Poem for Mother

Mother Jane with my late brother, Richard

Contemplating this poem by David Whyte this morning on Mother’s Day and how I wouldn’t be the person, the woman, the healer, or the artist that I am had she lived. Her death twenty-one years ago and my grief broke me open to “a larger sea,” to quote Whyte. (Read my story by clicking here) He writes, “The most difficult griefs/ones in which we slowly open/to a larger sea, a grander/ sweep that washes/all our elements apart.” For me, this a profound grief that washes away separateness and egoic striving while opening our hearts to compassion and love in service to the greater good. Something I believe that we are all being called to do during this collective dark night of the soul. It took over a decade for me to experience the possibility of “exultation” that the poem also speaks to and I continue to give myself permission to experience joy even amidst my pain for the living Earth–the Mother of us all–that is being assaulted daily by greed and the illusion that more stuff will make us happy. Does it really? Or is the source of our happiness grounded in love, community, belonging, and purpose and for me also beauty, art, creativity. Something to think about as we celebrate, mourn, and remember our mothers. May all beings love and be loved.

The Shell

-David Whyte

An open sandy shell

on the beach

empty but beautiful

like a memory

of a protected previous self.

The most difficult griefs

ones in which

we slowly open

to a larger sea, a grander

sweep that washes

all our elements apart.

So strange the way

we are larger

in grief

than we imagined

we deserved or could claim

and when loss floods

into us

like the long darkness it is

and the old nurtured hope

is drowned again

even stranger then

at the edge of the sea

to feel the hand of the wind

laid on our shoulder

reminding us

how death grants

a fierce and fallen freedom

Away from the prison

of a constant

and continued presence,

how in the end

those who have left us

might no longer need us

with all our tears

and our much needed

measures of loss

and that their own death

is as personal

and private

as that life of theirs

which you never really knew,

and another disturbing thing,

that exultation

is possible

without them.

And they for themselves

in fact

are glad to have let go

of all the stasis

and the enclosure

and the need for them to live

like some prisoner

that you only wanted

to remain incurious

and happy in your love

never looking for the key

never wanting to

turn the lock and walk


like the wind

unneedful of you,