The full moon lit the countryside with a luminosity that made the shadows become an extension of the night; framing the trees with a ghostly aura as if nature was caught between a world of reality and one of my making. The silver orb peered through the branches and made its presence known to me in a way that was most unusual. Having been a source of wonderment and pleasure on many occasions this evening was far different. For tonight the Lenten Moon rose in the east; a celestial event marking the beginning of a time on introspection for the ancients as they mourned the murder of Christ at the hands of the Romans. And it marked a time of reckoning for me as I contemplated the death of my mother at the hands of those whose character is as murky as night. The date was Thursday, March 28.
The night air was so cold that one could hear it; a faint tinkling timbre that seemed to suggest a cleanness, a purity; a consciousness that there is more to living than simply existing. It hurt to take a breath. The cold burned my lungs as if to remind me I am not worthy of its benefits; an unseemly mixing of that which is pure with that which is contemptible. One is either alive, or not; quick or dead. And often the difference in the two involves a simple answer to an unasked question. And the demon that haunts me tonight is the realization that I have not been a good steward of life; I did not ask the right questions. As a result, my world came to an end today; I no longer felt that I deserved any of life’s benefits.<>< my="" lodging="" is="" the="" lower="" level="" of="" my="" brother’s="" home="" –="" a="" typical="" basement="" domicile="" that="" was="" furnished="" with="" left-over="" furniture="" and="" knick="" knacks;="" an="" intermediate="" step="" for="" possessions="" before="" being="" exiled="" to="" the="" thrift="" store.="" a="" game="" room="" for="" billiards="" and="" darts,="" a="" small="" claustrophobic="" bedroom="" and="" bathroom,="" and="" a="" media="" room="" provided="" the="" bare="" essentials="" that="" i="" needed.="" it="" had="" the="" look="" of="" a="" do-it-your-self="">
Some parts were incomplete and others were professionally done. All in all, it was perfect for what I required; a place to hide and reflect, to sort things out. For the day, this day had been one that I will never forget; it will forever hold a place in my mind of one of great loss. To have something that means so much to me taken away. And to have someone’s memory scattered about as so many leaves in the park was distressing. The weight of my despair was more than I could bear.
I sat on the futon and wrapped myself in a blanket; a quilt made by artisans of Gees Bend, Alabama. The pattern of the quilt had interlocking rings of multi colored pieces of cloth; scraps of material made into a piece of art. The room was decorated with a southwestern color scheme and the walls held vacation artifacts ranging from the Hopi of Arizona to the Mayans of the Yucatan. Books bulged from the shelving with subjects ranging from mutual funds and string physics to reincarnation and the paranormal. On a casual visit, there were enough stimuli to hold my attention for hours, but tonight was different. My mind was not geared toward stimulation; on the contrary it had been overly taxed by the day’s events, and it simply wanted rest. One object did catch my eye and removing it from the bookshelf I saw that it was a photo album. Opening it to the first page I saw a picture of my mother helping my brother and me open Christmas gifts.
The picture was old, I was so small. It seem as though it was a different lifetime and, yet I remembered the smallest of detail. It was a Christmas in the early 60’s, before Kennedy’s assassination. My childhood unlike most of my friends was benchmarked by historical events; not birthdays or vacations. That was the environment in which I was raised; pre-Kennedy assassination, post-Kennedy assassination, Pre-Woodstock, post-Woodstock, my life as a child was rich with information and learning. My parents, however, struggled to make ends meet. My brother and I did not realize then that times were difficult, mother always made things better and protected us from the unpleasant. This Christmas, I suppose, was leaner than some. My dad worked as a carpenter and when jobs were scarce, he would pull a shift, or two, at the pipe shop – a factory where cast iron tubing was made. Mother, on the other hand, tried to be a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes, the need for additional money would require her to work as a waitress at the Ponderosa; a drive-in restaurant located near our home on Fifteenth Street. I remember her discussing with my dad her fear in servicing certain drive-up customers; children are the best eavesdroppers. I remember that fear was manifested as anger in my mother; she would not let it get the best of her. My brother and I would miss her and even though our dad would attempt to stand-in for her, it was not the same. Although, in retrospect he could not afford it, dad would surprise her by taking my brother and me to the restaurant for a milkshake, and to see mother.
Looking closely at the picture, the gifts that were opened were modest and creative. My brother sat near the Christmas tree and played with small, plastic model cars that he pushed through a maze of soft drink bottle caps. I do remember that. Dad had collected bottled caps from the store at the corner of our street and mother had painted them various colors. They hid this labor of love from my brother and me. And when the giant box was opened, there were hundreds of brightly painted metal caps, the limits of which were bounded only by our imagination; streets, buildings, cities – whatever a child’s mind could concoct.
In the background of the picture, I could see the kitchen. The table had four place settings. In the center of the table were three bowls, the contents of which were unknown – that detail escapes me. But, I do remember the weekly trip to the grocery store. The name of the store escapes my memory, as well. The sign bearing the name was in disrepair with missing lettering; it looked like a foreign language. I do remember the emblem. It was a black bear with a red bowtie.
Assisting mother with loading the cart was my job; bread, milk, eggs and cheese was her responsibility, can goods was mine. At that time, can goods were marked using a paper label; a loose wrapping whose ends were glued together. Often, the labels would separate from the can and the contents were then anyone’s guess. These unmarked cans were placed in large wire baskets and sold for pennies; a bargain that was too attractive to pass - actually, economics forced mother to purchase the unmarked cans. She sheltered her children from the harsh realities of life and without any complaints she made a game of selecting the unmarked canned goods. I would pick up a can and shake it, this feels like green beans. Good! Throw it in the cart. This one sounds like cream. No, we have cream. That was my job and I thought I did it well; I made my contribution.
Mother always knew what to do, she protected us, she taught us, she cared for our bodies and she nourished our souls – I am but a fraction of what she wanted me to be. And even with my shortcomings, I have done well – I see further than she only because I stand on her shoulders. And for me to forget her and what she has done for me would be for me to deny the existence of everything good and decent. I can’t let this day end as it has; I will find my answers to the unasked questions.
I placed the photo album on the table and pulled a bottle of pinot noir from the wine rack. I poured a glass, the first glass and stared at it as I thought of my day; the worst day of my life.
The rising of the Lenten Moon signaled the beginning of a time of mournful respect for the death of Christ at the hands of the Romans. And two thousand years later the rising of the same full moon marked the beginning of a quest of discovery and accountability. To expose those who were entrusted with preserving life of committing acts of reckless abandonment. Deceit and arrogance were pieces of a failed orchestration that resulted in a tragic death. A missed diagnosis, the dodging of responsibility and the alchemy of leech saliva and snake venom were professional interventions that caused the instant clotting of the patient’s blood. Thirty one days of decisions and second-guessing tilled the soil of doubt as self inflicted guilt produced its fruit of reckoning. A reckoning that not only changed the lives of the guilty, but also provided insightful tutorials and saved my life in the process.
About the Author
Von Goodwin is a business consultant, personal coach and the author of books and articles revealing the role of the individual in creation. Since 1985 he has worked with thousands of individuals throughout the US and the Caribbean to rediscover ancient wisdom to enrich their personal lives.