My Mother's Soul Promise to Me
By Joan Borysenko
My mother died when I was in my early forties. The day of her death, the family came together to keep a deathbed vigil. She was bleeding internally so they took her away for a test; the whole day passed but she didn’t return. I went to look for her and found that she had been lying on a gurney outside of the department of nuclear medicine all day. We had an exchange with a doctor there which turned out to be pretty funny. I said, “This won’t do. She’s dying, she needs the comfort of her family.” And the doctor said, “We need a diagnosis.” My mother, who was so weak, rallied herself, got up on her elbow, looked him in the eye and said, “You need a diagnosis? I’m dying, that’s your diagnosis.”
So I stole her. I started wheeling her away and said, “You’re not having any tests. I’m taking you back to your room.” And he said, “Wait, the hospital rules state that an orderly has to take her.” I said, “Nobody’s taking her, just me,” and I wheeled her into the elevator to take her back to her room. She looked at me and said, “We may not have much time left and I want you to know one thing. I love you. I know that as a mother I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’d like to know that you can forgive me.” In that moment, years of misunderstanding faded away and there we were on the most profoundly sacred ground. It gave me a chance not only to forgive her but also to ask for her forgiveness for being so filled with my own narcissism and judgments. It was the closest moment of our lives, that short ride in the elevator.
When we got back to her room, we were in a whole other landscape of being with one another, and I asked her something that I never would’ve asked under normal circumstances. I asked if she would exchange a soul quality with me. She was a very straightforward woman but she got it right away. She looked at me and said, “I have always admired your compassion,” which really touched me because I felt I had never really been compassionate with my own mother. I told her what I admired most in her was her tremendous courage. This was a woman, like many of her generation, who had lived through very difficult things like the Great Depression and the death of many relatives in Auschwitz. But like many women in difficult circumstances throughout the world, she knew how to keep on going.
Not long after that, we started the countdown because she was getting weaker and weaker. In the middle of the night, my twenty-year-old son, Justin, and I were sitting by her bed meditating when I suddenly had a very profound, very realistic vision. I was a pregnant mother giving birth, but I was also the baby being born. Throughout the vision I was perfectly lucid, and I was in my regular state of consciousness as well. I thought, How remarkable. I’m in two bodies and I’m conscious of being in both. And it occurred to me that that’s what the consciousness of God is, and that it’s present in every human being. Then my consciousness switched totally into the baby being born, and I found myself coming down a long dark tunnel and out into the light. Once I was in the light, I saw my entire relationship with my mother unveiled on an infinite number of layers. I saw that it had been absolutely perfect, and that we had learned lessons from one another that had made us both more courageous and compassionate. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this woman. I also felt the circularity of things, that she had given me physical birth and, in this moment, I was giving birth to her soul as it was leaving.
When the vision was over and I returned to the room, my vision had changed. Instead of seeing things as solid objects, I saw everything as energy—it looked like everything was made of light and interconnected. And I saw that the energy of her now lifeless body was the same as the energy of the bed, the ceiling, the floor. I looked over at my son, who was sitting on the opposite side of the bed. It looked like he had a halo. He was crying. He looked at me with such a soft look in his eyes and said, “Mom, the whole room is filled with light. Can you see it?” I told him I could, and I moved around the bed and sat next to him.
He said, “I just had a vision. You must be extraordinarily grateful to Grandma Lily.” I said, “Yes, I am. For the first time in my life, I really know what gratitude is.” He said, “What I understood in my vision is that she was a very great soul, and she came to Earth not for her own purposes but as a gift to you—so that in resisting her, you could become who you truly are and you could develop the gift that you have to give to other people.” At that point, Justin and I fell into one another’s arms and began weeping. I said to him, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a mother. Will you forgive me?” “Of course,” he said. And then, almost jokingly, he added, “You know, what I saw in my vision is that you must have wounded me in just the right way so that I could develop my own strengths.”
I had dreams about my mother every night after she died for about a month. A couple weeks after her death, I had an extraordinarily lucid dream about courage. I found myself high up in the mountains in the company of a group of older women. They said they were in a school for spying, with the word spy meaning “to see clearly.” I saw the strength and the courage of these women, and I wanted to have it, too. I told them I wanted to join them and they accepted me into their school. The day of the final exam, I lost track of my class and went wandering outside where I found a huge tree that was hollow in the bottom—I knew somehow that this was my final exam. With complete courage, I jumped into the hole. As I did so, a yellow inflatable raft materialized under me and I went speeding through other planes of consciousness. I came out into the divine light and again had a clear sense of the safety, the meaning, and the interconnectedness of everything.
When I woke up that morning, I went to make coffee. There by the coffeemaker was a little red sticker about three inches across with swirly white letters. At first glance I thought it said Coca-Cola, but when I picked it up and looked closer I saw that it said Courage. And I thought, My God, it’s the Red Badge of Courage! When my husband and son woke up later, neither of them said they had ever seen it before. I was reminded of people who talk about apport from the spirit world, where things from that world manifest directly into this one. And I thought, That was my mother’s soul promise to me, that she would give me courage. In those times when my courage flags, I think of that experience and of my mother’s gift to me.
Joan Borysenko’s many books include The PlantPlus Diet Solution: Personalized Nutrition for Life; Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive; It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change; and Minding the Body, Mending the Mind.
Trained as both a medical scientist and a psychologist, Joan’s vision is to bring science, medicine, psychology, and spirituality together in the service of healing.
This story appears in Phil Bolsta’s book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. To order your copy, click here.
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This article appears in: 2017 Catalyst, Issue 21 - Gardening & Homesteading Skills