by Elizabeth Spring
The prediction was coming true, or at least I thought it was. Astrologers proclaim that it is completely unethical to predict death, and the idea of
desiring death for another is unacceptable for everyone. Yet during the past few months, I had clearly seen the astrological significators for death in my mother’s chart, particularly as it was reflected in my chart. Death is more easily seen and predicted by looking at the chart of a person who is the closest to the one who may die. Jupiter, the planet of release, is usually implicated, especially in a case like this, where I was the caregiver.
These were the thoughts that were swirling in my head as I walked across the frigid cold parking lot to the nursing home yet again. I had been coming here every morning for two years, and I knew I had to face this adversary, this death, now. I wanted to do it with patience and dignity, knowing that this moment in time was auspicious as well as ominous. It held hope for healing and the chance for love. As I could barely hold my courage any longer, I hoped the prediction of release would soon be coming true.
I dug my hands deep into my pea-coat jacket and retrieved the fragment of paper that I had scribbled on months ago. It was a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that had been sustaining me through the last few years of Mother’s illness. I stopped and read it again:
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life a sorrow and a suffering enough to disarm all hostility. I had changed the word
enemies in that quote to
families. It certainly resonated with me now.
The air smelled warm and chemically sweet in the nursing home. I entered the elevator alone and was inched along to the fourth floor. The door opened and as I walked across the dining room, I looked for Mother. She wasn’t there. The other patients were eating, though many had their heads drooped over as if they were asleep. Hardly anyone talked. The lights on the Christmas tree twinkled in the somnolent dreamscape.
As I walked down the quiet hall, I could feel fear rising like sap in my veins, and it began pouring out my hands. The limbs of my body felt weak. The door to her room was open, but I could see the curtains drawn around the bed. Could she have died during the night?
Pulling the curtain open, I saw her eyes were closed, her mouth was open and her breathing laboured. I sat down next to her and took her hand in mind, and began praying to God to release this Soul.
Isabelle? she said, as she stirred and opened her eyes.
You’ve come. Her voice wasn’t more than a whisper.
Yes, Mom, it’s me. I leaned closer. Our eyes locked into an embrace. It was as if she was holding onto me, to life, by the very force of our gaze. We stayed that way a moment, then I had to look away, to let go.
I could hear the heavy footsteps of someone approaching. The nurses asked if I would wait outside as they checked her vital signs. Vital signs: that meant something different in my language.
I walked back towards the dining room and collapsed into a chair. Staring blankly across the room, I let my eyes linger on a simple crèche of Mary and Jesus in the stable. The naïve tackiness of the plastic figurines didn’t strike me as cheap or trivial this time; instead, I remember how Mother had devoted so much time each year to creating a good Christmas for my father and me. Every year she would set up a Victorian Christmas village underneath the tree – an idyllic village scene where there was always pristine snow, where the skaters always had a glistening mirror lake, and the warm lights of the Catholic Church were always welcoming. She had been a good mother.
But some would say she had not been a good mother. I could still hear my mother’s voice rattling around my psyche – old tapes that never seem to leave:
Isabelle, you must do this! If you cannot do this for me, I tell you I will die. I will kill myself, and your uncle knows this. He will tell others why I died – because of you. This was how I was raised. There was no freedom:
Do this or I will commit suicide and others will know why I died. You must do what I say. How much pain and fear she must have held within to threaten that to her only child.
In time we had each forgiven the other, but now we needed something beyond forgiveness. The time for miracles was past, but could we hope for something more now – some simple grace? I thought of the simple grace I had felt on the day of my first communion. Dressed in white like the little bride of Jesus, I wondered if I would feel a tingling as the wafer, the body of Jesus, was placed in my mouth. I believed in this little miracle, and so I experienced something. Even if I didn’t shiver with delight, I could feel the sacredness of the moment. As I grew older, I lost the peace that came with such simplicity and embodied faith, but in its place came a trust in the cycles of life and nature, leading again to a comforting cosmology of meaningfulness. Astrology had given me that, but now what would happen if the astrological signs that predicted my mother’s passing at this time didn’t prove true? Would I lose my faith? Would I lose faith in the synchronicity and correspondence that existed between the astrological chart and timely unfolding of events? Would I lose faith in God?
I was too tired to think, too tired to attempt to read the mind of God, too tired to think of the relationship between God’s mind and the Soul’s will. The charts seemed to reflect what was happening now, but all I could do was to let my head fall onto the table in in front of me like the other residents of the home. Maybe this is what it’s like to die here.
For the first time, a slow cleansing trickle of tears began to fall as I allowed my thoughts to drift back to my study, to my sanctuary room. I sat there staring at the astrology charts, dreaming, watching how the signs had changed once more, but like in a bad dream, I was unable to see clearly, to answer questions. I couldn’t remember what the signs or symbols meant, or if it was an ending or a beginning, or even whose it was.
I awoke to the soft touch of a nurse’s hand on my shoulder.
You can go in now, dear.
Sitting down next to the bed again, I took Mom’s cool hand in mine. I could see a slice of untouched pumpkin pie on her table, and gingerly I placed a small forkful of it in front of her lips. She opened her mouth and took a small bite and I could see the barest hint of a smile. She looked so very old and yet seemed so very young; like a sick child who couldn’t feed herself. I wanted to feed and comfort her.
Thanks honey…I love you… I took both her hands and held them, trying to infuse them with warmth and life. Then I waited for the rest of the sentence to unfold, the part where she would tell me what she needed next and why. But it didn’t come. There wasn’t any more she chose to say this day. I was shocked.
I love you too, I said, surprising myself as a warmth came over me. Maybe this was is what healing feels like. Then she closed her eyes as if to close our session as she drifted back to where she had been. This was one of the very few times Mother had ever said
I love you that wasn’t followed by a
but… or a condition for approval.
I got up and walked back to the elevator and pressed the down button. I couldn’t wait for the slow creature to come to the fourth floor. My courage was tenuous, almost leaking away. Again the paradox, the fear of death and the shock of feeling loved. The healing of some old wound was almost more than I could take. I couldn’t stand still. I spotted the Exit sign and ran down the steps into the fresh cold air outside. It now filled me with life.
Early the next morning, the nurse called me as I sat at my desk. Mom had just died. I looked over at the cool blue light of the computer screen and saw that Jupiter, the planet of release and relief, had just conjuncted my Sun, and was aspecting Mom’s chart as well. We had been blessed.
I stared blankly at the signs and the synchronicity of
endings and new beginnings — those euphemistic terms that were splayed all over the charts. Even so, a wave of sadness enveloped me as I remembered the painful ambivalence of our love. But it was finished now, and the ending had been both predictable and not predictable at the same time.
I turned off the computer screen as a ray of golden morning light shot through the window and warmed my face. I was in awe of the love that had appeared, and finally let myself inhale the hope of a new day. I stood up and moved to the window, letting myself be bathed in sunlight and gratefulness for the small miracle of our last visit. We had indeed been blessed by simple grace.
Copyright Elizabeth Spring, 2013. Printed here with permission. Elizabeth Spring, M.A., has two books available on www.amazon.com:
North Node Astrology: Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose and Saturn Returns: The Private Papers of A Reluctant Astrologer. She can be contacted through her website, elizabethspring.com.