Today I took a magical walk with a sea otter.
I was out on the seawall in the a light spring rain thinking about my mother. Contemplating what was going to happen to her.
I’d just visited her a few days prior and knew in my heart she was not long for this world.
My son and I had gone to see her in the care facility she was living. We were shocked by the rapid decline she’d made since our last visit.
Her face looked gaunt and hollow. Her body frail and weak. Her skin ever so pale and delicate.
Deep down some part of me knew that she was finally giving up the fight.
My Mom turns 92 in a few weeks. I thought she’d live forever.
Or at least until 100.
Her feisty Scottish nature had kept her alive long after many of her siblings and friends had passed away. Having lived through the Depression and World War II she had a fighter’s spirit inside.
But the last few years of her life had been especially difficult for my mother.
She was starting to lose the fight.
Ever since my Dad, the only man she’d ever loved, had passed away. Despite their sometimes rocky relationship they’d spent 70 of their 88 years on this planet together. And they’d been devoted to one another. In their own unique and quirky way. Right to the very end.
Without him by her side, she’d been lost. And lonely.
But now I could see there was something bigger happening.
The light behind my mother’s deep blue eyes was starting to dim.
Her life force was fading.
My son and I took her out to sit in the warm sun that day. It was one of her favourite things to do. To sit with her kids and grand kids. To be out in the sunshine. She would ask us questions and smile as we told her stories of what we’d been up to.
But this time was different.
Her voice was weak. She had difficulty drinking her water. Had no interest in eating her lunch.
When I gave her a piece of dark chocolate from the bar we’d brought her, she could barely finish it. A self-confessed chocoholic, my Mom had always savored these special treats from us. But not this time.
She hardly spoke. Didn’t ask us the questions she usually did. And when we told her our stories, she showed little interest.
She seemed weary. And remote. Like a piece of her spirit had already left.
So we wrapped her up in a warm blanket and scarf and took her out for a walk. She quickly closed her eyes. And almost fell asleep in her wheelchair. She seemed at peace as my son pushed her gently along the neighbourhood paths.
At one point I looked over and my mother’s head was raised ever so slightly. Her face gently lifted to the sky. I had a fleeting image of her spirit flying. Off to a better place. Finally free.
After our walk we dropped her off at her care facility. We kissed her face and said our goodbyes.
Little did I know, it would be the last time my mother would ever kiss her grandson goodbye.
The last time she would look into his eyes and smile. The very last time she would watch him as he walked away.
As we drove home that day my son and I talked about our visit. As a wise thirteen year old he too had sensed the dramatic shift with his Grandma. He saw that she’d become more tiny and frail. With heavy hearts we both agreed that her time on earth may be drawing to a close.
I hardly slept that night as l thought about my Mom. And all the ups and downs of our relationship over the years.
How she was the one person I’d tried so hard to please. And yet often felt like I hadn’t. The one who’s love and acceptance I craved the most in this world.
Growing up I’d found myself acting as a sort of counselor to her. I’d listened to her talk about my Dad and their relationship. I’d tried so hard to help her. To rescue her. To fix her marriage whenever it seemed broken.
Years later, I realized that counselling my Mom had never been my job. It was never a role I’d been meant for.
I thought about how I’d learned to set better boundaries with her.
And how hard it had been. How I’d had to let go of trying to make her happy. And of the guilt I sometimes felt when I thought I hadn’t done enough for her. Or been a good enough daughter.
I thought about how I’d finally learned to step back into my own life. And to let her live hers.
But mostly I thought about how much I loved my Mom.
And how very much I would miss her when she was gone. There would never be another person on this earth to replace her.
After all, she was my mother.
So today I went out for a rainy walk on the seawall to clear my head. And to heal my heart. To say a silent prayer to the Universe about my Mom. And to ask my Dad’s spirit what I should do.
Almost immediately I heard these words rise up inside of me: “let go.” I felt the tears well up in my eyes. I took a deep breath and kept on moving.
I wasn’t ready to let her go. It was too soon.
Suddenly I spotted a small sea otter swimming in the ocean.
I’ve always believed that seals (and sea otters) are my animal spirit guide. A way for me to connect to my soul. To my inner guidance system. To the Universe.
So I wasn’t surprised to see that otter only minutes after asking the Universe and my Dad for guidance.
Because, like me, my Dad was a lover of the sea. His reverence for nature and all of its creatures was the unmistakable gift he’d shared with me. And with my siblings. It was no surprise that he might send me a sea otter as a sign.
What did surprise me though was that this sea otter didn’t just quickly disappear. Like they usually do. Instead it swam beside me as I walked silently along.
For ten whole minutes we traveled side by side. He in the ocean, seemingly oblivious to my presence. Me alone on the seawall. Mesmerized by him and the magical journey we were taking together.
Eventually the otter disappeared beneath the ocean’s surface. And I continued along my way. Marveling at the beauty of this misty spring day. Crows and seagulls hopped along the logs, and other small birds chirped in the rain. A tall, graceful heron fished quietly on the shoreline. And I watched and listened, as I walked alone with my thoughts.
When I finally turned around and headed back the way I came, up popped my sea otter. And I again found myself travelling alongside of him as he swam.
It seemed surreal to me. Otherworldly.
I silently thanked my Dad for this special moment in nature.
Then just as I turned to go, my sea otter was met by another one. And suddenly there were two, swimming together in the ocean. I stood and watched in wonder.
And thought about my Mom and Dad. And how much they loved the sea.
Maybe my father was letting me know he was there. Waiting for my mother.
And that he would take care of her whenever she was ready to leave this physical plane. That they would soon frolic in the ocean together. The same way they had when they’d first met that one special summer long ago.
I realized in that moment, in that quiet, misty rain that my Dad had answered my question. He and the sea otters had given me the guidance I was seeking.
When my Mom was ready to go, he would be waiting for her.
Now it was time for me to let her go.
Because no matter what, I knew my Mom was going to be OK.
Written earlier this month (a few short days before she passed away) this blog is dedicated to my mother who would have turned 92 today. Happy birthday Mom, wherever you are. xoxo