I tried something different last month. Something that scared me. I leaned in, and asked my Mom to see me. And you know what? She did.
The picture above is my mom sitting at my kitchen table, holding a prayer bundle. After nearly two years of long-distance connection only, Mom made the trek from North Carolina to Maine a few weeks ago. She wanted to see me and Michael, our new home. And meet Molly!
Two years is a long time to go without seeing a parent, especially a mother. Especially my mother. My mother happens to be my #1 Fan, which I think everyone needs. Everyone needs one person to champion them, unconditionally. My mom is that person. She has always praised me, cheering me on in difficult jobs, relationships or personal struggles. As a raucous and rebellious teenager, she never judged me or told me I was out of line, out of my mind, embarrassing or dressed like a slut–which, looking back, she sure could have said those things. Mom nurtured my friends as well, and while she had her “favorites” of the men I dated, she never dismissed any of them or stated disapproval. And believe me, there were a lot.
Naturally, I wanted to make her visit special. My mom loves baseball so Michael ordered some Sea Dogs tickets. I planned a day of planting annuals because my mom loves her some flowers! She also wanted to see my best friend, Karen Lamb, and her kids. And she wanted to see a special lady named Anne L., who I used to work with at Portland Gastroenterology. I wanted other folks to meet my mom so I planned a FOR-REAL dinner party. Finally! I’d have the sound of loud conversations and clinking glasses in my home! (Good riddance, Covid)
Sadly, Mom was a bit under the weather while she was here. Sinus congestion with a rugged-sounding cough made us worry enough to go to Urgent Care and get a Covid test. Thankfully, she was negative. She just felt awful, tired, run down. We skipped the Sea Dogs game (too wet) and I decided to cancel the dinner party. I wanted to create a peaceful, restful environment for her to heal, recover. And she did see Karen and Anne and even Michael’s child, Charlie.
The time that she was here–about seven days–fell over the new moon in Cancer, on July 9th. The new moon, for me, is a time of ritual “seeding”–setting intentions for what I want to grow and manifest. Normally, this ritual would look like me setting sacred space with some incense, candles and calling in the Directions. I would also journey to a helping spirit (Journeying is a shamanic technique I learned long ago to connect with the imaginal realm; the guides who help me there know much better than I what seeds to plant for my highest good!). Once the information is revealed, I may place physical seeds such as apple seeds or pumpkin seeds in a jar or bowl of dirt, tobacco or marbles. The sacred action is symbolic, meaning it is a stand-in for my intention and devotion towards nurturing what helps me grow.
Since my mom was here, I wanted to share this ritual with her. It didn’t feel right for me to sneak off and disappear to perform this important monthly rite in my office. And although I wasn’t sure how she would respond, I knew I wanted to invite her into my world.
I was raised in a Christian home. Baptist (and then Presbyterian). We went to Sunday school followed by church service every Sunday. We’d leave the house around 9 AM and get back around 12:30 PM. Did I mention every Sunday? You had to be really sick to skip church, and no one in my family ever skipped church.
I am so proud and grateful for the religious foundation the church gave me. Although I do not go to church anymore or identify as a Christian, I often pray to Jesus and Mother Mary and also to a ton of angels. Today, my church is the land, the stream, the mountain. The cry of a hungry Red-Tailed Hawk, the glistening dew on a spider’s web. I meet God in a lot of different spots these days and that program fits me, suits my earthy soul just fine.
But my mom is still very much a church lady. She goes to her Presbyterian church in Greenville, N.C. regularly and has, at other times, served as deacon and elder at other churches. She says Merry Christmas to people at the holidays and does not apologize for it. And she reads her Bible, and prays.
Because I wanted both my mom and Michael to participate in my new moon ritual, I decided we’d make a prayer bundle together, or despacho. “A what?” Mom asked. I said the word again, and spelled it for her. She immediately googled it on her phone! According to the website The Four Winds, a despacho is “a prayer bundle or offering…that holds symbolic elements and the prayers of the participants.”
After the package is wrapped up and tied, it can either be burned or buried. To create a despacho, you need materials. You need biodegradable items, preferably from nature. Things that will easily burn, or things that can easily biodegrade. The materials we used were: tobacco, corn meal, lavender, pine chips, salt, chocolate, dried flower petals, dried cedar, and sage.
You also need a big piece of paper, or tissue paper to serve as the base. This time, I asked my mom to write the words, ‘All Is Well’ on a paper plate. We placed that on the paper, face-down. This “cradle” would hold all of the other offerings.
I explained the procedure to my mom: take a pinch of one of the offerings, hold it while you speak the prayer, then place it on the paper plate. She wanted to know if we were praying for anyone in particular. I told her we could pray for whatever and whomever we wanted.
So we prayed for our loved ones and family members, friends and neighbors. We prayed for the environment and the government, both local and national. We prayed for God’s creatures, the cleanliness of rivers, for the people who had to move out of this beautiful home Michael and I now live in. We prayed lots of gratitude prayers for the front-liners in the Covid fight, for all of those therapists out there, listening to horror stories. We asked for those who are depressed, addicted, or lonely to find just one person who cared, or could find them some help. We prayed for the “state of the world” in all of her messiness. We prayed for the little babies, those just coming onto the Earth scene, faced with who-knows-what for a viable planet. We prayed for hope, instead of fear, to trickle down to those who have hate in their hearts. We prayed for teachers, everywhere, of every ilk.
We rotated around and around until nearly all of the offerings were gone. Mom and I both were shamelessly letting the tears roll down our faces. I think it was Michael who, when it got to his about fiftieth time, said, “I think that’s all I have for today.” Then, we thanked the Spirit of the New Moon in Cancer–the sign of the Mother–for listening and taking in all of our prayers and offerings. I tied it up, decorated it with some lavender and a piece of driftwood in the shape of a coyote’s head. It sat in my living room under the watchful protection of Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Hearth and Home, of Poetry and Healing, until the following full moon, which was July 23rd. This moon in Aquarius was appropriately named the Blessing Moon.
Although Mom was not here when Michael and I burned it, her presence was very much with us. It is said that as a prayer bundle burns, the prayers are released, the smoke carrying the prayers where they need to go. Fire is the Sacred Alchemist, turning “this” into “that” and never going back to What Was.
After the despacho ceremony, I thanked my mom for being willing to try something new and different. I stopped short of giving her the “this-is-how-I-worship-now” speech–a willful daughter trying to be seen, and accepted for Who She Is Now. I didn’t do that because, honestly, I didn’t have to. What we had created together exceeded the need to differentiate between Her Way of worshipping and My Way. It was important to create something sacred together, and it was really important for me to share my spiritual practice with my mom.
Why did it feel so vulnerable to introduce this thing to mom? I think it’s because we are especially protective of the things in life that are important to us, that are extensions of our soul. Everyone harbors a fear of rejection, as it is human nature. But my mother has always “gotten me” no matter what because she has always loved me for exactly who I am.
And that is the greatest gift you can ever give anyone.
May you show up with your vulnerable self, as I did with my mom, to dismantle the illusion of separation.