Thoughts from a funeral

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.

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20 thoughts on “Thoughts from a funeral

  1. Yes, a lovely post, Laurel. It’s sometimes only with the death of a parent or someone we know, that we only begin to fully appreciate what we have, and that we can only really live in the ‘now’.

  2. “may irreversibly disappear without warning.” . . . that was the first bit of text I copied from this post that drew me in, causing me to want to respond. And then there were so many others.

    The other day, I found (online) posts that my dead lover had written at a chat board back in the late ’90s, about the cats that he and his (then) wife were raising . . . delightful, thrilling (boring) posts about beloved pets (of whom I’d heard him speak) . . . Oh! Laurel, I’m doing that awful thing — using your post to drone on about myself! Blah! Yuck! I’m sorry!

    We love them so, don’t we? And I don’t know about you, but I find myself listening for him, reading fortune cookies and wanting a sign . . . and people (who believe in those things) ask, “Does he appear in your dreams?” No, I say. No, he’s always dead in my dreams. Does that mean he didn’t love me? Bollocks!

    He is always on my mind.

    Thank you for letting me express that here. I feel you understand. And if I believed in an afterlife (do I? I don’t know), maybe your mother and he and the cats are having a wonderful afternoon together. A misinformed fantasy?

    Peace to you. xx

    1. Haha, oh Ruth don’t apologise, you have no idea how much time I spend wanting to know more about you, and your life, and the beloved you lost! I am touched and delighted that you feel able to express anything of yourself here, let alone something so profound, so… big. What a wonderful fantasy – and I don’t have to believe in an afterlife to thoroughly delight in it 🙂 Hugs, L. x

      1. Thanks, Laurel. I’m touched by your curiosity. Perhaps someday my writing about him will be less cryptic. I hope you’re doing well….I realize spring means heading closer to the anniversary season — it is so painful….I’ll be thinking of you. xo

  3. I know you may not always feel it, Laurel, but you certainly do express a balance (if cautiously), especially between your grief and hopefulness. Perhaps that is what suffering challenges most…can we find the spirit to live in the face of death, and appreciate even find joy in the new growth that is always happening. Like those blossoms bursting forth out of the same branch that saw its leaves withering and falling and then bearing the cold that followed. The cycle goes on…and it will challenge us again and again as is the nature of things…but so are the memories of all that grew and thrived and enchanted us too.

    Thanks again for sharing so honestly and poignantly. Blessings and love, Diane

  4. Very nice post. When I was a little girl, death terrified me. I believe it was the fear of the unknown and knowing I wouldn’t be with my family anymore. In 8 years’ time, I lost 5 family members. The final loss was one that was unexpected and very painful. I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer on November 16, 2008. Although her parents both lived to age 92, she was only 65 and was the healthiest person I knew. My mom’s illness and death have changed me in ways I never expected. Almost 3 and a half years later, I continue struggle with the emptiness I feel without my mom. I miss her and always will. I’ve written many posts about my feelings and the changes death has brought to my life (http://peace4me521.wordpress.com/). Most importantly, I have grown up and realized the true gift of family. I started my blog about 3 weeks after my mom died in an effort to heal and in hopes of helping others (I moved it to WordPress from my hubby’s domain). Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can relate to so much of what you wrote. I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom. I wish you all the best in your journey of healing. Take care, Kathy

    P.S. I added you to my blogroll.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story – I am now following your blog and shall try make some time to read through your archives. It has been amazing to me how sharing the journey of loss and life can heal, so thank you for becoming part of my journey.

      Hugs,
      Laurel

  5. This is lovely and very well written. An awareness of death certainly does help us to appreciate life and make each moment we have of it count a bit more. This was moving and I really enjoyed it

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