Gone But Not Gone

August 15, 2012 § 55 Comments

“You may think that when you die, you disappear, you no longer exist.  But even though you vanish, something which is existent cannot be non-existent.  That is the magic.”

Shunryu Suzuki

My mother does not know who I am.  She lives in a locked down wing of a facility that she will never leave.  She cannot hold anything in her mind for more than a few seconds.   She will die there.  I often hope it’s soon.

My mother is gone.

Before she was gone, my mother would often say to me, “You’re such a good writer.”  She meant it as a compliment I know but there was something else.  It was as though she thought that I didn’t understand, or wasn’t using, my talent.

But all those years my mother kept saying this to me, I was writing.  Along the way I published dozens of articles, several book chapters, even a book.  And still, I would hear from my mother that same admonishing compliment- “You’re such a good writer.”

What I now understand is that amidst all those pages of published work was hardly a single page that really meant something to me.   Mostly cold, academic stuff.   Hundreds of pages where I was not to be found.

That’s changed.  Now I write what I feel- not what’s expected, not out of any ambition.  Writing now because I can’t see any other choice.  Drawn to the work with all my heart.

My mother patiently waited all those years for me to believe in myself.   By the time I did, it was too late for her.  Now she’ll never read anything I write- ever again.

But she’s here, right now, in my work.

Gone- but not gone.  Never gone.

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§ 55 Responses to Gone But Not Gone

  • Pazlo says:


    For many years I searched in the usual places trying to understand humankind’s desire for immortality. Egyptian afterlife, reincarnation, Heaven, Nirvana, grave stones, memorial days, memorial runs, memorial scholarships. After my mother died, not so many years ago, I discovered that she has been in my memory and in my life without fail since.
    She was so many things, lived life so fully and well, that there are few things in my life that don’t recall her. My grandfather has been dead for about twenty years, yet I feel my children and now my grandchildren know him well. I speak of him highly, and often, and tell them he has set the bar for which I reach in my daily life, my interaction with loved ones and strangers.
    This is the essence of immortality. To live in the hearts and minds of those you have touched. Not a rock or a prayer or a new body or soul.
    Your mother is with you now, and will always be.
    The last line of the Wolf Credo:
    “Leave your mark”

    Be at peace,


    • Thomas Ross says:


      Thank you for this thoughtful reply.

      I’m glad that you reminded me to share stories of my mother and father (who died many years ago) with my children. I can feel each of them in me and thus they are in my children. But the stories too.

      “Your mother is with you now, and always will be.” Yes.

      Much thanks,


  • dadirri7 says:

    thomas, thank you for sharing the faith your mother had in you through those years of impersonal academic writing…. I see her nurturing the seed that has now grown and blossomed so very beautifully…so although now she cannot read the sensitive living words that flow from your heart, be reassured they touch her, as they touch all of us ,,, christine

  • Miss Rosen says:

    mmm i dont know.

    the last time i spoke to my grandfather he cried that he would never read my book except .. that man grabbed me by the hand a month ago and shook me inside out. and i mean, he did it on the first anniversary of his death, and he did this to tell me several things.

    i know this sounds fruit loops but i dont believe in boundaries. i dont believe that your mother doesnt know, doesnt read, just because she doesnt do it in the way that you understand. i believe something that i cannot articulate but i’ve been hit with it so many times i live in faith.

    what you seek is seeking you.

    peace ~*~

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Miss Rosen,

      You bring me back to something I know in my bones- that all things most exquisite and most profound exist beyond words. However crafted our writing, we can only hope to approach the outer boundaries of what’s most real and most elemental.

      And I do understand that I cannot know the real nature of my mother’s existence- what she feels, what she understands, how she moves through her existence. When I spoke of her limits in this post, I was speaking from my own howling grief and loss. In that place, I speak of her that way.

      But in a stronger place, where I want to be, I join you with the “fruit loopy” sense of things. Worlds beyond description. Wonderful worlds.


      • Miss Rosen says:

        a few disordered thoughts ..

