Dark Matter

It always happens in the shower.   As if the shower stall doors enclose me briefly into a time warp machine.    One in which you have to be naked.

Steam rises like a phoenix from my back and I trace spirals and the loopy cursive names of my children on the dewy glass doors.   My mind meanders as my muscles loosen.   Water whispers to me of Birth.  And inevitably Birth leads me down the road to Death.

Having now mastered “sitting” (it always occurs to me, watching babies, that we are still just animals), Lyric plays with a few toys on the carpet a mere ten feet from the shower.   He keeps his eyes on me, waiting for the times I swab my palms on the doors to create an opening in my portal.  One in which he can see me.   It is through this portal that the idea of mortality strikes.

Something about seeing his tiny, sitting body and the way his sister is singing to him – viewing them from afar as if watching a movie reel – reminds me that these times pass so quickly.  Too quickly.   Blink one eye and they are starting school.  Blink the other and they are graduating.

You become a mother and stare into your children’s eyes and there will suddenly be this moment that you are staring into the iris of mortality and death.   It will shock you, the intensity in which it seems to crack you in half;  your heart unzipping itself layer by layer to the sound of one lone violin.

many months ago....
all of them.


I came to a morbid-sounding realization recently and I’m not sure how I feel about it.   I’ve left it draped over the back of a chair to stew and dangle for a while, since it’s difficult for me to digest.

I realized that from the moment we are born we begin the process of dying.

It seems simple, really.  Perhaps logical.  Or at least BIOlogical.   But held on the tip of my mother-heart it feels tragic.  And how shitty is that, really? To be pushed into this new realm, fresh and fragile and dependent, only to figure out you are walking the road to Death.

And I guess I had this unconscious notion that after we were born we LIVED.  We grew and flourished and that at some undetermined point in time on that continuum we suddenly began to die.   I think in my head I’d assumed that was in your 50’s or so.   But then I became a mother and realized that it was THEN.  In that moment of transformation, you become both Mother and Crone.   You are both bearer of life and usher of death.    It is only then, the times that I’ve been honorably re-crowned Mother,  that I ever truly feel mortal.  There is both a quake of acceptance and gratitude and a tremble of fear at this realization.

In the gasp of one moment you hold tight to your babies and make hushed statements like “I will have to leave you someday….”

You realize you’ve brought life into the world so that it could….die.

That feels bold.   Almost unethical.   A responsibility of cosmic proportions.

photo by Jeanette LeBlanc


All of this is not meant to be morbid or devastating.   It has simply been a realization, a process, an unwrapping.

I am learning to sit with it as if it were a guest in my home.   On occasion, I scoop it gently from the back of the chair and offer it a soft space on my sofa.  I prop it up with pillows and pull up close and we are mostly silent in our exchange.  It doesn’t feel obligated to wipe away my gently rolling tears.

There is much to be learned from a quiet guest.


I turned 34 this month and this revolution around the sun has me feeling more mortal than ever.   Three kids, saggy skin, veiny hands, and gray hairs don’t help with that notion.    It was just these past months that I first realized I had laugh lines.   We are going to call them that instead of wrinkles.   And my double chin is becoming more evident with the birth of each child;  a sweet little souvenir of my pregnancy weight gain.

Sometimes I ponder what it will feel like to age.  I wonder will I still feel like “me” but just in a different body?

I picture myself in my grand golden years and here is what my image becomes…

I am sitting on a cozy porch in a rocking chair, surrounded by wind chimes and hummingbirds.  My long white hair is pinned to the top of my head, but wisps of it blow in the breeze.   The cup of chamomile and peppermint tea is warm in my bony hands.   A few drips dribble joyfully from my chin as I slurp dramatically.   The knobby knit of my cardigan sweater is well-worn and snugly.  My husband is reading in the chair next to me, but he is probably actually napping.   I can still feel the bones in my body shift as I remember giving birth to my children.   The image of our first gaze – me and my babes –  sits on the threshold of my mind’s eye and tears still form in the corners of my body’s eyes.   The wind holds their giggles and the warmth of the sun is like their small bodies wrapped around mine as we nursed in bed.   The clouds above me spell out lyrics to songs that live deep in me; all of the verses have the word Love in them.

first moments

“Aging is good”, I say to myself. “This life has been good.  This life is still good.” The thought of Death becomes as easy as breath;  I give it no extra thought or weight.   I simply trust that this Big Idea all works out.   That The Plan will unroll its treasure map out before me on brilliant red parchment and gold lettering.   I remember repeating “We birth as we live and live as we birth”.

