Crying has become a trusted companion to my flexible emotional states. I fist learned to really trust my tears sitting with my mom on her deathbed almost 30 years ago. It happened while gently stroking her arm, with tears spilling over copiously and freely.
Our family had a spoken agreement not to cry in front of her so she didn’t “catch on” that she was dying. Yet, there I was, sitting with her and crying openly. There was no heaving, sobbing, face crunching, or story needed—simply an ease and freedom of the truth revealed. I was sad, and my love and longing for my mom’s continued presence flowed heavily in that tender moment.
My mom hadn’t spoken a sensible sentence in 28 days since her last seizure from a terminal brain tumor. Little did I know she would be gone in a few days. As I sat at her bedside, gently stroking her arm, with great clarity and presence, mom calmly popped out of her incoherence while looking me in the eye and said, “It’s ok to cry”. These final words of maternal wisdom stunned me with a gift I have treasured ever since.
Turns out she knew she was dying. We were the ones fooling ourselves.
That same easy free flow of tears came recently in the midst of a powerful moment where I found myself sitting in the midst of a painful truth, once again. While the details of the story are not important, it is the recognition of a golden thread of truth acknowledged, and witnessed, that is striking.
Each time I face a difficult truth, and the tears ensue, I am reminded of the extraordinary clarity that my mom displayed in the moment that she emerged into stark coherence that day on her deathbed. I am more clearly able to see the ways that I have been strategically deceiving myself and keeping myself armored in the midst of an outdated belief.
In this tender moment, I felt a deep sadness, once again, oozing out of me with tears effortlessly falling steadily down my face. It was the natural gentle stroking of the uncomfortable sensations in my torso that seemed to wake me up. As if my brain leaped out of a dysfunctional stupor, similar to the moment of my mom’s clarity spontaneously emerged out of the malignant brain tumor’s terminal effects. I told myself...”it’s ok to cry.”
Such tender words as I sat with and gently mothered my younger self on the deathbed of an outdated belief. Turns out, it was time for me to die, before I die – and I knew.
To die before you die is a profound Zen adage and quote from the Sufi poet masters that I often ponder in moments like this. I am perpetually in awe of the death and rebirth energies available simultaneously in the experience of letting go. Again and again, in the midst of the small deaths, I remember to nurture myself through the often-painful release, stay connected with my body, and open to the liberating vital life force that is inherently freed.
In the midst of so much personal and collective sorrow touching most of us in some way, it seems we are being called to turn toward our pain in new ways. If we allow the old habits and strategies that no longer make sense or serve our authentic truth to fall away, we open the possibility for new pathways to emerge.
What are the ways that you are being called to be with something difficult or painful? What judgments arise with the presence of your own tears? What might need to be relinquished to feel a little more? What are the sensations you notice in your body or the tender ways that you might nurture a difficult feeling? What possibility do you notice emerging out of new ways of being with yourself or another?
I’ve come to relish the creative energy born out of my own small deaths that leaves me feeling inspired to dance in life, with a little more weight in my bones, wiggle in my hips and soul in my step, while always trusting…
It’s okay to cry.