        ~ for every loss there is an equal and opposite gain.

        ~ boundaries are an illusion. of convenience and laziness and fear. we all have them to hide behind. it appears easier this way.

        ~ pain is half the whole.

        ~ you can transcend being half the whole and become One with the unknowable.

        ~ if you allow yourself the ability to let go you will discover something that is truly magical ~*~

      • Thomas Ross says:

        Miss Rosen,

        Your ecstatic disordered thoughts find a welcome home here.


        A. A violent order is a disorder; and
        B. A great disorder is an order. These
        two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)

        Wallace Stevens, “The Connoisseur of Chaos”

  • Anitra says:

    Oh Thomas … I can feel your pain through this post. That’s got to be so hard, because she is neither here nor there. I can only imagine the complicated grief that must be part of this experience. As a mother, I am surer than sure that even though her mind is gone, her spirit is still here and very much knows that your writing *is* indeed following the path she always knew it could and would. I can only imagine how proud of you her spirit must be for the incredible spiritual evolution you’ve been going through, and for the increasingly more heart-centered writings you’ve been doing. You’re SUCH a beautiful writer! XO Anitra

    • Thomas Ross says:


      You really do see my journey- from where I was to my “increasingly more heart-centered writing.” That means so much to me.

      You know my boundless regard for your work. So when you say “beautiful writer” I am staggered by the compliment and touched by your kindness.

      Thank you.


  • zen city says:

    a mother’s heart knows all.
    if that were my situation, i think i would read some of my writing to mom anyway. you never know what you can’t know.
    very sweet post – thanks for sharing, tom.

    • gigiwanders says:

      sorry to hear about your mother, sounds tough
      i agree with presenting your writings aurally to your mother whenever you visit
      it also seemed to me, tom, that your “Now she’ll never read anything I write- ever again.” rather negates Suzuki’s quote you so elegantly started off with
      good writing, glad i found ya

      • Thomas Ross says:

        You’re right. My mother isn’t gone and I cannot know what she feels and thinks and how she receives my presence. She seems at peace now though and I do worry about upsetting that peace.

        But on my next visit, I’ll take something I have written, something real and honest, and I’ll see what feels right. Maybe I’ll read to her. I’ll know what’s right.

        I appreciate so much your thoughtful words.


      • gigiwanders says:

        Nevertheless, even though one might feel empathy and compassion, I am fully aware that it is you who are experiencing what you are experiencing (or perceiving – ie the perception of your experience), so in relative terms, it may be easier for us to ‘tell’ you what to think or do, but really we are not you feeling what you are feeling.

        I just wanted to let you know that so that you know, one doesn’t come across as spiritually conceited or high-handed or some such thing.

        You know da kine ;,)

    • Thomas Ross says:


      A very sweet response.

      I’ll definitely take something I’ve written with me on my next visit. I’ll feel what’s right and so maybe I will read to my mother.

      Thank you so much.


  • Sean J says:

    Your posts are always a pleasure to read, Tom, thank you for sharing. One thing I love most about words is that as long as there are people to read them, words preserve everything. Truly, nothing and no one is gone that we can write about.

  • Wow. So glad I plugged in long enough to read this. What a beautiful post. And don’t forget, in the larger scheme of things, her soul encouraged yours to expand, and there’s nothing more or better we can hope for than that. Peace to you – j.

    • Thomas Ross says:


      So good to hear from you. I began this work four months ago and you were there almost from the start.

      Thank you for your kind and supportive presence.


  • chrisbkm says:

    Beautiful post in every single way. Whatever she may or may not know or understand at this point in her life… your mom will very be pleased.

  • DIRNDL SKIRT says:

    I often wonder about people with dementia, who seem to be just “there.” No memory, or very little. But that “there” is their “in the moment.” In your mother’s locked down mind of not knowing you, I choose to believe that she does, somewhere in that ill-defined concept of “time” that connects the past with the present. And she did know you, well. You can write!

