When my mother's soul slipped through the brief disappearing O of her mouth, I saw her speak the language they say only newborns or the dead can speak: words of greeting and farewell. I felt her near, a presence just beyond my apprehension. I wondered why I couldn't go too, because this material world meant nothing to me. I understood how things stay together through our vigilance. If I let the boundaries fail for a moment, I'd begin to fall past the ground that shores us up, through the roots of trees, beds of lava, flint, and diamonds clear to the other side of the universe. The next morning it rained -- that was a sign -- and the world was suddenly with me, vivid and palpable. I could feel the weight of history drag at my feet, but something poured into me like music, and I knew she wanted me to accept my own fate, the fulfillment of the life she gave me. And I felt the words that came from the other side of memory and knowledge. They had less to do with justice than tenderness, less to do with love than courage.