This past October marked the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. She died on October 2nd, 2012. It was her 71st birthday. It may seem like quite a coincidence, however it was the day that we made the decision to pull the plug on her life support machine. I’m not sure if the doctor knew that it was her birthday, but it was kind of poetic and we decided to do it that day and not wait.
This past year has been hard. It was very hard, especially the first three months. Throughout the year there were many rough spots, times when I wanted or need my mother and she wasn’t there. In truth, she hadn’t really been there like she used to be for several years, which was another pain altogether. When she died, I not only mourned the physical loss of her, but I was then able to mourn the loss of her mental presence for the past two years.
The time that I most missed her was during the holidays and mother’s day. But what took me by surprise, was when I missed her this past July at Med Fest. I belong to a belly dance troupe and every year we dance at the Mediterranean Fantasy Festival that takes place in West Seattle. This year, my father was mourning as well and he returned to his hometown of Dauphin, Pennsylvania to stay with his sister and be close to other family and friends. So when the day of Med Fest came around, I was without mother or father.
Now, I had invited other family and friends, some of whom said they would try and make it. But in the end, my husband and son went to play board games, everyone else was busy and no one came to see me dance. My daughter was there, but she was dancing with us, so no one was there to see her dance either. There were other belly dancing friends there, but they would have been there even if I hadn’t been dancing.
My point being, that normally this would not have bothered me in the least. I have danced on several other occasions without having anyone I knew in the audience and it was fine. But on this particular day I broke down. I’m not kidding. I literally broke down and cried in the middle of breakfast. When my husband asked me what was wrong, I said that no one was coming to see me dance and I didn’t know why I was doing it anymore. His response was that I should quit. He didn’t get it.
If I may back up several years. It was at Med Fest and we were still a pretty new troupe. I was nervous. My hands were sweating. I’m standing behind the stage with my sword and I’m so worried that I’ll drop it, I’ll forget the group choreography, or whatever. My stomach hurts. We finally take the stage and I feel my hands shaking. My face feels tight with trying to smile. I look out at the audience and there is my father. He has brought my mother to see the dancers. She is sitting there in her wheelchair. She seems happy enough, but who knows what she is thinking.
I get out on the stage to do my solo piece and I look at my mother. I don’t even know if she knows who I am. Suddenly, she breaks out with the biggest smile on her face and I know she knows me. Her face is beaming and I can tell that she is happy. My heart beats slow to a normal pace. My face loosens to a natural smile and everything with the world is okay. I don’t have to dance for anyone else in the audience. I can dance to make my mother happy and nothing else matters. From that moment forward I dance for my mother and I haven’t been nervous (much) or worried, because the rest just doesn’t matter.
This past year, I got out on stage with a heavy heart. I looked at my daughter, who was so happy to be there and I realized that this year I dance for my mother… and my daughter. Nothing else matters.
If you happen to read this sometime close to my posting date, you may also want to look up KEXP’s John in the Morning dj’s “The Mom Show”. It is his annual tribute to his mother who died of cancer and to everyone who’s lost someone. I’m pretty sure it will be aired on Wednesday, November 13 between 6-10am. If you miss it you can probably catch it in archives or at least see the playlist from it after. If I were to request a song for my mother it would be Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’. She loved big band and especially Louis Armstrong.
So, this is for my mother, who loved music and dancing with a passion. I’m not positive, who she would say that she danced for, but I believe her answer would have been her family.
Whether your passion is dancing, music, writing or anything else, I think you can substitute what I’ve written about for any of those things. When you think about what’s important in your life, I have this question for you. Who do you dance for?