I did not write a word during my seven-week stay in Toronto in my parents’ home, just prior to and following my mother’s death. The experiencewas utterly overwhelming for me and left me with no capacity for written expression. On the airplane on the way back to Vancouver, my first poem about my mother’s death burst out of me already formed, as if it could not wait for us to land. It was about my mother’s funeral and is called Morning. To this day, the poem encapsulates for me the shocking contrasts of that sunny May day, precious details I would have forgotten had I not consecrated them to the page while they were still in my body.
When I returned to Vancouver life and entered months of deep grief, my friend — writer and filmmaker Kagan Goh — strongly encouraged me to write about my mother. He told me to write everything that was coming up for me and everything I could remember. He implored me to capture my thoughts and memories while they were fresh. He knew what he was talking about: both his parents had died in recent years, and he had created some beautiful work in their honour.
So I did. I wrote about my mother, her near-nonchalance in the face of death, her practical plans for her next incarnation, the process of writing her eulogy and how profoundly she lived on among her daughters and husband. I’m so grateful that I did. Each time I read these poems, they return my mother to me alive and laughing, strong and sassy and loving. I compiled these poems and placed them as a chapter in my newest poetry manuscript.
In my workshops, I witness women who are in deep grief yet have the courage to dive into their pain and create from the wreckage of loss. The pieces that fly out of their keyboards are often startling in their depth and beauty. They seem to arrive fully formed, like babies, and alive with a wisdom unknowable outside of the realm of trauma, as if the women have been touched by a powerful and specific force. Their lost ones are reincarnated in their telling, made young and powerful again on the page. There is a palpable magic at play when they read from their work, and we listeners are drawn breathlessly into a space without time or place, rooted in love.