Seven Onions

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Today, I harvested the last seven onions, but the beets and carrots can wait in the dark autumn dirt a while. Frost only makes them sweeter. There’s a chill in the air. I wore my mother’s jacket. She died three days ago, against her will, but in the end, peaceful. That damn body betrayed her–the one she’d shoved into high gear every morning until it gave out. As I signed the papers, I knew she wanted that body burned to ash and flung into the wind–the same wind she knew as well as she knew the neighbors over the years–but I cried anyway.

I am in mourning. God has flitted in and out, respectful but adamant as I rail against her awful ways of doing things. The ways of God. The ways of God. What does that mean?

God is trying to be a soft barrier between me and despair. I prefer despair. God strokes my hair the same way I stroked Mom’s as she lay unconscious, her spirit moving slowly up the other side of the ravine between life and death. I push God’s hand away, angry and ashamed.

“Don’t do that,” I say.

“Okay,” God says. She tears up with me. “I loved her too, you know.”

I nod, reluctant. “I know. But you have a strange way of showing it.”

God nods. “The birds have started migrating,” she says. “I suspect another brutal winter is on the way.” I frown. The unstable shelter of the seasons is little comfort.

I look into the craggy face, the sad eyes, and realize that for God, this might be the hundred-millionth brutal winter. For God, everyone is dying, their bodies transforming, their warm, frightened souls flowing to where they will be known and welcomed. I want to know how. I want to know why. But God’s face is etched with a kind of wisdom I’m not ready for. I look away. Instead, I look to the hills. They are my oldest friends. I trust them. “Take care of her,” I tell them. “Make sure she finds her way.”

23 thoughts on “Seven Onions

  1. Jean & I too send you our condolences. Having lost both of our parents from recently to long ago, we also found your recent book BOOMERS a wonderful comfort, retroactively, so you are also healing us in your grief. What better tribute to your mother!

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  2. So sorry for your loss. Beautifuly written. I, too, find comfort in my favorite hills when I’m feeling unsettled. Happy to know I’m not the only one. Sending love to you and your family.

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  3. Rita, this one brought many tears and at least one smile for me. My mother has been gone for many years but my dad only passed away two years ago. Today would have been his 97th birthday. Thank you for sharing and for writing beautifully. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  4. Rita, I was wondering if you would post this Sunday, after such a hard week, but in YOUR pain, you have comforted many, many others, in theirs… My daughter and I have been trying to understand and not fear death after the death of my mother five years ago to an assisted death in Switzerland. Trying to make sure the despair we felt does not go any further, and maybe find something redeemable about it. We are starting make some headway, to the point of my daughter considering becoming a death doula, and help people plan the end of their story. Stories like yours help. Blessings on
    you and yours…

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    1. Thanks for your comments and I’d love to hear more about the assisted death process. I am a strong proponent of planning the end when possible and appropriate, and have even thought of trying to create a space for that. Have your read my book, Boomers? It is my first attempt to begin writing toward that goal. Thanks again…

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  5. Buying it with my very next check…it’s already in my Amazon cart! Brooklyn is looking at sites like ‘Order of the Good Death’ website & FB, “Ask a Mortician” and “Going with Grace” on YouTube, and I am getting emails from a website on Aging called Next Avenue. I’ll look up the names of the books I bought on assisted death. Mom’s ended up being pretty horrific on my daughter and I, and I think we learned a lot about how NOT to do it. That’s why I think Brooklyn is doing what she’s is doing, so no one else would have to experience it as we did. Planning for a good ending of your story starts a very long time before it occurs, and the more we can normalize death, the easier and kinder it can be on all involved. One of the more exciting things we researched was having the deceased loved one’s viewing and wake in the home, where people can touch, hold, and deposit beloved objects along with flowers, music, or whatever gives the most comfort. I know for sure now that there ARE good deaths and bad deaths, and that doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with how it happened. There is a real REASON that cultures celebrate Day of the Dead, and it’s about saying goodbye and yet knowing they are just around the corner… and that’s what we need to relearn.

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  6. Hi Rita.
    My sympathy on the loss of your Mom. Mary Lou looked and sounded like quite the firecracker. Beautiful memorial you wrote for her. My family has had a very painful loss of a son, brother, nephew recently and I wanted you to know that this piece, Seven Onions, has brought them some comfort. Keep writing and getting through all of it. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mary Jo–She WAS a firecracker, and lived an good, authentic life. I’m sorry to hear of your family’s loss. We are all so fragile, so vulnerable…we have each other, for a while, Knowing that my “conversations” reach others, and make some kind of sense to them gives me energy and hope. It all helps. Hugs.

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