Eighteen years ago, I was walking down the street after a day of classes, distracted with idle conversation, when I heard the sound of a car coming to a stop. Before I looked, I knew it was for me.
I turned and looked to see who it was, and the identity of the occupant told me exactly what would happen. An old friend of the family was looking at me with a deep sadness, and then she nodded at the passenger door.
That was all, but that was all that the moment needed. Silence and my whirring thoughts filled the car. I played over the timeline in my mind. My mother had not been the same since the heart surgery. Pneumonia crept in, and in time renal failure took her kidneys. She went yellow for a time, jaundiced as I had been when I was born.
She went on a sort of hospital tour, but in the end it had been too late for some time. The pain medicine went unfiltered by her failing organs and took her mind for wild rides through time. When I visited, she thought I was someone else. She requested imaginary objects and got upset when I humored her.
My father was steadfast, there every day after work for months. I was there less than I might have been due to school.
She continued to decline. The hallucinations became immersive trips backward in time akin to Alzheimer's. She was going. She lost the use of her legs, and gangrene began to appear.
Eventually, she let go. When she passed it felt like the fulfillment of a sort of curse, as her father had died the same age after going blind from diabetes. Yet it was a blessing at the same time, a release for almost all involved.
It took me until tonight to fully release her. I realized that my guilt at not being as there as I could have been for her, and her poor mother (to see your own child die before you is no doubt a pain unmatched in this world), and her infinitely patient husband. It occurred to me that the pain had turned 18. It was time to kick it out.
So tonight, on the eve of the eclipse, I played a set of ritual ambient noise music, remixing a song I wrote in her honor while she was nearing the end of her journey. Tonight I combined it with my own voice, homemade instruments and a recording of the Tibetan Book of the Dead in a kind of prayer that her soul has found its way home. I feel her with me from time to time, and after tonight, I am choosing to feel the love without the guilt.
As you read this, I hope you too will release some burden unto the symbolic event presented by a blocked sun. In times so long ago they seem impossible to us in the modern, hyper-jaded world, the sky was wonder itself. The stars were our guides through time and the inspiration of our legends. Most important, they were constant reminders of the mystery. We would be wise to regain our sense of awe.
See you when the sun comes out. May we all be a little lighter despite dark days.