This was supposed to be a different piece but my writing has an identity of its own.
In order to live you must die. You must take your last breath. Between your first eye opening and your finale there are a litany of events that define you, your relationships, your life. My family life as dramatic as it is, I’m sure is no different than everyone else’s.
We’ve lost a lot of people. But death has taught us nothing. We don’t respect each other. There’s an unspoken hierarchy, a silent snobbery that’s caused a chasm in some circles. We carry petty feuds on our backs until they turn into burdens those burdens morph into houses like a tortoise shells we can’t rid ourselves of. The grudges we hold are passed down through generations like a pair of pearls that should be treasured. We don’t speak our grievances, we collect them and place them on display on the fireplace for others to see and interpret like abstracts. “Look at how poorly I behaved, look at how at how cross I am, I haven’t told the target of my issues but you may observe this anger.”
That works until the grim reaper knocks on the door, shows up at the foot of the bed to take one of us. When we eulogise our friends and family, no matter the distance, the knock down drag out fights, the mis-apportioned blame, the years of not speaking, you recall the best moments of their life. Their life with you. Working together. Sharing a bedroom. Putting them in a headlock. Being put in a headlock. The thing you despised about them during that eulogy becomes the thing that makes you smile. That massive row brings on a fit of giggles.
This morning while walking I thought about all of the people I’ve lost, the time I can’t spend with them. Then my mind opened another tab, the inevitability of what is to come, those I will lose, that aggravate me (who doesn’t?). I started to eulogise them and explain to my invisible audience how wonderful they are and how fortunate they were to have them. This exercise made me disappointed in myself, my family, friends for getting lost in surface issues, not having the foresight to recognise the gift we have, the present.
It was no coincidence that I reflected on the relationship dynamic and the permanence of death. Today marks 8 years since I sat on my tan leather couch in Boston and received a phone call from my cousin that her mother died.
My Aunty Margaret was the glue that held my maternal family together. She was the eldest of my mother’s siblings but the youngest at heart. The one that had carte blanche to speak her mind freely and knock heads together to see sense. Her death left an irreplaceable space that could not be filled. But her full life (9 children, more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than I can count) and death (everyone at the wake wanted to pay tribute to her, she had services in the US and UK) left lessons to be learned for all of us, many won’t be heeded until it’s too late…..
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