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  • Mj Pettengill

Marya's Mother: Bleeding at the Roots


Solitude, CC0
Solitude, CC0

Today would have been your eighty-ninth birthday. I conjure an image of your face as I slip into the safe place within, the dark, silent womb previously inaccessible.

Thanks to my own mothering, I know how to get there. I am no longer lost; I found my way because I remembered how to see in the dark. Even in the deepest darkness—thick and complete—there is nothing left to fear. When you first departed from your Earth Walk, I remained hidden in the shadow of my heart. I didn't know how to be undaughtered, how it looked, sounded, and felt. I relied on a young boy named Samuel to walk with me, to explore the world without you in it. I was afraid of ungrieving. What kind of daughter feels nothing when her mother dies? When driving home from the hospital, a few days before you went home, I screamed. I screamed so hard that my ears rang, I saw stars, and I may have stopped breathing. I pulled off to the side of the road so that I was not a danger to others.


At that moment—in my screaming—there was no self. The part of me that had learned to forgive, nurture, and love you had left. It was simply too much to stick around.


It wasn't until I reached the heart of the Knowing Tree that I realized that when traumas and wounds become overwhelming, we lose fragments of ourselves. At that moment, another part of me was gone. Now, I know that it's okay. In my time, I would retrieve those fragments and bring them back home.


At first, when I dreamed of you, you didn't know that you had departed. I feared that you were lost somewhere in the realm of life after life. I tried to tell you, but you laughed, not hearing my words as you did when I was a young child. You thought that Dad was silly when he talked about angels, so he told me about them in hushed tones. He learned to welcome and trust them when it was his time to go. In time, in my dreams of you, there was a faint light—a crack in the womb. I pointed it out to you. But you looked the other way and spoke no words. I had to trust that the light would find you or that you would find the light. I often awoke with a start. After a year or so, the light finally penetrated the shadows as you stood firm in it. You found it because you knew it was there. I waited patiently until I believed that you were safe, and I was no longer terrified. In your time, you discovered gifts in the dark. Staying with it, you awakened to the journey ahead. I perfected the art of dreaming my soul back home. Together, we navigated the enduring darkness born from life—a tree no longer bleeding at the roots. Had you left at an earlier time, what we shared may have been bitter instead of sweet. We surrendered to the dark—the unknown. In the heart of the tree, I discovered a new way of being when you set yourself free.