My mother passed away on April 17, 2003 after battling metastatic cervical cancer. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life and changed me in ways that I am sure I have not even discovered yet. In her last few weeks in this existence, I spent almost every day with her in her home, taking care of her, keeping her company, watching her sleep, and waiting for, inevitably and inconceivably, what was to come. There were great days and horrible days, moments of laughter and moments of anguish, and times when she seemed to be suspended in the place between this world and the next. Through it all, her spirit shined brightly and bravely, with dignity and grace, and she kept on being Mommy, continuing to softly guide me and my sisters through this world and letting us glimpse into the next. And she continues to guide us from beyond the veil to this day.
As far as the name Walks Far Woman, the exact origin is lost somewhere in my memory banks but was fitting for my Mom. She walked everywhere, partly because she loved to walk and partly because my father had some serious issues around driving, bordering, if not crossing the border, on paranoia. My mother did not drive. She also had a life-long affinity with Native American culture and, hence, the moniker, Walks Far Woman. When I was a child, the name was funny to me, a cute nickname for Mom. As I got older, it didn't hold any humor for me anymore but caused me anger because I blamed my father for her having to walk everywhere, carrying shopping bags, armloads of books from the library, a child, etc. But now, looking back, it is a name of respect and encompasses all that she was, to me and to others. The name Walks Far Woman breathes spirituality, confidence, beauty, knowledge, wisdom, grace, humor, strength, courage, and independence, all qualities my mother possessed and passed to her daughters.
There are so many things my mom taught me while she was here, too numerous to recount here, but some of her simplest lessons are the ones that, I believe, make me who I am today. Little things, like how the changing sunlight coming through the windows heralds the change of the seasons, how a book can transport you to another time and place, another life, how to walk with your head held high even in the darkest times of your life, how to carry on with life while the world is crashing down around your ears, how to listen to your child when they are talking incessantly about nothing and to find something life-changing in their words, how a pot of beef stew on a cold Winter's night can warm the soul, how to hear the wisdom of a tree as you stroll by it, how a song can become part of the soundtrack of your life, how even a hardware store can be fascinating. Maybe these lessons are not so simple after all as they have incorporated themselves into my very being. I am happiest when I am reading, working with nature, relaxing with a cup of coffee after dinner and talking over the days events with my husband, son and family, walking on the beach or through a park, watching my husband become almost giddy about a gadget or tool at the Ace Hardware store, walking home from work while carrying a bag from Wawa and with a backpack of files to be typed slung over my shoulder and stopping to talk to the elderly Irish gentleman who lives around the corner about his beautiful garden. This is all my mom permeating my being, talking to me from the next world and leading me on my next path in life. This is why I am planning an herb garden for the Spring, even taking a class about growing and propagating herbs and their uses, why there is a stack of books next to my bed and on the table next to the sofa, why I love a blue and gold day at the Jersey shore, why I break out dancing in my kitchen when a great song comes on my Sirius satellite radio, maybe even why I am writing this blog.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and see my mom staring back at me, not an apparition but a shadow of my very soul. She is with me always, in everything I am, in everything I do. Of all the lessons Walks Far Woman taught me, perhaps this is the greatest: Although she is walking in places that I cannot walk, she walks with me.