What death has taught me
Updated: Feb 28
I so desperately wanted to find something funny to eff and blind about this week. The only funny thing that happened to me was that I tried to go on a peaceful drive with Kevin and Rosie and I realised yet again that Kevin is a fucking nutcase in the car. He whines, he moves constantly, he splatters my neck with warm saliva and then when I do open the door to admire the view or take a photo he emerges from the car like a furry torpedo on a mission. He pisses a few times and then runs around in circles like he is rabid. I had chosen the old Mt McKenzie scenic road as I thought it would be good for my soul but after realising what could happen if Kevin went rogue, and screaming Kevin over and over again I realised that my idea of a pleasant scenic country drive with two bastard dogs was purely stupid.
It has hard to believe that it is almost been a month since I received the phone call in Italy from my Momma telling me about Tiney. It feels like both the shortest and longest month of my life. I have always believed that you never stop learning and it is humbling and almost crippling how much death has taught me.
You will never understand grief until you have been through it yourself.
At 45 years of age I am very lucky that I have never had to experience the loss of someone dear. Now that I am going through it I have realised that I had absolutely no fucking idea of the extent that grief can consume you. In the past few weeks I have said sorry to several friends who have previously gone though loss and heartache because I now know that I genuinely had no idea of the pain that they had been going through. I never expected grief to physically hurt. I could imagine heartache but I never imagined that at times it would feel like you had a knife in your chest, that someone was ripping your hair out by its roots, that you had lost a limb or that it hurt to eat. I never could have imagined that at times you would forget how to breath and you could stand there stock still, not knowing what to do next. I never imagined the feeling of loss and desolation and that fact that you would feel this in every part of your body.
I have an amazing family.
Over the past month I have watched my mother, father, sister and brother tread the pathways of hell and I have never been prouder of them. The strength they showed from the day we lost Tiney through those long 13 days until we could farewell her is something that I will hold in my heart tightly for the rest of my life. It seemed that the frenetic need to do things leading up to her service saw us get through every day. What was done in that time still amazes me and how we pulled together as a family that was broken is something I will never forget. The days since have become increasingly difficult as we each come to terms with our loss. Grief is a long, winding and sometimes lonely path to follow and at times you can only get through certain parts on you own. Each and every one of my family have wishes, regrets and reasons for heartache and the sadness I feel for my family is overwhelming.
I understand the giving of food now.
I have never understood the giving of food when someone dies. I can remember standing in Nicki’s kitchen as it seemed like endless casseroles and baking dishes were delivered to her house by her amazing friends and colleagues and our extended family. I can remember looking at Nicki and saying something daft like, “what’s with all the food?” Nicki kept on putting everything in the chest freezer and every night there was dinner on the table. When I first returned to Tenterfield a dear friend ignored the fact that I didn’t want to see anyone, and instead turned up with a bag of groceries for things that wold be good for the kids and a huge serving of pumpkin soup, portioned in batches so I could freeze it. I understand food now. It is about giving love and kindness when you don’t know what to say. It is giving something to someone who is in such a daze that the thought of food preparation is often beyond them. It is the most simple gesture of love and understanding and it helps me to continue to believe that there is so much good in the world.
My grief is like an ocean.
The only thing I can equate my grief to is that of the ocean. I am taken back to our time in Esterillos Oeste in Costa Rica where we witnessed the once in a 50 year event of a combination of storm, king high tides and huge monsoon rains. The ocean literally ripped the palm trees out and sucked away the shore. I can remember walking on the beach the next day with Archie and Rissie being shocked and awed by how much damage the ocean can do. Some mornings I wake up and feel like the Esterillos Oeste coastline. Sometimes I feel like I am swimming against a a gigantic rip that is sucking me further outwards and no matter how fast and furiously I swim against it I can’t get any closer to the coast line. Sometimes fighting against the rip makes me feel inexorably tired and old.
Some days I wake up and I feel like I am covered by the water of the ocean and I have just enough air to open my mouth and eyes and breathe. Other mornings I wake, I remember nothing and then I am hit by strength of a god almighty tidal wave that knocks me flat and makes me remember all over again. Sometimes I feel like I am caught in the middle of the ocean sucked up in a violent waterspout and I don’t know where it is going to throw me. Sometimes the days are calmer and I feel like I am floating in the middle of nowhere, just floating underneath a clear blue sky, floating endlessly, feeling nothing but being uncomfortably numb. Some days I wonder what it would be like to close my eyes and just sink, just let this ocean swallow me.
Some days I can sit in the sun, patting the dogs and watch as the waters of my grief just gently lap at my toes. As the water creeps up my shins I wait for the next swell, the next giant undertow that will again pull me under into this goddamn maelstrom of grief.
I know people survive. I know amazing people that have been through this and got to the other side. I think of those beautiful kids or mine, those two dogs, my amazingly brave and beautiful family. My friends. There is so much beauty in the world and I try to keep my eye out for it every moment of the day. I still aim to start the day with something beautiful. My overriding instinct is to teach the kids to believe that they are strong, kind, brave and important. I believe in a world where Hope is my religion.
I know all that, it is just right now, I am watching that ocean lapping at my toes.