It was the second anniversary of Serena’s passing this week. I just wanted to get off this crazy ride, for one precious day, but that isn’t how life works. There was an eight-hour school day to attend to. Serena was never far from my thoughts. Even now, I see women who look like her, and have to stop myself from calling out her name. Her legacy is infused within our everyday life. In her last weeks, she would ask about my plans to home school, and would insist that it was the right decision for my child. As a teacher, I valued her input. My daughter loved her ‘Auntie ‘Rena,’ and as evening fell, we lit a candle within the holder I had bought at a party with Serena. It offered the light filtered through trees. She had loved trees. Her mother has planted a Great White Cherry tree (Tai Haka), in her back garden, in tribute to Serena, and it is growing splendidly.
Whenever I got my knickers in a twist about a mean person, or some trivial matter, she would smile wryly until I too saw the folly of giving the issue such importance. She was practical and no-nonsense. She would just get on with it, and continued to do so until the very end. I learnt so much from how she went about life. Her eyes would light up when she talked about her travels, regaling me with her stories of what she had seen and whom she had met. I swore I saw star dust in her eyes at such times. A scientist once told me he finds it miraculous that we are all made of stars, and is incredulous that we fail to acknowledge it. Serena, you were certainly made of star dust, and are now the brightest star in our galaxy.
A woman with auburn hair was walking in front of me. She was holding the hand of a little boy. For a moment, I thought it was you… I kept seeing you everywhere. In the shops, in the park. You can’t be gone! The horrible realization struck me afresh.
You should be living in Balmain with your boys, your heart condition carefully monitored. I should be preparing to meet up with you, to share a meal for your birthday. The tears came as I sat in the park. Grief absolutely flattens you, like a tidal wave. It was a physical pain, so much so that I felt winded. What sets it off on any given day is a mystery. I went from weeping to laughter when I recalled you telling me about a party your eldest had attended. He was going to a religious preschool at five, and upon seeing the procession of fairies alighting from cars outside the venue, he hollered, “oh no! Not another #$%^&*# fairy party!” You were aghast, as all the mums heard him, though laughed uncontrollably on the retelling. Wiping my eyes, I went to get my daughter.
I was bemused to receive her worksheets. She had felt sorry for Dr Karl, as he didn’t have much hair, so she thought she would style him. She asked a lot of questions about guinea pigs which he answered concisely. When I asked why she had focused on guinea’s, she replied huffily, “they are a biology topic!” I took her for lemon gelato, and then she climbed trees in the main street.
We went home, and I received a message from Serena’s mum. She had sourced a Japanese Cherry tree. It became extinct in Japan and one specimen was found in an English garden in West Sussex. It was propagated from that tree (many more are now back in Japan due to this one specimen). Serena’s family were going to plant it tonight, and scatter her ashes around it. Serena was a world citizen and ardent traveller. She would have loved this. I looked through old photos, and lit a candle for my friend.
You said in your school yearbook that you wanted to be remembered for as long as possible. Oh darling, you shall be. Until we meet again, happy birthday Serena. I hope you can hear me sing to you.