Tuesday's Tales - A Personal 'Tale' About Death

Death Changes Everything

After death comes a-calling, after you lose someone dear, you try and pick up the pieces of your life and slot back in, trying to find the moment before Death rudely interrupted.  You wait, what you think is, the requisite amount of time, wondering whether when time heals the wound, it’ll heal the rip in life as well.

Death changed the way I viewed myself after my papa died … I was 36, but when I saw him laid out in the coffin, when the reality hit me, I was a child again.  How was I going to get through the rest of my life without my father, the man who made sure ‘everything would be okay’?  I was torn between feeling like a child, and struggling to be adult enough to look out for my mother who, herself, was so lost, having lost the love of her life after 57 years.  When the time came to leave her, to return to my family in England, I was a child again – leaving her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  As hard as leaving my so-young boys, leaving the house to the sound of Liam crying, who, at 2, was too young to understand why his mummy was going away without him.  On the flight home, 3 weeks later, and many times afterwards, I remember wondering if I looked any different, if I had changed somehow … if people could tell that I no longer had a father.

As time passed, it became easier to slip back into life, distracted by life with small children, and worry for my mother.  But the one thing that always shadowed me, that dogged my every step, wasn’t so much the grief, but the guilt.  Guilt that I hadn’t made it back in time to say ‘goodbye’ – I had been 2 hours into a 13 hour flight when he’d passed – to tell Papa how much I loved him, to say … too many things that should have been said.  I eventually worked through that, and started to believe – to kid myself, really – that that rip in my life was healing quite nicely, thank you.

Until my mummy, my lovely mummy, died.  That death really did change everything for me.  She was 84, and was more than ready to go; I was almost 43, was ready, for her sake for her to go, but not to ‘let her go’.  She was no longer able to speak, was bed-ridden; she had to have everything done for her.  But her eyes, her expressions, said all she needed to say.  And she showed me, showed all of us, that total dependency did not mean loss of dignity.  She maintained her dignity right to the end.  Because I didn’t want her to suffer, because I knew how much she wanted to be with Papa, and her mum and brothers, I was ready … waiting, in a way, for her to leave.  I didn’t have any guilt at not being by her side when she passed, at not saying goodbye … At least I was there for her funeral …

But this death was a rude interruption.  I tried so hard to fit back into life, mainly because I was home-educating the boys.  But I couldn’t; I was pretending … existing, just existing … It sounds like an awful cliché, but there wasn’t much colour in my world, everything had faded to grey.  I struggled to get to grips with the fact that my mother was no longer at the other end of the phone – I used to phone her once a week; her maid would hold the phone to her ear while I blathered on and on … the only response I’d get would be the sound of her breathing, but that would be enough.  She was there.  Knowing she was there was enough for me.  When she was no longer there … It took me 6 months to crawl back into life.

I know, because of my belief system, that she is here with me, as is my papa; that they’re by my side, and always will be.  Still, there are times I falter and have moments of being unable to accept it, of missing her so very much … It’s like being punched in the stomach and having my heart crushed in a vice; it usually hits me when I least expect it, the physical pain that leaves me struggling to breathe.

Now, with the way my life is at the moment, I’m missing my papa as much.  Not that I never missed him or love him any less, but I was always a mummy’s girl.  I want to, need to talk to him, to have him tell me that everything’s going to be okay, because it always was when he was around.  To hug my mummy, to have her stroke my hair like she used to do because that always left me with the feeling of all being right in my world …

I no longer believe that time heals all wounds … it lessens the pain, yes, but the wound – that gash in your soul caused by death – it never heals, just keeps scabbing over … a wound that occasionally flares bright with heart-stabbing pain.

Then one day, you get to the point where you realise that the pain of that wound is actually a reminder that you are alive. You get to the point where you, once again, start to embrace life.  You realise that, once again, you are taking delight in the joy and wonderment of living because to do otherwise would surely disrespect the memory of departed loved ones.

So yes, death does change everything – I believe it opens your eyes, really opens your eyes, to life.