I’ ve been thinking a lot about death over the last few days. In a really healthy positive way I rush to assure everyone, especially any friends picking up their car keys with an intervention on their minds.
N started it on a school morning when she assured Ida it was never too late to say goodbye but then corrected herself to the more likely one that sometimes it was. I teased her about the fact we were on the way to G’ma’s for lunch. As I walked there peering into all the lovely spring (monied) gardens along Escourt Road I thought a bit about the big D.
It’s a subject I’ve already wrapped my grey cells around. As I’m sure we all have. After all, it’s one of the BIG ones. I was particularly thinking about it in reference to my G’ma as we were on the way there. She’s recently, well in the last couple of years, made more and more oblique D references. At gift times she says things like, “Oh don’t waste your money dear, I’ll not get much use from that”. She’s started trying to distribute treasures. Last year she insisted I take an early edition of the complete Edward Lear which I adore and learnt to read from as a child. “I want to make sure it doesn’t go astray” I caught her labelling the back of pictures last summer with their ideal destinations after, you know..
She expresses her gladness at my other Granny’s death in 2005. It was suddenly, at home. “It’s what anyone would prefer darling” . When she broke her hip she was desperate to return home, horrified at the thought of a convalescence stop-gap. At the funeral of a friend she wonders wistfully if anyone will miss her.
What I’m mainly thinking about is how we, her family, her nearest and dearest deal with this. Basically we turn it aside, deflect with humour or bluffly refuse the conversational gambit. We say, “oh don’t be silly, don’t talk like that, it’ll never happen”
Well clearly it will. It’s like the elephant in the room, we’re all squeezing around it. Being polite.
Not this winter just past but the one before Steve and I wrote our wills. I wanted everything to be sorted and clear for the kids. We rearranged everything so all the utilities were paid through our joint account and in both our names. I wrote a series of letters for the kids for the future and some for my parents and my sister. We sat down over a series of painful evenings and talked about funerals and stuff I wanted in the kids future, the things I felt were crucial that maybe we hadn’t talked through yet. And it was awful and dreadful and fucking unbearably sad. It was also freeing and liberating, reassuring and comforting. It left me able to just concentrate on my treatment and healing. I loved Steve passionately for being kind, rational and able to hold my hand and listen and plan without putting his head in the sand.
When Ida and I reach the house she’s in the front garden feeding the birds. After the usual flurry of hello hugs and coatshedding I lean on the kitchen counter while she makes coffee and muse a bit aloud on all this D stuff. She adds her sugar and fixes me with a beady look, “is the cancer back darling?” “No I was thinking more about your death G’ma” She throws back her head and laughs. We take the drinks into the garden and I do a bit of weeding while she reminds me of when Zeph was four and at the family tea party she told him how old she was in an attempt to impress him. He looked her up and down very seriously then said into an expectant silence “Well why aren’t you dead yet?” and the room broke out into urgent distraction chatter.
I say how much I love her and how I fully expect to howl and wail at her funeral and be the total opposite of stiff upper lipped. She tells me how leaving the house her and Grandpa built together would be like losing him all over again. That she worries about my darling emotionally inarticulate Dad, her son. We talk about funerals. She is very scathing about Alex’s probable preference for a wicker coffin. We laugh a lot. I cry a bit on the way home. That night I read this post on Dovetailrats
I think a lot about Japan. I think a lot about a friend from my past who died last Sunday. I think about souls and electric sparks. About reincarnation and circles and journeying towards destinations. I think about compost and love and poetry, chromosomes and children. About how change is frightening and how you have to practise embracing it.
Whilst internal cog turning I wipe quite a lot of mould off the house (this is an ongoing task. It will never be over, it’s like the Forth bridge, as soon as I finish a bit it starts reforming…) We do gardening;
This is a very lovely ornamental dead nettle with lovely “minnow” narcissus coming up through it. Lots of forget-me-nots that I’ve managed not to mistake for chickweed and uproot this year. I painted a table that had mouldered in the damp conservatory over winter;
I would have done a before pic of table only I thought it may put you off (if all the death stuff hasn’t.. ) Those are the gifted slabs awaiting sand. (Small internal jig of joy) This is our beautiful cat, Mittens;
I cook a roast dinner and potter around. I count my blessings. I seem to have reached an internal conclusion and feel brighter, clearer, happier. Definitely earthier. I resolve to make sure I do no more deflecting but am open and brave and light hearted instead.