Three Funerals and an Afternoon Tea

That’s probably not going to make a great title for a film. There wouldn’t be too many laughs in it either.

This week past I attended the funeral Mass of a young man. Fifty-five is young when you’re fifty-two.

In the last year, this is the third death of someone young that I’ve known.

I wasn’t close to any of them but they had each come into my life at different points. They were each local, they were each about the same age. They each died alone. Completely alone.

They had loving family. Families who cared about them and wanted to help them. They were each beyond reach of help.

Two died alone at home. One ensured he would be found. They died, directly or indirectly, by their own hand. Their choices and circumstances led them to an early death.

Their families grieve the loss of one they could not help, despite love reaching out to do so.

Such a waste.

One I will remember by a piece of his art that hangs on my living-room wall.

Another, I will remember each day I pass her house.

The last I will remember from a dance as a teen.

I knew them all in better days, in a carefree past.

Whatever troubles life brought to them, they were too much.

And the afternoon tea?

Well, today, my husband and I went for a champagne afternoon tea that had been purchased last year for our silver wedding anniversary as one of the gifts from our seven gorgeous kids. The other gifts were enjoyed almost immediately. This voucher has lain for nearly a year, almost on the point of expiry. Finding the time to use it always just out of reach.

We made time today to use it. For a few hours we had time for just the two of us. We reminisced, we laughed. We talked about our children – that’s inevitable. We made a few plans. Some may happen. Some may not.

Our weeks unfold, one upon the other. There are glad days and gladder days. There are sad days and sadder ones still.

We live, we work, we love. We reach out to each other, as a couple, as a family.

Sometimes, that is enough.

And, sometimes, it is not.

The Business of Dying

As I explore the fabulous blogs that are out there, in this site, I am amazed at the wide variation of themes. I also note recurring themes and it seems that the human experience is meant to be shared. In doing so, laughter, enlightenment, education, wit, beauty and so much more are made available to all readers. I would like to think that we all have something to share. And so far, my experience of this site, reassures me that this is the case. I have found myself laughing fit to burst (Harsh Reality, Opinionated Man), moved (Geo Sans), entranced (PICZLoad), enlightened and amused (Marian The Seminarian) and well, pretty much every range of emotion as I gaily follow so many impressive people. I’ve only been on here a few days and I’ve hardly been off it. I can’t stop reading. (Not doing much for the writing).

I said in my Blog that I would date any entries that are ‘old’ writing. This is one of them. It’s still close to my heart. And I know, from speaking to others since my Mum’s death, that the experience is universal and also unique.

(21/10/09)

The business of dying is more difficult than the business of living. No matter how busy or arduous your life nothing surely can compare to how hard it is to go through the process of diminishing unto death. Getting up early, organising family, food, chores et al can all be done with some effort. Being unable, gradually or suddenly, to do anything for oneself is frustrating, humiliating, overwhelming.

How can one cope with the loss of all independence? How does one resign oneself to decreasing ability, mobility, choice?

My mum is dying and it’s not easy for anyone. We watch and tend and listen, trying to comfort, minister, alleviate.

Mum, though, does not understand why. Why does she have leukaemia? Why does she feel so tired? Why does she have to go for transfusions? Why does she have a catheter? Why do these nurses and carers have to be coming in? Rationally and in conversation she understands. These things can be explained – she is not without her mental faculties. But inside her heart she does not understand why. It’s as if death should come and take her by surprise. Instead, it is creeping through her body, insinuating itself slowly and mercilessly. She cannot let go to life – she is, after all, still alive. The desire to remain so is strong and inbuilt. But she is tired. Tired to the bone and tired of feeling the way she does. If death has to come she wants to go to sleep and be taken by it. Staying awake and being aware of its insidious progress is tortuous for her. She knows it is happening deep down – deep down in the marrow of her bones and deep down within herself.

Acknowledging the onset of death – the end of life – the departure from loved ones – I don’t know how anyone deals with this. Nothing in real experience has taught me how it would be. It is all foreign ground – to me and to my family.

The movie experience of dying is written from someone else’s experience or imagination and it is no help to the individuals involved in our own drama.

Mum is suffering, surely. But it is not physical pain for which there is pain relief. Her torment is an earth – bound purgatory, neither living nor dead.

Letter to Mum

(7/2/10)

Dear Mum,

I can’t give this to you or send it but maybe if I write something down it will help me and, if I can clarify my thoughts and feelings, I’ll be able to talk to you.

There’s a hole in me that’s you-shaped. I miss knowing you; knowing that you’re down the road, physically present. I miss not being able to show my love for you. The love I had and have for you – only for you – has nowhere to go. The love of a child for its parent is exactly that. Where can I send it? It isn’t lost. It hasn’t gone. But I’ve nowhere to give it or send it.

Maybe when Dad died I was able to take that love and give more of it to you. But you’re both gone now and the love is trapped inside of me. It wells up and makes me cry.

Maybe without your own parents and without my Dad you took all of that love and transferred it to us – your children and your grandchildren. I felt the measure of that love and I miss that too.

How exactly were you able to transfer it? If that is what you did. Or maybe no – one ever can. Some loves are just for some people. The love I have for all the people in my life stems from the same source but the difference is there in each one.

I want to reach out my arms to you and hear you speak to me. But I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what I’ll hear and that I won’t cope with your words. Maybe you’re already speaking and I’m refusing to listen.