But this time, I say “We die as we live and live as we die”.

And, like a well-mannered guest always does, I nod and respond with “Thank You for inviting me.  I had a fantastic time.  Let’s do it again soon”.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. yes it hits, in moments, and death seduces us into re-remembering the cycle continues and as my daughter is so intrigued with these days “we all turn back into dirt, even me”.

    as i was their midwife to this world, i often visualize them being mine into the next. and then i imagine them, and their children…..and so on….and so ….on and on and on………the eternal return.

    and i am left with the butterfly. mia was 3 sitting on the toilet and asked me if she was going to die. and i told her that she would be like a caterpillar and change…….only to become something even grander than an earth critter, to be part of the wind and sky………………

    love you my immortal mere mortal.

  2. Sarah says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. xoxo

  3. Joy says:

    I know what you mean. I really do. And it isnt morbid– or maybe it is. But I have thought these same thoughts, why must we make these babies just for them to die? But of course it is so they can live, as we all do, it is a gift entwined in so much love and so much pain but so worth it. It seems like a DAY ago that I was taking quick showers with baby just outside the glass–and now she is 2 1/2! A GIRL, a KID most would say…ACK!

    Long days, fast weeks, lightning flash months.

    Your blog is so uplifting to me and through it, my whole family benefits, Leigh.

  4. erin says:

    that image of you older, with your man.
    savouring that image.. it is so good and right… so delicious and in love with it…

    i imagine inside your elder home– the fridge tacked with pictures of grandchildren.
    little soft, plump bodies that visit and climb into your fragile lap. your wrinkled, soft hands that wash their hair, rub their back, cut their sandwich.. all in the same way these young hands do for your baby today.
    the history repeating itself beautifully.
    allowing you to live it twice, perhaps thrice if only for a little while.
    allowing it to be sweeter and sweeter as it goes on.

    jason reading stories aloud, his voice more matured.. his eyes wild with life. the littles giggling in excitement for his tales.

    your life, and your death are quilted together with births… little ones ushered in from their mamas womb, and your gift of presence- to witness their first breath of air. their first moments belong to their mama, and you too- are their keeper.

  5. Nicole says:

    Loved this post. I am daily thankful for the amazing words I have been reading lately, coincidence…i think not. I seem to be sharing my story quite a bit lately….turned 40 last week…baby is graduating H.S in a few months. Changes are happening…it went by fast…SO fast. Finding my new place now and meditating on these same thoughts.

  6. janistan says:

    Such a gorgeous, wonderful post, Leigh.
    I remember too, how I suddenly realized one day that I will die and leave my child (that was a few weeks after Valerie’s birth) and that it is a cycle that repeats… how humbling, and how honoring, to be in this circle and cycle of life.
    You write beautifully, I loved every word. xo

  7. Katie says:

    Beautiful. It is such a universal and yet frightening as hell truth. When I was still pregnant with my daughter (the oldest of my 2) I would wake crying, having dreamt of sending her off to college. Even that kind of loss broke my heart…18-ish years in advance.

    Last fall I was at a meeting I go to twice a year for work, talking with someone I regard as a dear friend even though we see each other so rarely. And suddenly it hit me that she, who chose not to have children, was floating on the time-space-age continuum. Today she could say she’s 35, tomorrow 42, and we’d have no reference by which to measure the truth of her answer. And yet, from the moment your first baby is born, you have this living, breathing marker of time and how it marches on. Amazing, terrifying, and beautiful.

