thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “death”

I grieve – one year on

I have been out of sorts all day today, and in fact all week.

I’ve been anticipating the first anniversary of my beloved father’s death.

grief-2

My dad died on 28 October 2015. It was a Wednesday. It was  probably the most dreadful Wednesday of my life. I will never forget the call when I was still at work one year ago saying, “Come. Now.”

By the date, then, the anniversary is the 28th, but by the day of the week it is Wednesday – today, the 26th.

Maybe it’s just me but I often do an anniversary (good or bad) twice – by the actual date, and by the day of the week.

So here, on the day-of-the-week anniversary, is a song of grief.

I post it for my dad, for my mom, for my sister. I post it for his grandchildren, for his daughters’ life partners, for all those who loved him and were loved by him.

I have believed all year that my father’s benevolent spirit brushes over me from time to time – usually when I’m least expecting it, and sometimes when I most need it – in the form of herons flying overhead.

I see herons quite a lot, actually, and I live in Johannesburg.

(Not many people whom I interact with in my home town seem to notice herons flying majestically above us quite the way I do.)

I saw two of them earlier this week, and they made me smile.

Thanks for the herons, my dad. It was a good week to send them. We miss you, so much.

But I know that you are flying free now, and it comforts me.

heron-fly-past

 

I grieve – Peter Gabriel 

(Ed’s note: if you access the song via the link above, you will see I have deliberately chosen a version that pays homage to the victims of 9/11)

It was only one hour ago
It was all so different then
Nothing yet has really sunk in
Looks like it always did
This flesh and bone
It’s just the way that you would tied in
Now there’s no-one home

I grieve for you
You leave me
So hard to move on
Still loving what’s gone
They say life carries on
Carries on and on and on and on

The news that truly shocks is the empty, empty page
While the final rattle rocks its empty, empty cage
And I can’t handle this 
I grieve for you
You leave me
Let it out and move on
Missing what’s gone
They say life carries on
They say life carries on and on and on
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Walking up the hill in your absence

My dearest dad

You’ve been gone for about 36 hours now and we are all still getting used to your final, definitive physical absence.

This morning I walked the children to school.

The way back, as you know, presents a slight incline. I’m sure that clever engineering mind of yours would easily have been able to tell my less mathematical mind exactly what the gradient is.

All I can tell you is that walking back up that little hill to the house suddenly seemed like climbing a mountain.

But life goes on, doesn’t it? And we have to do the things that we have to do. Sometimes we just have to get on with it, while being as kind to ourselves and others as we can.

You and my mom taught me that.

Linda and Ralph in St Peter's Square

So I stopped a few times en route and looked at the view of the nearby Melville koppie under a beautiful clear blue early-summer sky.

Melville koppie

I felt the cool breeze on my skin and I even stopped to smell some lavender in a neighbour’s garden. I thought of you every step of the way.

For now, it is enough just to see your face in a patch of clear blue sky when I need to keep on moving forward.

Flower-sky-clouds-sunshine-mood-485x728

My daughter, my dad

In the midst of a life that has blessed me with our two amazing boy children…

LIam and Matthew philosophers

…I have still, at moments that always take me off guard with their painful intensity, yearned and yearned for a girl, as well.

A girl child.

I breathe out sometimes when I think it, with a tiny stab of hurt.

A soft, small, mini-me who would grow up understanding what it is to want to wear dresses (or not), apply make up (or not) and understand the trauma of a bad hair cut that needs to be grown out.

 

A girl child.

A soft, green-eyed (maybe blue?), fair-haired being like I was when I was younger, who would understand me in a way that my little boys just don’t always get.

 

A girl child.

A delicate baby to dress in pink or white or pastel green; a little girl whose face and body would stay soft and eventually grow curves and never stubble; a young woman who would read the kind of books I read and react to emotional issues as I do, and who would eventually speak the language of women with me.

 

A girl child.

And I did not have her, and I have mourned.

Even as I loved my boys with all my being, there was still a little hole in my heart that felt not quite filled, which sometimes I forgot about and which sometimes came back to haunt me unexpectedly.

 

It returned to haunt me about ten nights ago. I was sitting in our back garden enjoying the moonlight and the wind on my face, looking up at the night sky and the stars. I was feeling peaceful. I love a big open sky, night or day, and I don’t sit under it often enough.

And as I absorbed the peaceful night air and the sky with my body and my soul, the haunting was back, and with it the sudden tears in my eyes. But I wasn’t ready to go inside and ignore the hole in my heart this time; I was really enjoying being under the stars, and so I stayed and I felt the pain return all the way through my body. And as I enclosed it inside me, I remembered a long-buried fact – two long buried facts.

I remembered that, before Liam and again before Matthew, I was also pregnant for a very brief time: two pregnancies where the babies did not quite come all the way down to earth, or else they did come down but did not stay.

I remembered Frank and I together in the doctor’s office that first time, and the look on the doctor’s face when the expected heartbeat did not sound through the monitor and he braced himself to tell us the bad news. I remembered hearing the term ‘blighted ovum’ for the first time, where there was no heartbeat, only a tiny empty shell.

 

blighted ovum

That first time, there were apparently hormones in my body but no life, and an operation to follow – when enough time had passed for us to be certain – to clean out my womb. And I woke up in the hospital bed with Frank standing beside me, and a shadow hanging over us because we did not yet know that Liam was still to come.

And then we had Liam, and joy returned.

And then we had a second miscarriage when we were trying for Liam’s sibling – before Matthew’s safe arrival, and more joy.

