family growth

Reunion and Separation – Mom’s Ashes to France

I am on my way to the cemetery in France with some of my mothers ashes. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am bringing her to rest with her first husband Joe (or Joey as she referred to him) DeRidder who died in Europe during World War II and whose remains are buried in the Lorraine American military cemetery outside Saint Avold France. There are a few reasons that I am doing this. The first is somewhat simple. In my perspective Joe was the true love in her life. I’m not at all trying to minimize what she and my father had as I know they loved each other as well, but I think there was something very sweet and true about what my mom and her Joey had. She was a young woman and they had only been married a few years when his plane went down during the war and he was killed. They had a little son Jeffy, who is my older half-brother. Although he’s genetically only a “half-brother” we certainly seem to share the same heart. In conversations that she and I had before she died, she would speak of how bright Joe’s spirit was and of the sweetness of his nature. So bringing some of her ashes to rest with him feels right. If feels right in my heart, and I’m sure in my brother Jeff’s as well, that that is where she would love to finally rest. And so she will.

The other part of the reason of bringing her there is a little more personal, a little bit more about me and less about her. Although what I’m about to write definitely feels like it is lessening in importance in my life, I would be remiss if I said it still wasn’t present, wasn’t an issue. The thesis statement would go something like this: I never got the chance to fully separate from my mother on a psychological basis. In some ways after my father left when I was about 6, she took me as her main partner for emotional and practical support, support which should not have been asked of a child, but should instead be provided by a lover, a husband, a partner, or even if needs be, a therapist. As a result of this incomplete separation, there has remained some fallout in my adult life which I would like to clear up and put behind me. The fallout largely can be seen as having an effect on my love relationships. What happens when a child doesn’t fully separate from his/her mother is that when he feels distant from the love of an adult partner he tries to pull it in closer, and when he is feeling too close to the love of a partner he tries to push it away. Thus, in my life (and I know it’s not just this simple), I have developed some sense of mastery of keeping women at a “perfect” distance. The tricky thing is that that distance is not really perfect. That distance does not really allow for true intimacy to develop, something which I would truly prefer. Like I say, this isn’t as strong any more but it does feel as it lurks under the surface.

Another difficulty in this paradigm of not having fully separated from my mother has do with having difficulty separating from the comfort and security which comes from relationship, even when that relationship may not be quite right for me. Thus I have spent many years of my adult life in relationships which were not quite right for me, yet were sufficiently comfortable/secure/loving enough to keep me hooked in.

It’s time for all of this to really end in my life, and it feels in many ways already like it is ending. Although I feel as my capacity in relationship has grown immensely, I’d like to be able to welcome in true intimacy a relationship into my life and not have to fight my way out gasping for breathing space. I’d also like to have the freedom to truly choose a partner, a partner with whom there is a real match, a real love, a real compatibility. I’m not saying that everything about this ‘someday’ person has to be perfect, but I need to be able to be free to choose to be with her, free of the undercurrent of my history.

And so what does all that have to do with bringing her ashes to this cemetery? It’s pretty simple actually. I am giving her back to the man who should be her provider, her support, her true love. After I was born, in many ways, I became the bright light in her life and I think she held me in a light which was a little too beneficial. In fact, a week or so before she died (this is back in 1998 by the way), she told me that at times she felt as if I was her first husband Joe who had come back to her when I was born. I know she didn’t necessarily literally believe that, but even that she felt that at times is a little too icky sticky to me. So back you go mom, back to your real love. The man who rightfully should have been yours throughout your life. This in itself for me is a powerful act of separation from my mother. A intentional creation of my own greater individuation.

I’ve realized in speaking about this with a friend I’ve made here on this trip that if Joe hadn’t died in WWII that I wouldn’t actually be here. My mother would never have met and married my father. So I’ll need to pay a certain homage to Joe myself, for in his giving of his life, he inadvertently begat mine. There are a million such events without which each of us would never be here, yet this one feels quite tangible to me and a sincere thank you to Joe is in order here, as I couldn’t have asked for a more blessed life than the one that I have and what a shame it would have been that the joy (and all the other experiences of life) that I have had had never manifested.

So away I go. I’ll write more of course afterwards, but for now I at least wanted to lay out the history and some of the intention. Wish me luck.

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