How I Buried My Mother and Wounded My Knee

Last weekend, I was in Utah for my mother’s memorial service. Forty one of our relatives were there. There was a lot of talk about how hard it was for mom and her siblings after their mother died. My mother was eight at the time and suddenly had the responsibilities of “the woman of the farm” thrust upon her. That was in 1932.

Meanwhile, back in the world of 2018, news was coming in about horrific reports of the separation of immigrant children from their parents after attempting so-called illegal border crossings. I know a little about the pain of children’s separation from or loss of a parent because of my mother. Her emotional pain and insecurity followed her to the end of her life. I also saw the love and security of children growing up in a close extended family like mine in Utah now. I was lucky to have my mother until she was 93. She was ready to go; I was ready to let her go. It was the natural order of things. I can’t help but compare the safe and happy kids in my family with the images of other young ones caged and crying. Their fear is unimaginable to me, and their current trauma will follow them throughout their lives; the psychic wounds will be felt for future generations.

The day after mom’s memorial, Sue, Liz, and I went on a hike above Sundance Resort in the Wasatch Mountains. They were hiking a little ahead of me because I like to hike at my own pace. Suddenly I went flying through the air, and fell on my knee (to the tune of seventeen stitches), my forearm, and my finger. Later, I pondered the significance of why this happened while I was in Utah for mom’s memorial. One theory is that Great Grandfather Mattinson was present. He was a hardy soul who pushed a handcart across the country (they were pioneers with no horses). He might have come through those same mountains. On the last day of his journey, his diary reads,”Those who were able to were ordered to walk.” I picked myself up and continued walking down the mountain. It’s in my genes. I am very fortunate that there was no major physical damage. I don’t remember the fall at all, and I felt no pain. Maybe my mother caught me and softened the fall. Maybe it was my other ancestors, whose history runs deep in these mountains. I was lucky. I had family nearby to help me. I got great medical care in Utah and I’ve had good follow up care back at home. I think about everyone who doesn’t have access to health care, especially the immigrants in distress in detention centers. I do not know what I can do to help them, so for now, I will use my art.

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