I sometimes wonder about the people who stood on the beach just before the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. I wonder how many of them looked out and saw the ocean being sucked away and for a moment, they knew that the tsunami wave was coming, but couldn’t move? I wonder how many of them found that all they could do was stand there frozen in horror, knowing what was coming and at the same time incapable of getting out of the way?
As I write this, I find myself in the haze and malaise of grief. If it wasn’t for the overwhelming exhaustion, tension and pain throughout my body I might not know that I was even in it.
I’m standing on that beach knowing that the tsunami of grief is coming yet I’m incapable of moving.
Maybe when I look into the eyes of death it will be real, but for now, it’s all beyond comprehension. Like a wordless poem, or the incomplete melody of a composer who simply evaporated in the quiet of the night. So much emotion confined in a frozen space where feelings are banned from expression.
Grief is an ocean of unpredictable tides, but between those tides are moments where everything goes silent, frozen and still.
Death to those who pass maybe final and absolute. It is a moment where the lungs fill with life’s breath and then death steals that breath away. It is the heartbeat that pumps life around the body like a calypso band calling every cell to dance. Then it is a drum left on the side of the road that no longer beats and life’s rhythm ends. But for those who are left; the memory of those who have passed is not final. The people we have loved (and hated) remain with us like a nighttime echo in a canyon. Those left living cannot remove the imprint of those who’ve impacted us. They remain like fossils imprinted in the neuro-chemical clay of our hearts and minds.
The ticket is bought: I’m off to meet death on the banks of the river Styx and I find myself wondering how much life I will find in his face?
I’m not going alone, I’m taking a little boy with me, and he doesn’t want to go. What can I say to a little boy who just found out that his mom is going to die? A little boy who like all of us officially had two parents, but in his reality, he only had one. His mom was fierce, stubborn, entirely judgmental and yet incredibly inclusive. She was a walking dichotomy; a bulldozer and a doormat. She could be dark and deeply sad and belly achingly funny.
One of the great contractions of life is that we spend it filling time and space. We find a space to live in and then we fill it until there is no space. In the face of death time has run out and that which was full instantly becomes empty. Where there was previously no space there is now an emptiness in our personal world.
I will meet death and I will look into the space left by someone who created a space for me to enter the world. My mother was there when I entered the world and now, I will be there as she leaves it.
Mortality is a reality no one wants to face. It is said that; the moment we are born we are dying. That this is the cycle of life, birth and death, beginning and end.
We may imagine those who pass anyway we choose. We may dry-clean their existence and deify them, we may just a simply demonize them. The truth is that they, like us all were human and flawed. Parents give us our life, but it’s up to us to create our life.