“There is no normal….”

That’s what my friend, Ian, said to me about grief. That is a great relief.

On Monday, it will be one month since Ngaire died. I now understand why people use euphemisms for “died”. It is a solid, confronting word to use of one whom you loved intensely. Even using the past tense, “loved” is a slim wedge in the door of that delicate  room of volatile emotions which, mostly now, only make themselves felt on occasion.

There is no set of rules for when that may be, however; just this morning as I washed my hands in my bathroom, I realised that the soap I was using was nearly spent. A great sense of loss enveloped me, because Ngaire had used that same soap. Tears filled my eyes and a feeling of hopelessness at the impracticality of keeping this slender shard, which really had no intrinsic value. But it had been touched – no,virtually cosseted – by her, and in that, I imagined that I felt her.

Many years ago I went to my father’s brother’s funeral. He had died a couple of years after my dad and was a very old man. On the way to the cemetery, the cortége left me at a red light, and I didn’t find them all again until the burial was over. In between I went on a default driving tour of the suburb that is Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney – a necropolis indeed. I saw so many vignettes of loss, that I wrote a poem of the experience. There is a line that resonates with me now:

“In the sudden loss, the dead don’t go; instead, we leave what was and start again.”

It is a new framework, a new world, in which I and my boys, along with those who loved her dearly, will have to operate without her, though everything within us is screaming that our framework only works if she is in it!

One thing that I have contemplated during this time, is the vast ocean of humanity that has experienced everything that I/we are experiencing now. We are all terminal. Grief is a part of daily life for hundreds, maybe thousands of people within a few kilometres of where we are right now. Within this context of history and humanity we, individually, become very small. It is this smallness – this vulnerability – which enables one to allow the Larger Heart into the pain. Herein lies the comfort and the strange peace that has been my and my boy’s reality for these past few weeks.

“There is no normal; there are no rules.” That’s about the size of it. I see her now and then – in my dreams, in my spirit; a dream the other morning prompted this:

Looking Ahead

I was tucking in your feet;

Early morning, still time to sleep;

I wrapped those feet carefully,

Lovingly, as you made sounds

Of pleasure, receiving the love

With the joy that only warmth

Brought you.

“There are only a few more winter

mornings to come, my darling,” I said,

As I left to make your tea.


Then I awoke to the sounds

Of the magpies’ gentle warble

That was your favourite way

To be greeted by the day.


It’s been a warm winter –

Warmest on record, they say –

And you’re not here to tell,

To see the early blossom,

Plan the summer,

Plan our lives.

But there is still love to give,

Hope to share,

Reason to explore


That we may help bring

This Kingdom that has parted us briefly,

You there, me here.

6 thoughts on ““There is no normal….”

  1. Your words and poem have such depth and beauty, thank you for sharing them, Matt. Like you say, it’s not just the physical loss of the person but the relational growth and love you shared that has come to an abrupt halt. How intertwined your lives are/ were even through that ‘bar of soap’…. You & the boys continue to be in our thoughts & prayers.
    Lib & Phoeb x


  2. I had a swanky pen that I gave my father, which he gave back to me before he died.
    Being something that was so precious, naturally, I went ahead and lost it.
    Of course, I beat myself up over that for ages.

    I eventually decided to let it go. That pen wasn’t him, and shouldn’t represent him.
    About a day later, it showed up in a drawer.
    I was overjoyed, and took back everything I said. Because the pen was my father. And my father was the pen.

    The pen disappeared again, of course.

    So months later, after all hope of finding it again was lost, I finally decided, once and for all, to let it go for real.
    The pen came back, but this time I chucked it in a box and forgot about it.

    The pen is still in the box.
    And I think of my dad all the time.

    The pen likes that.


  3. Being connected is who you are Matt & one of the traits Ngaire loved in you & we loved in her.
    It’s 10 years since my Mum died & I often think I’ll ring her to ask about some recipe or remedy.
    I have hand towels she embroidered, worn now because I use them, & letters & cards she always sent, she never forgot. I remember her daily. I sometimes think I see her reflection in a shop window, then I look closer – it’s me.
    We grieve in our own way & time. When we think we’ve passed a particular point, we sometimes return there. We can be fine on one day & fall to pieces on another.
    Your friend is right – there is no normal.
    From your intellect, heart & spirit flow your beautiful words & thoughts. Thank you for sharing, reminding us we are human & unique.
    Much love & prayers L&S


  4. Matt,
    your words bring her back – she is right there as I read. And the bittersweet is the sweeter for your sharing her with us in this way. Thank you my friend. my love and prayers, Jac


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