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:
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
“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.