And then, another night, I dreamt I was part of a studio audience at the filming of a television show. My part of the audience was to ask questions. Next to us was another group of more important people to ask questions and in that group I knew was Alan. I was not allowed to see him, he was hidden from me amongst his group. I tried to see him, but I couldn't. I knew he was there.
I feel as if I am in water. I am very deeply under the water sometimes, but I can breathe, so that's good, but the light is very far above me. It is silent and slow down there and I can be bumped and jolted on the stones, caught in the rushes, tumbled about in the flow, or I can just lie still. Sending little bubbles to the surface, not caring how I got there, not wanting to move. When not far down under the water, I can break the surface and look around me. Goodness, I say, look at all those people on the land. I may swim and splash around, but I don't think of leaving the water, I am comfortable here. I don't choose where I am. I wake up in different parts of this stream, river, sea, ocean and take note that right now, I am here. I am here. It feels strong, it feels slow, it feels deep, it feels shallow. It feels terrible, it feels calm. It moves me against my will, I move freely of my own will. It is warm, it is cold. It is where I am for now, for however long it takes. Perhaps for ever.
I am half way through my year off. I have taken a year away from everything so that I can remember, think about and mourn my mother, my brother Dominic and my husband Alan. Three losses, three deaths, I can't work out which one to focus on. It is hard. All three are a jumble of images, memories, regrets, I talk to all three and feel that sometimes they are there, but most often that they are not. I think of Mum, and Dominic floats by. I think of Dominic and Alan appears. I think of Alan and Mum walks past. This time is full of confusions and I am powerless to change it.
I knew that I would have to face these losses. I knew that it would be hard, and I would rather not have to deal with it. In the past, I would move on, get busy, have a time limit, and hurtle through grieving, through difficulties, to the time limit and beyond, wiping my hands on a cloth and telling myself that I have done a good job and now, thank heavens, it's time to move on. I don't like depression, misery, sadness and tears. Looking back, this avoidance has done me no good at all. Sadness, experiences, losses, all the things that mark our passage through this life we live, need to be acknowledged, need to be noticed, need to be addressed. If we don't, they come back to bite us. We can't avoid pain. Theoretically, I know this. Now, I am feeling it. I would be mad not to, I was part of the dying as a soul midwife, a daughter, sister and wife. My daughter and I held my mother as she died, and Alan's brother and son and I held him as he died. Dominic died when we had left the room so briefly, and there was only him and his beloved God.
I am letting it all happen for the first time, I am allowing myself to sink with this grief, and I welcome it. It says to me that I have loved. These people I have lost are worth this sorrow, and this is my offering to them. To feel the depth of their absence, to come to understand who they truly were, and to remember, remember, remember. I have let go of my work, my timetables, my plans. I can't keep an online story going on social media, I no longer read anything to do with soul midwifery, end of life, grief or art. Floating under water like this, I cannot easily think of many things to say, and so I don't make much effort to speak to new people. Or old ones.
In this way, I am obliged to spend time alone with myself. I am obliged to hear the things running through my mind, to notice how my body is feeling, and to take my inner life seriously. Silence is a great teacher. How can I know how to do this grieving, I tell myself. How can I know. There are times though, when I understand something, I understand suddenly why this is all fine and I am fine within it. Then there are times when I doubt myself so deeply that I feel my own life is coming to an end. When I am peaceful, these things make a gentle sense, when I am confused, I do not know where to find relief. But all things are passing, and these things flow away from me and I am ready to find a place to rest and to breathe again. Physically, I have developed pains in my arms and legs that sometimes make walking difficult. My body does not work as it used to, and this is exactly how Alan used to be before he became ill. He would complain of the same things as I have now, though his was because of his passion for sports and for pushing himself far too hard. I feel I am imitating his body. I know this is a grief reaction, it feels very strange, and there are times when I don't feel any pain at all. But because Mum, Dominic and Alan were such good people, I am safe in this whirlpool, in this unfamiliar place of pain inside and out. I will not come to any harm. I will come through. I hope.
I want to spend time with Mum, Dom and Alan. I want to meditate so that I can hear them, I want to fall asleep so that they will come in dreams, I want to ask them questions, and have them find a way to answer. They are not here. They are not here. But sometimes, I think they are here. I woke in the night recently and looked up to the corner of the room. I knew something was there, and was not surprised to see a gentle glowing ball of light. Oh! I thought, that is there to comfort me. It's Mum, I thought smiling, as I turned to sleep again.
There is great comfort in my world too. My friends are so kind, and my family and Alan's family are feeling exactly the same loss as me. We support each other. We are not alone, I am not alone. I am surrounded by kindness and understanding, surrounded by sensitivity and acts of generous compassion. This helps so very much. But no one can walk another's path for them and having taken this first year off to let the sadness happen, I must then let it happen.
I dozed off a few days ago and in my semi dreams I saw Alan sitting in my new room at home on my new bed, laughing, laughing with sheer joy. I came to, smiling, and will keep that image of him forever now, as how he is to remain in my memory. And I have taken possession of Dominic's old bed, in which he slept for twenty years. It was made for my Grandfather about ninety years ago. It is a large, dark wood, very high off the ground single very old fashioned bed.
The night after Dominic died, I left the hospice and went back to stay overnight in his rooms at the Cathedral in Edinburgh. Dominic was a Catholic priest. Oh do not make me stay in his bed, I thought, do not make me do that. But there was no other bed for me to sleep in, and so I climbed into the sheets that Dom had left a week ago, and lay in the shape he had left and thought that I may never survive this. But I slept instantly with a peace and depth that left me in no doubt that this experience was not one of tragedy, in his bed, but one of joy, a gift and of love. And so, now I have Dom's bed in my house, delivered from Edinburgh. I sleep in it and I sleep very well. Soon, when my new bedroom is decorated, I will leave Dom's bed and join Alan as he sits on my new bed, laughing with his head thrown back with sheer joy.
And in the corner of my new bedroom, my mother will comfort me during the night with a gentle golden ball of light.
|My Alan and me xx|
|My beautiful Mother x|
Nothing affright thee
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.