My best friends Mum is close to moving on. In such times I curse my inability to find my voice and vocalise my emotions. I’ve never been very good at communicating during times of deep emotional turmoil. Instead I retreat to the solitude of writing where I can capture what’s in my heart. This post is for the family I love, the family who welcomed me, laughed with me, cried with me and shared their life with me.
But more than that, this is for Sheila.
My words are my truth, I speak them to you with deepest sincerity, and whilst I am not physically there with you, my heart, mind and spirit are.
In my life I’ve been fortunate not to face the inevitability of mortality very often, and when I have it’s been more or less a sudden shock. I’m not sure what’s worse – that sudden unexpected loss or a long road of worry about the loss you know is coming.
When my Grandad was ill I had no idea he would move on whilst I was racing to the hospital with my Dad late at night. In the quiet glow of the hospital I said goodbye to him and kissed his forehead. I wished I could’ve been there even minutes earlier, not only to say goodbye but to thank him for sharing his kindness, knowledge and humour with me.
I know my best friend and her family are in the right place.
Sheila rests at home, surrounded by everything and everyone she knows, a place of peace and love that can’t be replicated in a hospital. Alzheimer’s is a cruel beast that strips away a persons core. Yet I like to think Sheila is aware of her family around her. Those soothing words, tones, voices and even smells still manage to push through the veil of Alzheimer’s to reassure her that she isn’t alone, and that she is very much loved.
About an hour ago, whilst driving to Tesco, I listened to a track by U2 that I haven’t heard in a long time. I sang along until a couple of verses caught in my throat because they seemed to echo my emotions. It’s called Ultraviolet and the first verse prompted me to think about Sheila.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t know
Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out
I want to get it wrong
Can’t always be strong
And love it won’t be long…
Sheila has a strong heart and amazing stamina. I can’t begin to imagine what thoughts pass through anyone’s mind when they’re close to moving on. Maybe they’re ready to step onto the next path of their journey or perhaps they feel they haven’t lived enough. And although Sheila can’t communicate I imagine the next verse running through her head about her family.
Oh sugar, don’t you cry
Oh child, wipe the tears from your eyes
You know I need you to be strong
And the day is as dark as the night is long
Feel like trash, you make me feel clean
I’m in the black, can’t see or be seen
I have to imagine there is something inside, something hidden or locked away by the dark Alzheimer’s beast. It is a ravaging and cruel illness but I refuse to accept it strips everything away from a person. I’ve never been religious but I do think we are made of an energy of sorts, one that doesn’t die when the physical vessel can longer continue, but moves on to create something else or merge with other energies to build a fresh new life.
And for me that is just as beautiful as a soul or spirit venturing onto the next path of their journey.
My best friend and her family wait.
At home I go through the day-to-day junk, yet in times of solitude I’m pulled to them, like an invisible thread connects my thoughts to theirs. Empathy is a strange thing with a startling range of depth and intensity. You can put yourself in the shoes of someone at the supermarket complaining about an item they’ve bought and know that you’d be angry too if said item was faulty – commonplace empathy.
At the other end of the scale is that intense feeling of being connected to someone. As if you can feel their emotional state, pain, anxiety, elation and so on, even if you’re not physically there with them. Last night I noticed I’d been staring at the TV for what felt like ages without actually watching it. My mind was elsewhere, with the family I love. I was thinking about the quiet tears, the silences, the hushed voices, soothing voices, the cold bite of loss to come and everything in between.
So when the next verse of Ultraviolet started I had tears in my eyes as I drove.
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap
Love isn’t cheap. It costs us dearly in times of distress, but it’s a price we pay for our loved ones. And in that silence we can hear that love, almost touch it. For when someone is ready to move on, our love for them burns like icy fire in our hearts.
Loss is a part of life, some cry, others shout and rage. Whilst I do neither of these, I do indeed mourn in my own private way. Beyond that I prefer to celebrate the life of someone close to me rather than sink into the dark empty emotion of loss and despair. I remember them for the life they led and wish them good fortune for the fresh path ahead, not the transition between.
For the family whom I love,
My heart is with you, thinking of you, always with you. In busy times and in solitude, my thoughts never stray far from you. The power of your love for one another gives you strength, let it be a beacon in dark times.
Thank you for being in my life, for it has been illuminated by your energy. A new path awaits you. Take with you the love of your family, to guide and guard you. I wish you good fortune.