Tag Archives: death

Faraway lands

Death and Life, 1910-15 — Klimt

Death and Life, 1910-15 — Gustav Klimt

Tennis courts may be covered over and croquet lawns may have disappeared beneath overgrowth upon overgrowth, but the football pavilion still stands and dalliances within them and by the workshops nearby continue. No-one sees us, although some sense our presence.

The oval where football and cricket were once played still exists, even if smothered in a dense, undulating cover of green with goal posts standing on command at each end, said to serve the dual purpose of ventilation through their tops for pipes running below the ground’s surface. The reservoir is gone, the church and schools too. No abode or home exists or gardens well tendered or the cows that came with homes for milking. All are gone. In physicality, that is.

In the sublime of the underworld in this living ghost town of lands faraway, many breathe beneath the earth from where they once stood. Archaeologically, a sleeping beauty awaits her Prince Charming awakening.

Cheers to a life, wistful of lands faraway, in an honouring that’s grounding, appreciating and trusting, in the extremes of the harsh to the supremes of the magnificent, the challenging and enchanting, all collected and padlocked in a tiny box of hearts and souls as jewels protected within, of the most precious … the jewel of the crown is life on lands faraway.

A town of living ghosts in a life at honey speed, a calm and peace unwavering in the howl of withering leaves. Crested cockatoos streaming between trees of bare, shrilling whistles of a time unmoved. Ghosts of yesterday dance in sleeping ruins, among flying spiders’ webs glistening in the glory of the day, and families playing and living in a vast back yard of lands faraway.

The physical is fading. Drains where pumpkins once entwined the trunks of fruiting plum trees are now barren, date palms and cypress trees, pies at the football and beer behind the goals, whiskey at half time, the intrigue of the water tank, cream lilies and milk coffee, cows for milking .… they’re all dissolving, vanishing in lands faraway.

Yet it’s not gone, not this life in a ghost town oozing more spirited than the Mona Lisa, not even in the veil of isolation where mosquitoes gorge on the intoxicating imbue of twinkling dew and fat of fog. Of stockmen pulling up under apricot and apple trees for juicy sampling, of cannon balls in the swimming pool, sneaky peeks into the change rooms and bolting after stealing knickers … I’ll get you! Playing cards into the morning and raising money for those in need, men and women’s football … credit to the gals. Cricket, tennis and croquet, swimming in a land faraway.

Hinged in a haunting of melancholy is a place that once thrived, where homes of yesterday sleep in their tombs and ashes of those gone fly as a rising phoenix, beguiling ghosts to rejoice in their century old tales of yesterday. Wood chopped for the stove and to heat the copper, feeding the pigs and milking the cows, churning the cream and butter to a one-two, a chasse in the Pride of Erin. Listen and you’ll hear it, as a lifelong gloating gilded in gold dust, a rose of gold of never-ending that connects souls over lifetimes. This space of breath is a vast expanse of clarity, a bounty of beauty in perfect imperfection.

Cheers to a life in a living ghost town, a life at honey speed, wistful of what’s to come with lands faraway.

The air below thins, chokes in an asphyxiating exodus. All families and kin are gone, all have left, all homes disappeared. The hall sleeps peacefully by the swimming pool, two hearts beating as one, and all working in the old office have moved into a new building full of modernity. We follow them, our escapades above their beavering. Some look up at us and smile, wonder if we’re there.

All is gone. All jewels fall from crowns, eventually.

Up here, we gather by the day in blissing glee, more illuminous by the week with the lost and disconnected on a quest for this place of no place. They know where the warmth is and seek it out – the little boy falling into a street drain, the weather presenter disappearing with her belongings, and the man of discontent who flees in an alcohol infused bender, to suicide by the river. They’re all here, even those that chose to leave the planet in the years of turbulent demise of this land faraway are here, lost in their own cloud but intrinsically weaved into the fabric of this dignified and honouring place, rejoicing in the pleasure as above and so below.

