Today is Mother’s 12th anniversary and it feels incredible that so many years could have slipped by since her death.
Anyone who dips in and out of this blog will know that she and Dad, who died 16 months after her, are very much part of my everyday life in terms of their inspiration and love.
It always seems important to mark the anniversary by consorting with nature so I headed out to the swan family very early this morning and drove out along the coast here in Co. Waterford that Mother loved so much and where we shared so many happy moments. It was perfect, even though I am still wibbly wobbly after Covid vaccine 2.
It will be 40 years ago tonight that the man I expected to marry died from cancer. I was in my early twenties and he was older but very young in the overall scheme of things.
That death, more than any other, has been the hardest to cope with. It left me reeling in a vacuum of dreams that could never be fulfilled and in ways that reeling has never fully stopped.
He was the kindest, most thoughtful, generous, nature-loving, sporty, creative, tough yet soft-hearted bloke you could meet.
He left a huge imprint on my life and so many places, films, songs, activities are associated with him.
He was the person who taught me to drive. He loved cars and I associate him most with a white Volkswagen Beetle.
I wasn’t the easiest to teach to drive as I don’t automatically know my left from my right and could get a bit carried away when I saw a long straight stretch of road opening up ahead. How he stuck the fluctuations in my driving is more than I will ever know.
He was a stickler for parking properly and being able to park on a sixpence. We spent hours perfecting my parallel parking, especially on hills and every single time I confidently ease into the tiniest space, I see him in my mind’s eye, smile to myself and say: You taught me well.
Time moves on but so does a love so deep in its own parallel way.
This is one of my rollercoaster weeks as it includes son, Harry’s birthday (22), and my mother’s anniversary (1921-2009).
It has also been a week which has seen the horrific bombing in Manchester and a number of terrible tragedies here in Ireland.
I suppose it’s not surprising that I have found myself reflecting on all sorts of issues around life, love, loss and grief. The following are among the many thoughts that have been flitting around in my heart and mind:
#1. The fragility of life is mesmerising. While we need to be very aware of this fragility in order to make the most of every moment, it is something that dances around like sunlight playing with trees in a soft breeze.
#2. To love and be loved brings with it the risk/likelihood of having to deal with loss.
#3. Losses are not objectively categorisable in terms of their level of awfulness. To go down that road is to over-simplify what is a highly complex matter ~ and we need to be conscious that a whole host of factors come into play in terms of how losses are processed by different individuals and that one person may process losses in his/her life very differently.
#4. While there may be competitiveness in the cut and thrust of life ~ competitiveness has no place when it comes to grief and grieving.
#5. We need to recognise that there is no single best way to grieve or to deal with people who are grieving.
#6. We also need to be acutely aware that what may appear like the same loss in say a family context may well be dealt with very differently by the various members of the family. Remember that each family member is unique and has unique relationships with other members of the family.
#7. The extent to which we love someone does not necessarily equate with the grief we feel when they die. We may have a sense that a person has passed on a legacy of strength and that is something that can sustain us through what can appear on the outside to be an overwhelming loss.
#8. It is impossible to know how anyone will react to the death of a loved one, no matter how expected or unexpected that death is.
#9. Memories of loved ones who have died live on in a host of different ways and cling to all the senses, especially touch, smell, sight, sound and taste.
#10. Memories can be extremely vivid and key moments may remain etched in one’s being for years and years and years. Those key moments may well involve exchanges with people around the time of the death of a loved one as our senses may be very heightened as we seek to cope with what may seem like the overwhelming.
#11. Life is for living; life owes us nothing; we have no ‘entitlement’ to live to a great age.
#12. Love should be nurtured, treasured, celebrated and scattered to the winds as well as held close to the heart.
#13. The sharedness of life and love, lived to the full and with as few regrets as possible, are anchors that can sustain us through unthinkable losses and terrible tossings of grief.
Social media, and especially blogging, allows for the development of close bonds and friendships with people we may never have the pleasure of meeting in person. Such people can play a hugely important role in our lives and relationships are built around shared interests.
In some cases, people that we grow close to online can be enormously supportive in our lives. The very fact that they live thousands of miles away but are still there with words of kindness, fun, advice and friendship makes them all the more special. They don’t care how much money we have or don’t have; what we look like; how we’re dressed ….. they see straight into our minds and hearts through our words and photographs and they care about us, just as we care about them.
There’s no easy way to learn that any friend has died. The passing of online friends can sometimes happen without us ever hearing about it. They just go silent. In other cases, we learn the sad news via other online friends or acquaintances and there is a horrible sense of shock and helplessness. There’s nowhere to go with a plate of sandwiches or an address to which to send a sympathy card ~ there’s just a vacuum. That vacuum is when you are in the non-virtual’ world and occurs because one’s nearest and dearest are unlikely to have had any connection or possibly knowledge of the online friend who has died.
But, there can be great communities of support in some cases when a much loved online friend dies. This has been the case in recent days with the sad passing of Paul Curran, who was such a good blogging friend to some many of us here on WordPress.
I can’t remember when Paul first came into my life ~ I guess it was three or four years ago. He was one of those people who commented on my blog on a very regular basis and I loved to read the Sunday guest posts which he wrote on Willow’s and then Mark’s blogs.
Paul was a Canadian man with a huge heart. He had lived a life of adventure and ups and downs and was a true fighter when it came to the illnesses with which he had to grapple. Most of all he was a man who had a love of life ~ down to the simplest of things.
He was man enough to be able to laugh at himself and shed tears for those he felt were less fortunate than himself. He spread hope wherever he went in blogland with his wise and well-chosen words.
So, how do you cope when someone as significant as this dies? I wish Paul was around to give an answer to this question!
My sense is that, like any other death, you’ve got to give time a chance to let the reality of the situation sink in and also do what one can to remember the person as they have suggested they would like to be remembered.
What Paul’s comments always suggested to me was that he longed to be at the ocean ~ and he was soon to be there if he had just lived a little longer.
He would also want openness ~ yes, Paul, I have shed tears knowing that you are gone from us and I’ve given Puppy Stan, whom you loved, a special cuddle. I’ve also read back over some of your comments and smiled, pondered, wondered, smiled again.
One thing I DO know is that just because you were an online friend doesn’t make you any less a friend than a ‘real’ one. I know I will think of you when I’m by the sea or old places that you always thought were awesome. I’ll give a little wave to truck drivers as they pass me by and think of all your adventures.
You can be damn sure, I won’t ever forget you and I know that there are many, many others all around the world whose lives you touched who feel just like I do tonight.
Rest Peacefully, Paul, and know that you have made more of a difference than you could ever, ever know.