    I posted about that here, if you’re interested. 🙂


  8. Ms. Smoochy says:

    I read this in the morning and it has stuck with me all day. I’ve been chewing it and chewing it. I certainty can’t comment on in in any profound sort of way… It is too big for me.

    But, it made me think of this:


    Hopefully this won’t offend… 😉

    1. leighsteele says:

      Ms. Smoochy,
      That commercial was fabulous! Yes, it totally relates. Thanks for sharing.
      And thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences around this…a reminder I’m not alone in my momentary and morbid-type thoughts. I swear a mama’s brain is chemically different than before she had kids. Well, we do know that to be true on some levels….

  9. Megan says:

    This post really hits home, not only as a mother, but as a child of a dying parent. I don’t really know what to say or how it makes me feel, though. Just so much to process. Love you. Meg

  10. dad says:

    Our children……

    ….are not our own. God only loans them to us for a while. A lesson every parent must eventually learn.

    The Human life cycle is little different from that of the Monarch Butterfly. Concieved in the warm womb of Mexico….it’s mortal father dies soon after: the mother flys north in the summer….. lays her eggs on the leaf of a milkweed then dies as well. The eggs hatch…. a new life spreads it’s wings and flourishes. Then with the coming season they return to the point of thier conception.

    Unknowning….. without understanding or the ability to change their life cycle…. it begins all over again. How different is the human…..who returns to the source from which it came: not knowing, not understanding, unable to influence or change the journey’s end?

    Mortal beings. We are here but for a moment. We disturb the waters with our presence, rings round us form…… like a stone thrown in. When we leave this dimension…soon the water smooths and it is as if we were never here.

    Oh …..for a generation or two our memory is recalled. From time to time a tear is shed…..we reunite in dreams. Within the span of a human life we are forgotten…..words written: pictures in a book, names carved in stone to prick the imagination of those who walk the grassy slope.

    So caress the babies, hold tenderly the spouse, remember your loved ones…..bask in the sun….wear the clothing of the world lightly…..smile every day.

    Aging is a process of releasing the physical and accepting the spiritual.

    You are far to young to be yet troubled. Peace will come with time. I’ts O.K.



  11. maggie may says:

    beautiful life into beautiful words.

  12. Dr. Rock says:

    “And I guess I had this unconscious notion that after we were born we LIVED.”

    and we do. just replace Death with Birth and Birth with Death. Was there nothing before the baby took it’s first breath? of course there was! my babies have been with me since the moment i took my first breath, i knew them before i knew them.

    our culture has a warped idea of death, as it’s an absolute, it’s something that takes us away. the process of dying is the process of gestating to be born.

    a friend of mine recently shared on the anniversary of her grandmother’s death that she wasn’t sad at all because she never witnessed someone so comfortable with dying. oh i think that is what we are born to do, find comfort in the earth gestation, know when to let go, to spiral down the next birth canal, and breath our next breath into the arms of who knows what or who. i hope to find as much excitement about death as i do for birth, and hope to midwife my children in a way where they can find their own power within each transformation…………

    a wind of thought here, had to come out….

    love you so….
    thank you for reminding me that in even dirt, our energy remains our energy.

  13. this is sticking with me Leigh.
    your words/thoughts on death are beautiful and thoughfull.
    Your papa is right, your far too young to be troubled!

    I feel some inspiration coming on…I might have to quote your
    papa’s words upon my blog if I may?


  14. leighsteele says:

    erin, of course you can use my papa’s words. 🙂 i am honored to read anything you write, your wisdom always spills forth very effortlessly and purely.
    and, i should clarify: i hope this post didn’t come through as me feeling “troubled”. i don’t let these thoughts overpower me or my days. i simply acknowledge them for what they are: the unknowing, the mystery. and i honor that. i just found it interesting that i never really considered such things until i became a mama. so, this post was a way of me releasing these feelings out into the cosmos. 🙂
    thank you all for your words and revelations as well. it resounds “we are not alone, we are not alone”. xo

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