Embrace is my effort to describe the most overtly spiritual experience I've ever had…
~Editor's TRIGGER ALERT: This entry contains allusions to childhood sexual abuse~
This experience surrounds my relationship with my mother, which was a very challenging one for me most of my life.
Growing up I was subjected to much abuse. The nighttime abuse began when I was very young and continued for many years. Each night, I remember calling out to my mother from my bed, telling her I was afraid and couldn’t go to sleep. Each night she lay down beside me until I was calmer, and then she rose and left.
As an adult I wrestled endlessly with the most obvious and painful of questions: Why had my mother never probed into the reasons for my bedtime terrors and frequent nightmares? Did she really not know what was happening, or at some dark, unconscious level did she choose not to know?
My mother’s blindness tortured me as much as the cruel hands of my abuser. How could she love me and not rescue me?
I know the subject of child abuse is a tough one, but it is so prevalent and damaging in our society. One reason I started writing about my experiences was to give a voice to those who are still afraid to speak out. I was one of them for most of my life. It was not until I reached my sixties that my outrage overcame my fears.
I still have no definite answers regarding my mother, but I suspect her own childhood secrets kept her from responding to mine.
My brave, petite mother fought cancer for over a decade. She finally succumbed in a nursing home near her California apartment. When I went to say goodbye, I had an extraordinary experience, which I try to capture in this poem.
It was an experience that removed any doubt of my mother’s love for me, and left me believing that all my questions would be answered in God’s own time.
There is no doubt in my mind that the experience came from outside myself.
The phone rang at six a.m.,
too early by far.
It would be several more days at least,
her doctor had assured me.
The nurse’s voice was matter of fact--
sorry to tell you
a peaceful end
come say your goodbyes,
her voice softened.
I drove my rental car
over broad, tree-lined boulevards.
The nursing home sat unassuming
just as it had the day before.
Heart rushing, stumbling,
I entered her room;
she lay stiff and anonymous
on plastic sheets.
Only an empty husk, I thought,
my mother’s not in there.
I sank onto
the wooden bench next to her bed,
my vision blurred by unspilt tears.
Out of the blur, all unexpected, her joyful face
flared above me. She was smiling radiance, beaming delight! Her eyes,
illuminated by love and mysteries revealed, moved closer–– as when she bent to embrace
me as a child. She held me for a moment in those eyes, smiling, smiling,
and then she was gone.
From the hallway I heard
the soft chime
of an elevator opening.
Margaret Vidale returned to her childhood love of writing poetry when she retired from teaching in 2001. Growing up, reading and writing poetry were ways of escaping severe child abuse. Many of her early adults poems were efforts to break the silence she carried for most of her life. Writing those poems was healing and liberating, which enabled Margaret to branch out into a wider range of subjects. She feels fortunate and grateful that some of her work has appeared In Pearl, Solstice, Sol-Lit, The Whirlwind Review, Avocet, The Caribbean Writer, Still Crazy and other small press publications.
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