I am fascinated by my ever-changing relationship with death. It is not something that greatly influenced my life prior to my mother’s death nearly ten months ago, but it has been evolving into a more ingrained aspect of my consciousness, and quite simply an increasingly solid concept. I know now, in a way I never fully wanted or needed to accept before, that any one of the people that I love may irreversibly disappear without warning. I don’t fear death, although I worry about the consequences of my own death on those I love. I seldom bring myself to imagine how their loss would change me, and my life’s journey, but the unimagined become nightmares and phantoms…
Any death now opens a box of emotions and memories that feel physically anchored within my chest and stomach. Wham! and I am back in Scotland, signing a death certificate, kissing my mother’s cold forehead a final goodbye as I hold her icy hand, or sobbing in a crematorium. I cannot imagine any death ever again failing to trigger those memories, although my relationship to the memories will doubtless change with time. Knowing every person’s grieving process is as unique as they are does not detract from the deepest wells of empathy that swell within me for the recently (and not so recently, though I am still growing into a fuller understanding of that experience) bereaved.
There is no doubt that thoughts of death predominantly evoke my desire for creative self-expression, and emphasise the importance of celebrating joyous life. The moments of feeling life to be pointless and hopeless because it all comes to nought and can be snatched at any second have been very few and far between, although the memory of those experiences are powerful and important.
I am also reminded to continue to try and give the ever-dynamic creature that I am space to breathe and grow. It is so easy to be amazed by others, whether we know them intimately or have only seen their work – their music, poetry, writing, painting, sporting talent or capacity to problem-solve. It is also easy to think I should try to be more like someone else that I admire in one way or another – and this can be a spur to learn something new, but more often it comes from failing to appreciate what it is that I have to offer myself, and the world. Learning and enjoying my unique styles and strengths has to remain entwined in my every-day growth, balanced cautiously against being open to new exploration.
Ah, death. When I close my eyes and try to feel my predominant reactions to it at this particular moment in time, I find myself enveloped in the memory of the blossoms that delighted my senses in the garden earlier this evening – spring, life bursting forth, a reminder of the life-death-life cycle I am still trying to fully grasp. I feel an emptiness, a deep sorrow at all the magic and energy that is no more, but with tears sliding down my cheeks I feel gratitude too – for death continues to teach me to appreciate life.