My mother took her last breath on Friday, January 28, 2022, at 2:50 AM Mountain Time. My phone woke me from a restless sleep, just like when my father died 13 months before. Jaime and I shared a few tears and words. My mother was at peace.

The next day I was walking on a beach in Hawaii. I sat down on a fallen tree and gazed across the ocean seeking solace. So many thoughts passing through my mind, so many feelings. I felt at once sad and relieved, heavy and light, quiet and curious, wanting to talk with family, and wanting to be alone. After her heart attack and stroke in July, I had started grieving. I addressed many issues and arrived at feeling compassion and gratitude. Now I was in new territory of living and sharing this loss.

The day before my mother died, Roger and I had gone on a whale watching excursion. I knew my mother had stopped eating and drinking and was breathing loudly. I held her in my heart, as I listened to the whale guide explain how humpback whales come to this area to breed and give birth. “Why do they leap into the air?” asked one curly haired boy. “We really don’t know, but it is an amazing sight.” We saw some whale tales and some spouting but no breaching.

As I sat on the beach letting my mind wander, I gazed out at the ocean in a daze. Suddenly my eyes caught sight of some huge shape on the horizon, breaking the flat line.  At first I thought it was a sailboat I had missed seeing.  But this image came and went in the blink of an eye.  It was a whale!  Of course I knew it was a message for me. This unusual, magnificent expression of life rising up out of the ocean was my mother saying “Goodbye.”  She had reached the other side, and her life was complete.

This image and the words that rose in my heart nourished me for the next few days. I wanted to anchor this in my heart and share it with others.  One word surprised me, “Adieu.” I had to look up its meaning. It means “Go with God” in French, like the Spanish Adios. Those words were a message to us both to “Go now with God.”

Mother Whale Breaching at the Edge of the Earth

I am sitting on a beach in Hawaii,
Thinking about my mother
Who died yesterday.

I am sitting on a beach
On a bleached trunk of a fallen tree,
Scanning the blue sea
For the white spouting of a whale.

I am sitting on a bleached bench,
Gazing at the vast ocean and the infinite sky,
Thinking about my mother’s 93 years
And her last breath,
When suddenly,
Interrupting the flat line of the horizon,
A dark shape arises and catches my eye.
A huge splashing shape,
Sails up into the sky,
A mother whale breaching,
Lifting her 60 foot long body,
Her 40 tons of life,
Up and out of the water
For no known reason.

I am sitting on the beach
On a bleached white tree
With my mother,
Humpback whale,
Rising up out of the depths.
A mother like no other,
Calls for my attention
One last time.
My heart opens in amazement.
I feel her “Fare well.”
I bid her “Adieu.”

I bid you “Adieu,” dear Mother.
Go now with God.

Wendy von Oech
January 30, 2022