8 Heaven’s Way
The great yonder above
Dearest Mom, you must be surprised to finally have word from me. Since you left us in a car accident in 1982, I have written to you only once, but I never mailed the letter. Now, being much older than you and still alive, I have finally learned how to bundle all my love together and send it to you in paradise.
I remember very clearly, Mom, the day I had to identify your body at the morgue. I especially remember your cracked and bloodied skull, just like your hands had been all your life. I didn’t cry on that day because my own heart was shattered into a thousand pieces too. Walking away from the cold marble, I simply tried to forget your sad life.
Dad had died the year before and you decided to take my children with you to Gaspésie as soon as vacation time arrived. It worked out well, since I was working day and night then. The kids could see the sea and spot the small trout hiding in the streams. Do you remember, Mom? You had just passed the village sign when your little Austin Marina collided with a big truck carrying sheep to slaughter. I was so scared, Mom, when I got the call. Even though I had been reassured that my children were safe and sound, for months I imagined them to be those sheep on their way to meet their end.
Dearest Mom, I blamed you for my own life’s difficulties for too long. I was angry at you for not loving us properly, for always being unwell in your head, so stingy with your love, so ungenerous when it came to encouraging our dreams. I didn’t want to be like you. And yet when I learned from aunt M at your funeral that your heart was already broken when you married Dad, I realized that I had done exactly what you had: I married a man I didn’t love because I carried his child.
Aunt M told me that you loved literature, that you had dreams of writing and artistic aspirations, a desire to see the world and to learn. She teared up as she told me that you had to give it all up because, at that time, a young woman had no choice.
Today, I understand you, Mom. And I can no longer blame you. You expressed your rebellion quietly by doing your housework well: cooking, baking, making jams, cleaning, gardening and sewing. But truth be told, your lack of love greatly distressed us children, especially the girls. But it ends now, because together, we are learning that happiness grows from within.
I am making my letter longer, dear Mother, because despite everything, I still need you to love me, to rock and sing me to sleep. But don’t worry about me anymore. I instinctively knew what I needed to do. I left my noxious marriage, and in 1987, I set out to build a huge kitchen, between whose walls, my own children and hundreds of other co-workers were welcomed with respect and affection and encouraged to discover their full potential, to trust themselves and to achieve great things.
Yes, Mom, it is probably because of you and our troubled family life that I found myself in the hospitality business, opening my arms wide, feeding and loving all who came to sit at our tables. Some healers of the heart might say that my leadership sprung from this need to fulfill my own childhood desires. It doesn’t matter, Mom. Never mind that I wanted to demonstrate that, despite the impoverished model I was given, I was capable of doing better, for longer. I set a big table. I gathered hundreds of entrepreneurs around a creative and rewarding endeavour. I am proud and satisfied to have created a meal here on Earth that will be served long after I join you in your Paradise. Don’t worry anymore, Mom, I am rich because I have discovered that by feeding others I have quelled my heart’s hunger.
Today, dear Mom, I write to you with tears of joy; I am so happy to have been born. I thank you for having been my mother, just as you were, because it allowed me to become the person I am. Thank you for passing on to me your love of writing, literature and teaching. You also gave me your talent for sewing, and with it, the magical power to make anything with my hands. You gave me your organizational skills, your sturdy build, your thick, beautiful mane, your ability to endure irritations, pain and the malice of others. I inherited your great physical strength, your keen thriftiness and your extraordinary capacity for self-sacrifice.
I remember, Mom, the first time I asked you for a dress, you gave me two yards of fabric and a pattern. And that’s how I learned how to sew all my children’s pretty clothes, dresses for myself, tablecloths, curtains and almost every sweet stuffed animal featured in the big Butterick and McCall pattern books. All of this has served me well, dear Mom, and I am so glad I am like you. I love you, I love you at last, Mom, and it is the most glorious feeling ever.
Love is everything, and I know now that the world is full of mothers who, like me, still remember the painful unshackling of their own growth. I will no longer be afraid because only love truly matters. I know that now. And each time a person is gripped with the urgency of the creative act, they stumble their way toward self-knowledge like a newborn releasing their talents into the sunlight one by one. I will be forever grateful to you, dearest Mother, for keeping me alive and clear-headed until I could unravel and understand your life and my own.
From up there, reach out and grab my hand, mother dearest. Hold me tight. Now that we have found each other, we are bound by the love that runs through our veins.
And today, to wish you a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, I will trace a huge pink HEART in the blue sky above!
Your little girl, who loves you very much,
Psst: To all the women in the world who have in one way or another raised a child, to my own daughter and my two granddaughters, I offer you my heart full of love.