    • Thomas Ross says:


      Can’t know what is in the mind of another but I do believe that she is not suffering. The grief, the sense of loss, are mine. The Tao teaches me to open myself to that loss and thus seek to accept it. I’m trying.

      Thanks for coming by and for leaving such a warm message.


  • I am touched by your writings, your honesty and your ability to not only express…but intimately capture the conflicts, of feelings, emotions and experiences we all identify with. Thank you for sharing your talent with us….

    • Thomas Ross says:


      I am touched by your constant and thoughtful attention to the writing.

      This was a hard post for me to write. But it was honest and real. Just the kind of writing that she knew I could create, I believe.



  • MindMindful says:

    What an interesting circularity in your writing & your mom’s presence. i wish the best for you both…….

  • Anne says:

    Hi Tom, You write so fondly about your mum she has faith in you, which thankfully you now have in yourself! You write from the heart with kindness on a mother’s love for her son and the love of a son for his mum, who is now gone-but not gone, never gone. You touch people’s hearts with your compassion. May your mum’s spirit always shine through in your writing. Be blessed.

  • Cassie says:

    My mother is in exactly the same situation and I have similar thoughts about her and her relation to me and the things I do as you describe. I firmly believe that while everything changes, everything is also permanent. Perhaps that is one of the beautiful things about the path you follow (and I do too, from a slightly different perspective);- being in the moment and valuing the eternity of that moment. Your mother (and mine) will always be the sum of all she has ever been;- the sum of all those moments in eternity. That’s how I see it anyway, although I am not sure I am expressing it very well.
    You write from your heart and soul;and she is there too. Your writing touches and connects with other souls. It is a special thing.

    • Thomas Ross says:


      “…the sum of all she has ever been- the sum of all those moments in eternity.” What a glorious way to express it!

      When you say that you receive my writing as coming from my heart and soul, this is a great compliment as you are a writer ferociously honest and heartfelt in her own writing. So thank you much.


  • mimijk says:

    Oh Tom…I’m sorry and I know that she is in your willingness to be transparent, write your fabulous words and engage those around you with your talent. These are such difficult good-byes – those that are yet aren’t…I hope you’re buoyed by her confidence and those of us who relish your posts.

  • Robyn Lee says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart here Tom. I know this must have been a difficult one for you. I have to wonder if on some level your Mom may know she instilled this spark in you — to write from a different place — a more genuine soul place. She slowly gave you this gift by the constant nudging (i think) …. beautiful to consider this… Blessings and Love to you~ RL

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Robyn Lee,

      It was difficult to write and post but receiving a response like yours makes me know it was a right and true thing to do.

      Thank you for your thoughtfulness.


  • Janelle says:

    Beautifully written. I appreciate the experience of the later-understanding of something. It’s like a gift from the past.

  • Archana says:

    True, never gone.

    She must be very proud of you Tom.

  • Moving. Your Mother was right Tom. You are a great writer…

  • Gone, not gone…but always present. Thanks Tom. I always love how precise and concise you are. You always have a very simple and elegant way of putting things.

  • Susan Cooper says:

    Your mothers pride was before during and will continue after, through everything you do. She may be gone from this world, but not gone from your heart. Your writing will continue her spirit and propel it to a remembered and loving place. 🙂

    • Thomas Ross says:

      I do believe that each of us changes the world by our existence and that those changes ripple out in never ending waves and that our spirit- or perhaps some other word- continues.

      I think this happens in each “little” thing we do- including reading and responding to the work of other writers- as you have so often and so graciously done for me.

      So thank you, Susan.


  • Yes, gone but not gone. Thanks. I’ve deleted my JungianPilgrim blog and have returned to my “home” blog site.

  • jennlaurent (LiveThroughTheHeart) says:

    So beautiful Tom. I am truly grateful that you believe in yourself and have chosen that path in writing. Your words are inspiring and and resonate within the heart. Thank you for this beautiful post!

  • Shalvika P says:

    This is so touching. I’m sure deep down your mother knows that you truly believe in you. And I’m sure she is proud of who you are.

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