“Music” was her prompt… “A song that touches your heart…” She said.
Immediately, I am consumed with my childhood. My adolescence. A moment in time that formed who I now am. Who I would forever be. A moment that erased a reality, while imprinted another.
The song, as cheesy as it may be, was “Wind Beneath My Wings”. I always blocked out the image of Bette Midler, of the story line of the movie “Beaches”. Scenes that although made a beautiful film, was not what carried the weight. There was another truth that floated between the notes, that carried in the words, that rang in the rhythm.
I remember hearing it shortly after she died. Sitting crosslegged on the brown carpeted floor. Intently listening to the lyrics.
“It must have been cold there in my shadow.
To never have sunlight on your face.”
The world around me evaporating as the music played, transcending me, as the words took center stage. A haunting truth, an unspoken validity only I knew.
The song created an emotional vortex into our relationship. The guilt I carried that I never showed her I saw, I felt, the power of her love. I never voiced that I admired her strength. The realization I wouldn’t be who I was without her literally picking me up, carrying me forward.
A little girl. Abandoned. Left. Unloved. Unwanted. Who had no idea to expect anything different. Who had no idea to strive for anything else. Not knowing of any other possibility. Not knowing there was anything else to gain. To attain.
I remember sitting there, criss cross applesauce, on the carpet. Hearing the music. The truth of the words…
“Did you ever know that you're my hero
And everything I would like to be?”
The crucial role her and her courage to love played. How she, it, saved my life. How she created a dream. How with that courage, that love, my reality was made.
The truth was, it was her. My mother who raised me. She gave me a chance, a rebirth, a beginning, way past the day I was brought into this world. She gave me life after I had been born from another. A perception because she showed me a way. A life. And how to get it.
Even as I was a stubborn, guarded, defensive stray, she never stopped trying without any inking those efforts would pay off. Without me ever exposing how much her nurturing meant. Me too scared to trust her kindness. How she stayed without me ever showing her how much it mattered. Staying without ever threatening she would leave. How confusing it must have been to feel me lean into her warmth while keeping her at arms length. Wanting her close while too scared to depend on her.
While her unrelinquishing love never wavered, despite myself, it changed me. My view, my vision, my core. She showed me what it felt like to be loved. In a world I would otherwise never know it existed.
I only knew because of her.
But, it wasn’t until she passed, until I went living with other families, without her and with children with a similar fate, that I saw her immense power, her strength, her love. How I realized it was everything.
I saw the other kids I lived with didn’t have the same vision. Their aspirations were what they knew. Kids who aspired to make money by selling drugs, stealing to get by, doing what they knew to survive. The only way they were shown. Because nothing else existed. Nothing else was real.
Except for me, she was.
They were never shown another reality. They were never given the gift of love that she so freely gave me.
Which was the only difference between me and the other kids that surrounded me. I had been loved.
Instead of her hands, it was now her words, her feelings, that carried me. How I kept her love with me, her belief, her whispers. How against my attempts to keep it distant, I recognized it. I had trusted it.
Her hands, her heart, her words and whispers becoming my mantra. Becoming my path. Lifting me up. A reality I could try, I could float… I could even attempt to fly. I had experienced, through her, the other side. Shown a different world. A foreign reality. A possibility. A chance. Because the impossible had already come to fruition. I knew another life was attainable. I knew it was there. Because she showed me.
It may not have been her blood that ran through my veins, but it was her love that gave me a life, then molded a reality, which became a future. One I only had because I was loved by her.
Those words, that song, would directly hit my heart whenever heard. A truth rang out in the melody. A prayer spoken out in the hymn…
“It might have appeared to go unnoticed
But I've got it all here in my heart
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it
I would be nothing without you.”
I am who and what I am because of her. I have flown because she showed me how. Because she was the wind beneath my wings.