“I can still see your face, Mom” are words to you from my daily morning work-day prayers. They are sort of a chant, sung in an almost-whisper inside my head. (On those mornings when my husband has left for work I get brave and sing them out loud.) They come at the beginning of the entire lullaby-like prayers which continue on for other people I’ve loved in this life, and I believe they bring the point home as to how you are still with me. They make a home for you in me and make me feel at home with you. Years before you passed I recall reading that a lot of religions say a certain number of prayers for the dead based on the number of years the deceased had been alive.
I can recall meditating on this as I walked through the backyard of the farm where we shared years of our lives. It was one of those fusty humid days where heat shimmers and the variety of insects busily buzzing created a sort of Zen-reverie.
You always thought I was too-dreamy for my own good and I believe the preceding statement makes a good case for how you were right. I’ll try not to go into all the other ways your cautionary words were often right since that is a little annoying to the person who quietly rebelled against them: me! I also won’t begin quoting these morning prayers verbatim because I consider that a sacred kind of secret between you, me, (and the others) I pray for. I will say that these prayers do not come from any pages of organized-religion. Though they have the O.C.D., the repetitiveness of rosary beads, of worry ones, they are a bit more laid back: a sort of one-sided conversation where I don’t expect you to answer back.
Over the years I’ve become someone who doesn’t particularly take comfort in the idea that our loved ones spirits are hovering about us, chained to us as unseen watchers from the sky. I mean, considering daily digestion and necessary bowel functions, the idea of having a benevolent voyeur one has known on a deep level watching all this, is pretty disconcerting. I much prefer the idea that the loved one has gone on, as if visiting another country on a majestic unseen plane, having whole new good experiences.
I will share one more bit of those daily prayers, rooted in part, selfishly, almost unconsciously, to anxiety/depression (for as you said to yourself and passed on to me, “Don’t let your nerves get the best of you,”), and that is the part where I chant “I pray you are enjoying your afterlife in absolute bliss, happiness, lightness, energy and love.” Yes, I suppose that is rather sentimentally new-age-y and vague, but I think it gives enough outline for you (and even a greater deity), to add your own palette of colors to.
I imagine those colors taking shape in water on a white background, perhaps that (more MGM sentimental stuff here) of a cloud. I can also imagine these colors taking shape in water that already has a spectrum of hues going on; your spirit adding its own natural shades of radiance to the mix. This is the other way the prayers unfold: as visuals in my head, and sometimes textures I can almost touch. These are based in part on photos saved, moments remembered, and impressions of experiences I did not take part of, such as your high school graduation, your marriage to Dad, but feel as if I did live them a little by loving you and knowing what milestones they were to you and, ultimately, our family history. These are kind of like a slideshow in my head, a film strip forming, dissolving, re-forming.
I certainly hope this does not tie you to the earth. The weight of experience is something a spirit should be able to reflect back upon the gravity of with a sort of loving forgiveness, and sense of folly even, or, if the experience was trauma, then perhaps a spirit deserves a separate peace through the healing of complete omniscient understanding. Saying prayers to you I suppose is an attempt at trying to figure out which might be the case and an attempt to believe that our lives ultimately have meaning, that we ultimately live on through one another. I certainly have not come up with a definitive answer but do know there are times when I long to kiss your cheek once more.
A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. In 2014 he began a webpage to gather various links to his published poetry in one place,