Thursday, January 3, 2013

singing through grief like a bird

I do not wish you all a death in the family, but I do hope you all come to know the kindness that has been bestowed since the one in mine. Thoughtful notes by mail and email, and just now, my friend, neighbour and student Liz marched through fresh snowbanks and appeared at the door with a lasagna and some buns ready for the oven, and a beautiful note about dealing with her own mother's death, not that long ago - how, after she died, "any sense of discord I'd harboured evaporated. I was no longer conflicted. I simply wanted to honour her. I also felt a great sense of relief." 

I'm with you there, Liz.

She finishes, "My grandfather died on Christmas Eve, and just as you've suggested, it does provide a time for remembrance unlike any other. Although, truth be known, you will need few prompts. You did her proud, Beth."

Liz and I have Halifax in common. The following haunting quote came in a note from Cathy, who now makes Nova Scotia her home too. "Though sickness and death take their terrible toll and they did and they do - one's astonishing heart almost sings through its grief like a bird - a water bird - in the wind and the waves of some vast salty sea." P.K. Page.

Another poet, Buddhist Patsy on an island on the other coast: I'm wishing you peace, somewhere deep inside the maelstrom of Stuff that will continue to whirl for some time. It's a place where sorrow is the natural environment, and at the same time, a lightness, the lifting of a burden: it's just how it is, and if you can accept that - it's just sorrow, it's just lightness, it's just exhaustion - you will find your way through each day, each night. And may you find ways to touch into that same deep peace and sorrow and lightness in your Auntie Do, and your brother, and your kids, and even your cat. 

Yes, even my cat. Who has barely moved from the sofa in weeks.

From Mum's caregiver Nancy, word that many pairs of very large shoes have found a happy home in a family of very tall women - and the five prosthetic breasts I asked her to find a home for - Mum lost her left breast to cancer - will be donated to a clinic. Louise in Ottawa, friend since 1967 who sometimes played the cello in my father's string quartet, has agreed to play at Mum's memorial, and so will her new husband David, a fellow cellist.

Penny in England has just posted a letter to Auntie Do: I feel very sad for the elders as they lose friends and family. They are so very alone with no-one to share their memories. So I now have a number of solo older people I visit dotted around the country, and I go and listen. Ottawa is a bit far but I can still write letters.

They have astonishing hearts, these friends. No greater blessing. 


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