by Jane Knox
At some point in our lives, from birth to death, we all need to hear a lullaby, a special song that someone sings to us to let us know we are loved. A soothing, rhythmic song, like a lullaby, can help us transition from one state of consciousness to another. From the beginning of time mothers have engaged in the universal impulse to sing a lullaby to soothe their babies so they can cross from waking to sleeping. I wonder if you remember a specific lullaby from childhood that was sung to you? Do you have a favorite song you sing to someone special who needs comfort?
August is the anniversary of my mother’s death. That’s why I am thinking about lullabies and love, and how comforting a song can be when we are crossing a threshold. For singing a lullaby can be as powerful as having a lullaby sung to us. This is particularly true when it’s a lullaby between a mother and child. Let me tell you a story:
My mother, Dorothy Nelson Knox, died on August 15th. Mom was a Catholic and devoted to the Blessed Mother. August 15th is the feast day of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. Mom had been in a nursing home, Hancock Hall, for several months.
I wanted to be there when she passed and asked the staff at the nursing home to call me if her death looked imminent. On the fifteenth, they called me early in the morning to say that this would probably be the day. I dressed in a hurry and rushed to Hancock Hall.
Even though my mother wasn’t totally conscious, I worried that her passing would be frightening for her. Because of the unfortunate relationship with her own mother from childhood, she had often let me know she never felt loved and accepted. I wanted so much for her to feel the love and acceptance that she had always shown me.
When I arrived, I crawled into the single bed with Mom. Sister Kate, a Catholic nun who worked at Handcock Hall, came by and said, “Dot, it is okay to go.” My mother had told me, many times, that she had prayed that Anne Marie, my sister, who was physically disabled, would go first. She feared not being there to look after my sister. So, I comforted Mom that morning by assuring her, “Annie is doing fine. Gary [my brother] and I will always be there to look after her.”
I gazed out the window of Mom’s room at the lovely greenery and the light. I was searching for birds like the ones that had circled the hospital window when my brother, Harold, died of leukemia. The birds had felt like messengers flying round and round waiting to escort my brother’s soul across the threshold.
The fifteenth was such a beautiful, sunny day. I was reminded of the Plains Native Americans going into battle and saying, “It is a good day to die.” I then said to Mom, “It is a beautiful August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, and it is a good day to die.”
Mary, the Blessed Mother, was particularly significant in my mother’s life perhaps because of her poor relationship with her own mother. So, Mary served as a surrogate and a role model. I’m sure my mother prayed to Mary to intercede many times when it came to my sister’s
survival and wellbeing. Mary represented the Great Mother, the great, protective mother, and mom was one too.
Birth, the arrival. Death, the departure. Mother and daughter––it was as if, once again, we made a universe. We were as one in my mother’s bed, just as at the moment of my birth. We were together; unable to communicate with words.
It was early afternoon. I noticed certain signs that indicated she was dying. Earlier in the day, I had asked Cathy, a special, redheaded nurse if she would sing with me when my mother was passing. I went to the door of the room and called for her. By the time she got there, Mom was taking her last breath. Cathy and I stood by my mother’s bed. We sang the song my mother had sung to me when I was born and during my childhood. It was called, Tell Me Why.
Here are the words from the first stanza. I will share with you now:
Tell me why the stars do shine.
Tell me why the ivy climbs.
Tell me why the sky’s so blue,
Then I will tell why I love you.
By: Fred Mower
The day of Mom’s funeral was exceptionally beautiful. There was a clear blue sky and the sun was shining. I had the words from Tell Me Why printed, and people sang it at the gravesite for mom. This lullaby helped her many friends and loved ones to transition as my mother was laid to rest. While everyone sang, love poured forth for Mom and this moment became inspired and uplifting.
My wish for you is that you find comfort in your lullaby. Let it ease you during those moments of transition in your life.