 

But the second time, Frank is convinced, was slightly different, because he swears he saw a heartbeat flicker, and even the doctor was not quite sure but said, “Let’s give it ten more days.”

And I hoped.

And we hoped, together.

But instead my body bled.

 

And again there was the operation, only this time we had felt – we thought – a stronger life pull. And this time round, Frank had to be away on a work trip and so my dad, instead, was beside me at the hospital bed when I woke up – my dad, younger and stronger than he is now, with a sorrowful face and unsure of what words to offer.

And this memory returned as I sat under the big night sky, and as the stars shone their light on me, I sobbed as I have not sobbed for those lost babies for many years. And I sobbed also for my father, who is battling so bravely with the disease that is unceasingly ravaging his body and taking away his strength and his clear speech. And for my mother, who has loved him for so many years and who loves and cares for him still.

And as I sat there, I felt a presence somewhere deep in my body, and words that were not words spoke in my being and told me that there was, indeed, a girl child once.

But she had to go back.

And all these years later, when my dad crosses over into the spirit world, she will welcome him to his final home.

blonde shadow fairy

Somehow this is what I learned as I sat under the stars, through the voiceless words.

And the hole in my heart was almost filled.

 

I believe I had a daughter once.

I shall call her Skye.

 

painting baby

 

Postscript:

I found comfort, after this emotional experience, in these words from Journey (click on the link for the song):

 

“Remember me”

 

 Remember me, remember me
Find myself all alone

In darkness without you

Now I can’t turn away

From what I must do

You know I’d give my life for you

More than words can say

I’ve shown you how to love someone

I know you’ll find a way

 

Say goodbye, close your eyes

Remember me

Walk away, the sun remains

Remember me

I’ll live on somewhere in your heart

You must believe, remember me

 

No way I can change my mind

I don’t have the answers

If you could see through my eyes

You’d let go of your fears

And though I have to leave you now

With the thought of each other

I’ll miss your touch, you call my name

I am with you forever

 

Say goodbye, close your eyes

Remember me

Walk away, the sun remains

Remember me

Be there to watch over you

Remember me

Feel I’m gone, my heart lives on

Remember me

 

Don’t you think of this as the end.

I’ll come into your dreams, remember me

 

Close your eyes, say goodbye

Remember me

Say you will, say you will, say you will

Close your eyes, remember me

Say you will, say you will, say you will

Say goodbye, remember me

Pain

As I sit here at my computer and start to type, I am really am not quite sure how to begin. I just know that something needs to come out because otherwise it will sit inside and fester. And then later it will pour out, like blood and pus from a septic wound, like it did last night onto my husband and children.

So. To begin.

My father has been diagnosed with a chronic disease.

At this stage we don’t yet know the form that his motor neuron disease is taking, just that it is the label and the explanation for the speech impediment that manifested some months ago, followed by the incredibly sore back and rapidly shrinking body. It has been very hard to watch – my father has always been a very precise man in his speech, and physically active his entire life. Is mortality now staring our family in the face? Please, God, no – it’s too soon.

At this stage of my life I know that I have been incredibly fortunate. I have a loving husband and two wonderful young boys, and parents who have played an active role in their grandchildren’s lives from the moment they were born. My mom and dad are seriously good, kind people.

In comparison, my husband doesn’t speak to his father, whom I’ve never met in all the many years I’ve been with Frank. Like a spectre at the feast, ‘Francois senior’ – otherwise known to his now-anaesthetised family as ‘Old FAF’ – used to pop up in our lives with a certain notorious regularity in the early days of our relationship. It started two weeks after we’d started dating, when Frank casually mentioned that his father had disinherited him, and then pulled out the letter to prove it. But that’s another story, however interesting to the non-involved.

Other friends of mine have already lost a parent. Ed has been unlucky enough to lose both mother and father. Anne and Mike are currently sharing the journey of mortality with Frank and I, as their mother recovers from heart surgery that became life threatening in its aftermath (this after she had already recovered from a brush with cancer).

Having known some of my friends’ now departed parents, having spent time in their homes and shared meals and laughter and conversation with them, I have shared a small part of the sorrowful journeys’ ends. Now, I fear that it will shortly be my turn.

Or perhaps we will be lucky and the time frame won’t be too short. My dad is still in the testing phase. It is a frustration in some ways and a relief in others. Nothing is yet completely finalised in the labelling.

The thought that I would one day lose both my parents has whispered its way across my mind from time to time – it is an inevitability of life that it must end in death – but I have always brushed it away and refused to allow the thought to linger, let alone be dissected. Now it is harder to brush away.

Frank, who says my dad has been more of a father to him than his own biological father, has chosen to embrace the diagnosis by doing as much research as possible. He has armed himself with knowledge, and discussed it with my parents.

In contrast, I found my parents to be relatively unforthcoming with me at first in sharing information, so tried instead to arm myself with hope. I’m still trying but the specific knowledge that I am absorbing – reluctantly – by osmosis is a creature with teeth. It bites you in the heart.

I think that is where the wound came from whose aftermath overflowed onto my family members last night.

Playing judge and jury now, I think my beloved does have some fault to bear in last night’s shouting match but I do need to admit to over-reacting. I hope that under the circumstances I might be forgiven.

Meantime, drugs here I come. There is some or other tranquilliser out there with my name on it for a little while, and I’m going to get my GP to find it. With no shame and no apologies.

Some crosses just need a bit more help than others.

And while we play the waiting game, please send your positive thoughts, prayers and good wishes. As Anne and Mike will testify from their own recent ordeal, it does seem to help.

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