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A Very Special Goodbye

By: Peter Dominic Walls

'Biseach an Bhás' (pronounced: Bi shock on Vaw-shh) is an old Irish saying from the Aran Islands meaning literally 'Recovery of the Dying'. It refers to the revival of 'old folk' when they are dying for the soul and sole purpose of saying goodbye to their loved ones…one final time! This is one such beautiful story of 'Biseach an Bhás' which took place in Dublin last October, 2006. It is particularly special for me because the lady leaving this world was my beloved mother. For over fifty years, I affectionately called her 'Ma'.

As I left the cinema her angel eyes filled my heart. She was whispering 'goodbye my pet'…for the last time…I finally cried my eyes out, after three long, emotionally blocked months of mourning. From her hospital bed she beamed a loving smile at me, a smile so bright it filled me with love, the love only a child feels when their mother hugs them dearly. Two days earlier she had been asleep for the last time. We were told she would not wake up. But then Clare, her first born, visited. She leaned gently over Ma's bed and whispered 'It's Clare. I'm here. I love you. It's OK to go if you want to, Ma'. 'I love you too, pet' she smiled back, taking us all by surprise.

And against all odds…she opened her eyes and spoke. She was alive again…but something was different!

She was lighter in colour, more passionate and more physically animated than before. She wanted to kiss each and everyone of her loving twelve children…seven girls and five boys, ranging in age from thirty nine to fifty nine. Over the next two days, that's exactly what she did. Only John, the youngest, whom she had said goodbye to a week earlier was excluded. Those who watched on the day he left to return to his home in South Africa said her eyes were glued to him and stayed fixed without falter, until he disappeared through the doors of the ward. She knew…and he knew…now, it was out turn.

She kissed Clare with a gentle peck 'I love you too, pet'.

She then went through each one of us in turn seeking us out with her eyes. In a strikingly peculiar way, she ignored each child she had already said goodbye to. I sat at the back of the hospital room, hiding. I felt very little, other than the heaviness of a sad occasion…a kind of 'not sad, not happy' feeling…a kind of nothingness I couldn't explain. It was one of those crazy times when you knew you should be feeling more but you were not feeling anything at all. I sat and hoped she would not seek me out. I do not know why I hoped such a thing. I wanted her to say 'I love you, Peter pet' but I dearly hoped she would kiss all the others first. I was delaying the inevitably as long as I could. I knew she was saying goodbye but I would not allow such a ludicrous, self righteous idea to arise in my conscious mind. I couldn't do that. I couldn't let her go. I hated how she had screamed 'You'll bloody-well put up with it'. I hated how she had screamed 'Knuckle down, and get on with it'. I hated how she had rejected my 'pink skirted' would be flamboyance. I hated her love-hate relationship with men. But…I was her mirror image. I carried her fears. I carried her love. I carried her legacy of anger passed down over many generations.

Each of the twelve of her children now carried their part of a long held 'Irish Catholic' burden gift. It was now to be our turn to learn to love and live like she had…so gallantly and beautifully. It was our turn to evolve. It was our turn to carry the mantle, to face our demons and to joyously celebrate our life in search of True love. She was our hero and now, after so many years of looking after our every little need, she was leaving us…alone! I was scared stiff of losing her. I did not want her to go at all. I was numbed. I could feel nothing at this point. I was fine. I was fine. I knew I was fine. Part of me watched knowing it would inevitably come to this day…knowing I would someday soon, cry and cry but…not today…not today. I could do nothing more than watch.

I was beside myself!

Her eyes met mine under the arm of Clare who sat by her bed. She had said goodbye to Clare earlier so she now stared right through her. That relationship was over…at least the worldly part of it was! She was moving towards a place none of us understood but it was real…so real…far more real than anything we had known 'till now. 'Its Peter Ma' Clare said, but she didn't need to say anything. Ma knew who it was. She just stared and stared…I stood up. I knew I had to face this moment. I didn't want to be there but I knew it was my turn to say goodbye. I had no idea if I could follow through or not. I hate these moments where everything is surreal and in total slow motion. I was waiting and watching, wishing I could leave…wishing I could be somewhere else…anywhere else…wishing this inevitable day had never come. I walked over to her bedside and leaned over to kiss her goodbye. To my utter surprise and delight, I saw in her eyes, the most beautiful angel glow I had ever seen in all my life…I had never seen an angel before so how did I know?

I knew and I knew I knew!

The light on her forehead was so bright it lit the whole room it seemed and yet, it did not blind me. Her eyes were soft and they lovingly enveloped my soul in an unworldly and deeply pleasant green. Her old and aged gaze, of two days earlier, had slipped away and been replaced by a love so beautiful, it filled the room and surrounded me in a gorgeous, soft cocoon of gentle light.

'Your eyes Ma! They look like angels eyes. They are so beautiful. You look so beautiful'. I whispered.

'So do you, my pet' she said, lifting her head slightly off the pillow to kiss me for the last time.

I gazed at her eyes and turning away I said 'I love you Ma'.

'I love you too' she beamed.

I left the room knowing she was gone.

I was truly alone for the first time in my life.

I did see her one more time a few days later. She had come back completely and even asked the doctors to do what they could. But I believe she wasn't really with us for those few days. Leaving does not work exactly as we think it does, from this side. When she was filled with the love of her family she was leaving. She left having made sure each of us was 'OK'. The later few days of apparent awareness and life were pure habit and latent body energy, like the retained heat in an oven after it has been turned off. It was the energy of a determined and powerful woman cooling down after a long and wonderful life. By the time I saw her she had slipped into a state of delirium and was not at all with us. She wasn't there.

Her retained energy finally drained from her body completely, on October 18Th, 2006 at approximately one twenty in the afternoon.

Its now three month's later and finally last night I cried and cried and cried. I have felt such loneliness in the last week…such huge sadness permeating every muscle in my body and yet I have felt a new beginning. I cried hard like I never did before. My sadness and remorse was being released. I felt it slipping out of my body. I was being reborn.

I was, through this pain, being set free.

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