Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Grief and Joy

I will begin with grief. A few weeks back I lost a sweet aunt, Imelda, who had been fighting cancer for 10 years. For her, and with those who have suffered so much physically there is a relief that their suffering is at an end. There is also much sadness.Sadness that her voice will never again on this Earth speak with her unique cadence and sound. Sadness that her laughter will no longer sound. Sadness that her smile and the way her mouth moved when she spoke will no longer be with us. Sadness for her husband, her daughters, her sun, her children , her siblings, her nieces and nephews, her friends will all be left with only memories. Dear memories. Memories which may surface unbidden, and memories which may flit like shadows just beyond full recall. The fickleness of memory is both a joy and a frustration. Again and again we are humbled by the complexity of our power to recall. Sometimes we can will a memory to the surface. There we may almost see, hear, smell, taste and touch what we felt at a particular moment. There, too, we may glimpse a second or so and lose the soundtrack. We may lose the shape of a nose, the feel of a touch, the turn of phrase, the way a voice relaxed or soared upward like waves on the stones of our ears. Desperate we may recreate it to stop the ebbing of the memory, to shore it up. In our dreams, though, these memories may appear, like shells, isolated, amongst the rocks of our unconscious. Then the colour is enhanced, the sound a real echo, the smell a real whiff, the touch a real comfort, fleeting, but as warm as love. Then we are visited by the departed, not merely do we visit memories. There is a joy in the meeting and a poignancy of sadness in the brevity of it. Even as it happens it is receding in our minds.

Each grief of loss is unique and stands in bas relief in our life. Each grief is cumulative, not so much reawakening others as grief never sleeps, but rekindling the cool/hot flames of longing, of loneliness of each previous loss. My mother's absence in physical form is never absent from my heart. My body remembers her, as much as my mind does and my heart. Her absence is tangible. She is woven in my genes and each breath I take I am on some level, and often on all levels, aware of her hovering just beyond reach. In December I lost my uncle Billy, a man who figures in my earliest memories 51 years ago, so important he was in my early life. He too, is woven in my heart and genes, forever. When I travel back home, Newfoundland, is ever home for those of us who live away, I will meet grief in his absence of being in a more tangible way. I did not make it home for his funeral. There is a weight of grief unique to that.  It is the same in St. Georges when I come upon the houses of my uncles Kevin and Leonard. Kevin's ashes rejoined the sea and I was not there to see. I did, however, earlier hold the box with his ashes, under my aunt Eileen's urging,  in my hands and feel the weight of memory in my hands  My uncle Leonard's ashes  I think are still with Eileen.  Uncle Mackie, lies in Ontario. We threw red roses on his casket in mutual love as he was lowered and the bagpipes echo in my memory. I sang something in the silence, so sad and blessed I was to say good-bye to him in the company of my aunts and cousins. I seemed to feel my mother there, and my grandmother whom I never met and my grandfather who died 3 days before my fourth birthday. He loved me and I remember my distress that he went away. The grief of a child is emotional, and not so intellectual. My aunt Keddie(Cathy) ashes were scattered over her pond in Florida. She and my mother were bonded in a way that only those who have loved and suffered deeply together can love. Whether or not she was with us, she was a part of my life in so many ways. I miss each of them. They have all died in the last 4 years, so I can say that grief feels familiar, feels fresh, feels just below the surface and is fused into my being.

This past week my cherished friend, Sandra, lost her mother at the age of 93. Mrs. Luscombe welcomed me like a daughter, many times in her home, and in recent years when I visited Sandra, I "roomed" with Mrs. Luscombe. Her kindness and sweet humour I will miss. At 93, she was blessed with more years than many. Though that is true, it does not one whit reduce the loss Sandra, her other children, her siblings and her grandchildren are feeling. I grieve for them and I grieve I was not there, yet again. A mother's love, a mother care and a mother's wisdom can never be forgotten, nor replaced. We are forever the children of our mothers and fathers, be that good, bad, or both.

Sandra's middle name is Joy. So I return to joy. Her friendship has been a joy and a comfort in my life for so many years. Some of my other friends who will read this are sources of joy for me, as I hope I am for them. I do not need to name them. Friends know and love with no need for accolades. we are bound with links that neither time, nor distance have any power over.

My husband and two daughters have been joys for me for over half my life now. Whatever else I may have done in my life, or will ever do, marrying my husband and being privileged to have raised Samantha and Cecilia, and gotten more right than wrong I hope, will remain the deepest sources of joy for me. Now I have a grandson who brings a new joy to me: a  new beginning in wonder, a new opportunity to love, to learn, to share as he blooms into the boy and the man he will become. I get the joy of seeing my daughter be a mother, and my son-in-law, a father. What joy in that for my heart. What blessings I have known and now. I am often not worthy, but I am always grateful. I love with no limits and no restraint. I get that from my mother and father who loved me so. Their love is a reflection of God's love. The joy of love of family is intense. I may be, at times, too intense in love and joy for some. God made me so. It is my responsibility, which I do try to do, to feel joy and not overwhelm those I love with it, nor with my love. I have not named many other dear family members by name. Like my friends, they know who they are as I do.

With joy in life and in enjoying our loved ones, comes grief at their loss. Grief comes, too, with their griefs. The price of joy is the shadow of grief. The shadow of grief is warmed by joy.

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