This morning at 10.13 my mum called to tell me that my sister’s husband, my brother in law has passed away. I wasn’t especially close to him. They have lived in London for the past 25 years or so, so we have never really had a chance to get to know one another well. So why then do I feel so broken right now? Why am I who is so many miles away feeling that loss so keenly? Is it because my beloved sister has been robbed of her life partner by a dreadful disease that ate away ate her husband for years, that her two teenaged children are now fatherless. He was an incredible father, always having time to spend with his kids at the end of every working day. As they say it is quality time over quantity time any day.
I think I am feeling so sad at this moment because it is only mid March and already this year a handful of people amongst my friends and family have passed away. In January alone we buried two friends a week apart. One older, one my age, no time to mourn the loss of the one before the second dropped dead from a heart attack. At least his wife was with him at the time, in fact neither of the two died alone, both had the comfort of their wives with them.
I am feeling horribly mortal at the moment. Death is so final in our daily lives. You may believe in an afterlife, a place where spirits roam free and are happy to have shuffled off this mortal coil but that doesn’t leave the rest of us left behind with much comfort. We may be relieved that those who have suffered in pain have passed on and are now free of that burden. We may be relieved that they are no longer a burden to us, the hospital visits, Hospice, funerals, all of that behind us. Rituals that are meant to comfort us after their passing but do they? Does that wake give you closure? Does the sound of soil hitting a coffin make it easier to cope with the lost of a mother, father, husband or child.
The comforting arms of friends and family are there for you in the immediate aftermath but what happens once the dust has settled and they have all returned to their lives, a week or two weeks later. The calls stop coming, the food stops arriving and you are left to your own devices. Attempting to pick up the pieces of your shattered life and move on. How do you move on? Do you pack up their stuff and donate it to a charity organization? Do you leave it in the cupboard for months after so that you can hug their clothing and remember their smell. Do you hold onto a favourite jersey and hug it like a pillow at night whilst you sob your heart out because you miss them and you are actually inconsolable?
Or do you light a candle, paint a picture, put a photobook together and remember the good times?
If the person you loved was ill and suffered greatly before passing on, it takes a long time before you can remember the person they were before they got ill. At first all you remember is the hospital, the smells, the sadness, the fact that they looked gray or they looked yellow, or just sallow, the funeral, the medicine, the doctors, the sadness that wells up in you every time you think of them. Months and years can pass before you can remember the love, the sense of humour they had, the good times that you shared. It takes a long time to make peace with their passing. I know they say that you expect the elderly to die, it doesn’t make it any easier though. It becomes harder and harder as time passes to remember their faces, their laughs, their smiles.
You do eventually. Eventually you learn to smile again, you can talk about them without crying, you can laugh at anecdotes about them, their little idiosyncrasies, their silly jokes. You learn it is okay to laugh, it is okay to be happy, to pack their stuff away or put it in boxes in the storeroom. Life is okay to go on with.
You need to forgive yourself for life carrying on, for living whilst they have passed on, for being happy when you have no idea if they are happy any more. It is okay, life goes on and for that, though it is hard to believe at the time, life does go on. It doesn’t stop because the person you loved has passed on. Cows still need to be milked and accounts still need to be paid and it isn’t fair. The whole world isn’t mourning and the whole world didn’t stop because you wanted to get off. Life goes on and IT IS OKAY. In fact it is a blessing because you begin over time to forget, you move on and it is okay. It is okay to move on. To fall in love again. To feel again. You can forgive yourself because it is okay.
Death unless you are a medium is final. So remember to make your peace every day, kiss them, hug them, tell them you love them because one day it is too late and you never said those words, returned that book or sent that message. Life really is too short for regrets so on their deathbeds if you are lucky enough to get the chance to say goodbye then do it. Tell that person that it is okay to die, to move on, tell them that you will be okay, that you will go on and that you love them. The soul hears.
To all those that have passed on before me you are loved, you are missed, you are remembered, you will never be forgotten and I will be okay without you one day.
I am okay without you.
I am okay.