I spoke to a friend on the matter of grief, and she said something profound. She mentioned that those grieving would be best to give themselves a year before making huge changes. “They have to endure the four seasons…when you think about it, each season contains first’s. There are birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. The list of first experiences without their loved one is excruciating. Enduring those four seasons will take all the strength in them.”
Grief can be felt in a myriad of ways. There can be grief for what was left unsaid, and for what was spoken in haste. It can present as regret for what never was and for what had been. The relationship you wished you had, compared to the one you experienced. The pain of an empty chair at your dining table, or felt after reaching for the phone to call. It can present as it’s twin, anger. You may be so bloody angry at everything, not least what others concern themselves with. Don’t they know that an angel just died?
Grief is complex; one moment you may feel fine, and the next be in the foetal position on the floor. It is not a linear journey, rather it is a mass of swirly pathways. Grief is messy, it’s trajectory launching you into a future wherein you have to leave the fallen behind. You take only the memories, and the love, with you. I imagine butterflies, dragonflies and fireflies escorting the bereaved as they rest in a cave. The walls perhaps lined with glow worms as they sit and weep. It can be a lonely journey, and certainly a puzzling trip, for which nobody wants a ticket.
Piercing through the hymns, the eulogies, the visual displays and the flowers, is the love you hold in your heart and the promise of what might have been. It sears through the ICU monitors, silencing the alarms and machines. At the end of it all, we leave with only love; that which we gave and accepted in turn. If you can endure the first four seasons of bereavement, hope and love wait on the other side.
It was my friend’s funeral this week. My little girl sat beside me, holding my hand, and whispering, “I love you mummy.” Two funerals for two young mums is two too many. Life is an excruciating mystery. Would we dare open our hearts inviting others to view the contents if we knew we could lose each other at any moment? Would it make life more precious or less bearable?
I was due to have a mammogram, and intended to do so. Life got busy, and I put it off. Then, I felt a lump. I had a few tests done the other day, including the mammogram. When the technician came back and said that the doctor wanted more images of one side, I felt some anxiety. I was there for a few hours, and you know what? It ultimately felt empowering. So much is out of our control, yet when a doctor advises you to have certain tests, it gives control back to you. I felt that my life was valued, and that I was honouring my daughter by having these tests. I wasn’t frightened. Rather, I knew I would cope if anything was found. Fortunately, the lumps turned out to be cysts. I will be monitored regularly, and I know how blessed I am. If you are putting off having tests, or burying your head in the sand concerning a worrying health issue, please don’t. Dealing with it is such a relief.
In the midst of all the sadness, there was the light of my child. We watched A MidsummerNights Dream, as she is playing Titania in her drama class, and she made art and delighted in the novelty of finding a telephone booth at The Rocks.
Life is such a funny thing. Heartbreaking, mystifying and everything in between. At the end, only the good stuff ends up on the cinematic reel of your life. I reckon it’s a bit like being presented with the big red book from ‘This is your Life.’ The pain and sickness, the suffering and strife dies. Your unencumbered spirit remains. That is what I like to think.
I heard last week that a friend had passed away. She was a mum of three and had fought cancer with grace and might for a number of years. I had only seen her recently, giving her a hug at a local fair. “I would love to catch up soon,” I said, and she smiled her radiant smile. I felt numb with shock when I heard the news. I wanted the world to stop spinning for a little while, but it refused. I had to take my daughter to an art workshop early the next morning. After I had ordered breakfast at the art space, I turned around and saw a hearse. Here I was, trying to distract myself with business, and death was all around. I couldn’t escape it.
A death exhibition had just opened. I couldn’t avert my eyes, so decided to embrace it. This feared wild state called death… The cessation of all that was and all you were prior, leaving lasting memories and the love you carried in your heart. A gift to those who love you.
I viewed the exhibition, the works using a myriad of mediums. Photos of those who looked asleep, a TV set to distribute white noise. It was peaceful. It wasn’t morbid or frightening, just silent and respectful. I don’t understand why people die, particularly the young. Two women I adored have died the past six months, and I have raged and wept and reminisced. I now found myself ensconced in a death exhibition, as though it were a preview of coming attractions. It is my duty to live a good and full life, in tribute to those who only had half of their expected years on earth. When I pop off, I want to leave my daughter enough wondrous adventures and memories to last her all her days.
My daughter decided to dress up in one of her classes as a pilot bride. Just before the actual wedding, she leapt out of her plane and parachuted to earth. I thank God for each day I get to spend with this exquisite little girl.
On behalf of my late friends, I promise not to take this painful, ecstatic gift of life for granted. Just a few weeks ago, my friend was working, helping an elderly lady in her home. She wasn’t dying. She was living to the end. Every second was accounted for and respected. Now is all we have. Let’s make it count.