE.’ was how my thoughts had run that day. I blocked her at every level physically and in every dimension of my heart. She was no more to me.
Around that time Neal Donald Walsch’s monumental books Conversations With God had begun my formal education in the metaphysical and introduced me to the beautiful explanation of souls and their journeys to know their light, by describing them as quantum numbers of candle flames making up the whole of Source/God as the Sun, and the concept of oneness and the unified field was germinating for me.
“How can I, as a mere flame, know my light, next to you?” (I paraphrase here) “You must first, go into the dark, then you can know your light.”
The other wonderful nugget was the story of the little soul who asks that during their next time in a body (the dark..) can they play with and learn about forgiveness? That this is what they want the central lesson to be this time. Another beloved soul comes along and says, ‘I will come with you to help you in this lesson but, beloved one, please know that in order to help you learn about forgiveness, I will have to do terrible and hurtful things while we are there.’
I had also been introduced to the Abraham-Hicks material and had heard them during a talk describing the far deeper love and devotion of the soul mates who agree to come forth to be the ‘bad guy’ in our stories. The shiny gorgeous soul mates are plentiful and easy to adore, but to mine an appreciation for the antagonist who will abuse us into our growth and launch us into our core journey takes much harder digging and many a bloodied fingernail on the hard ground of our damaged hearts. It was this awareness that my beautiful street encounter had started to bring forth.
‘If I can find it in me to have a moment of loving compassion and care for a crazy stranger, then it must follow, somehow, that I have the same for my own lunatic Mother…’ I remember thinking. That SHE is the devoted soul who has incarnated with me to hold that space as my biggest challenge and, yet, catalyst of so much growth.
Mobile phones had become prevalent enough that I never answered my landline, nothing but nonsense and sales calls ever came in. And so it was strange that barely a week after this encounter, I was in my living room next to the phone and just picked it up after one ring. It was Sally.
She hurriedly told me not to hang up that she was only calling because she had wanted to say how sorry she was for what she had said about the kids. This was monumental in two ways, firstly she had NEVER ever apologised for any of the atrocious things she had done or said in 38 years of mistreatment, secondly I had not known that she remembered things she did and said while in psychosis – I had presumed they were the same as drunk blackouts, that no events are recalled.
I listened and realised that there was a clarity there, she was lucid and we were in a window of grace that might not come again. I accepted her apology and told her that I really needed her to know that – given what I was learning about soul mates and the kind of unconditional love that they display in teaching each other – I loved her and was so grateful for all the things I had in my life directly due to our having chosen to be mother and daughter.
‘I am the mum I am because of you, I am a great cook like you, I have your evil humour and wicked laugh, you gave me your beauty and keen mind and I know you have suffered deeply to be that catalyst and I want you to know that I now know it and am so thankful to you for all that it means.’
‘But, I’ve been so awful and such a terrible mother and done so many terrible things.’
“I know, and that is how we BOTH decided it would be. It has made me who I am.”
There was a silence and the only image that comes to me is the moment where Luke Skywalker uses the force to shoot the torpedoes into that one tiny window in the Death Star: it was like a small bomb of light had gone into her, in the one and only opening of our lives where she was open enough to apologise and hear my forgiveness and love. The planet sized walls caved in and we shared our first – and, as it turned out, only – moment of reciprocal and conscious love. She died a month later.
The two police officers, one female, at my front door saw I was heavily pregnant and asked to come in. My mind was racing with panic. My kids? My partner? Something awful had happened.
“Just tell me.” I said, still at the door.
“No, we really want you to sit down.”
Oh, fuck. It’s really fucking bad. I showed them in, walking mutely to the living room and sat down at the edge of the sofa, poised for horror and life changing news.
“We are terribly sorry to have to tell you like this, but your Mother has passed away. We were called to her flat and found her after her social worker alerted us she had not been able to make contact.”
Perversely, I was relieved.
Sheer beautiful relief flooded through me. It was ok. My kids are ok, everyone’s OK. I had been about to drive to pick up Betsy and Tom from school and as soon as I was in the car, my sister rang. She had just had an identical visit. That elegant and loving detail of how the police handled that is something else from this chapter that I will never forget. They told us both at the exact same moment. We both had shared the same feeling. Relief. It sounds hard, especially given the new openness between Sally and I, but there had been so many horrendous and wounding moments that my sister and I had often prayed for her to go. There was love, of course, and grief followed later but that initial feeling was of being released from something enduringly difficult and painful. For Sally mostly.
We had been told that we needed to pick up the new keys to her flat – in a police station near Heathrow – and to go and make sure that nothing had been stolen as the door of her small Hounslow council flat had had to be broken down and had spent some time open with only police tape across the door. Trips to that flat for my sister and I had never been easy at the best of times – fairly basic and a bit grim, certainly not fitting for a woman who had once modelled for the Beatles (purportedly had songs written about her) and who Mick Jagger had sung ‘Factory Girl’ a cappella to at her bedside when she had the flu.
A friend had kindly met us there, having picked up the keys for us on her way and, poised to go in first as if to protect us from the worst she said, “Oh, look. Someone’s already been here.” and pointed down to the doormat where there sat a single YELLOW ROSE.
I can’t recall exactly, as the moment was so fraught, but am pretty sure I raised my head up to the heavens and laughed. The message was clear. My bald and bellied friend really was from Nazareth. I had had an angelic intervention.
At her funeral, I wore my favourite Alexander McQueen yellow dress coat over my now overdue bump that would become Gracie, in a black maternity dress. Laura, the same friend who had noticed the rose said something along the lines of “Love your living tribute.” pointing to my coat. I looked quizzical as I hadn’t intended anything in particular other than not liking black at funerals. “You’re the yellow Rose.”
Of course! My name: Rosie.