Jewels may fall from crowns, but they never fail to sparkle in the brilliance of the most brilliant, multi-faceted gems. Whether in a white yellow, green or rose of gold setting, they shine a forever shine.

Cheers to a life in a living ghost town, in a life at honey speed, of a house and two cows and a land faraway.

 

Heart or brain

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If creator asked me, however creation occurs, would I like to be a heart or a brain, without hesitation my answer would be a heart. It’s not that I have anything against a brain, it’s just that hearts have more fun, more of a wild life-ride.

My cousin married on the weekend while her father lay dying in his bed. That cements my heart choice.

Weddings and watching someone you love die can be highly emotional. Weddings for the glorious euphoria where it can feel as though you’re in some kind of mooshy bubble soaked in joy on steroids. Everyone revels inside the protective sac, shielded from harsh realities, whether you’re the bride, groom or guest. You can forget at a wedding, leave everything outside to be in the deity of the day.

Watching someone die, which is very different to death, takes you to a whole other extreme where torment exceeds pain to induce an excruciating helplessness. Being out in cyclonic seas that regurgitate scrambled eggs in one dip would be far simpler than riding the tumult of emotion in dying. Watching those you love, watch their dearest fade away adds a whole other layer in the scuttle to catch breaking hearts that drip through your fingers.

The two together, a wedding and dying, become a whammy of intensities. Extremes escalate as the bubble suddenly hosts the world’s scariest roller coaster to flip revellers over and over, manoeuvring double corkscrews and cobra rolls in the dark while dodging shooting, zephyring sparks that ricochet inside the bubble. Sudden moves exaggerate and juxtapose happiness and hurt and confrontations can bite in as the antithesis of pleasure and heartache.

And yet being in that bubble holds the nurture and care to get through, to nourish the ache that transcend all other aches and comes from a bed of barren more mangled than a thousand, old gnarled trunks entwining as taught rope, all pulling as tourniquets on everything within scent and sight.

Of course, a heart must be stripped bare to feel, to attune to the spiralling emotions and slivers of tenderness, to accept without question and give an ease of friendship and support while taking care of one’s own needs … it’s the essence of giving without any expectation.

An open heart delights in the greatest sprouting, boundless and enriching. It comes with sacrifice and compromise, of hidden tears and no judgement.

It comes with patience. And genuine kindness.

It allows the whole gamut of everything to flow free, with no boundaries or barriers. Pain easily enters and you’re exposed to the bottomless swirl of eruptions without restraint, fighting uncontrollable and unreasonable as the ones you care about or love the most are the ones that will make you cry. It’s a pain that can’t be touched or pinpointed.

An open heart can grip without warning and lock in as a monolithic stronghold rooted from sky to earth. And yet it’s that grounding that sanctions an experiencing of vastness and to take risks, to be caught in a safety net when falling.

Sometimes you might wonder whether life would be easier by simply closing one’s heart, boarding it up to protect from all and everything. And yet the energy it takes to be closed can far exceed the energy for uncovering, to be oneself without hiding. Sometimes the fear of being hurt is more painful than being hurt.

The alternative of living with a closed heart, afraid to chance, to live in a lingering starkness where loneliness can reverberate in a wallowing chortle of superficial fluff, desolate, confused in the staccato of dark, fatigued and impervious to feel all that life is … no, that’s not for me. That’s not life.

I’d prefer to wear the silky lingerie that catches on jagged cliff faces, confident of the buoyancy from those around me as we bounce in and out of our bubble.

Opening up is an endorphic lift that sucks in the bubble bliss and pitted sadness and digests it, processes it into a deep understanding of the polarity of life and an ultimate gratitude for it. An open heart accentuates the happiness and knows empathy, especially for the closed hearts.

It’s a nunu kiss of true, deep and honouring love that shines past the deepest and darkest. It’s the kind of kiss a grandparent plants on the forehead of a grandchild where nothing else matters but the kiss.

What would you prefer if the offer was presented to you, to be a heart or a brain?

‘… and never regret anything that makes you smile.’

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‘The Kiss’ (full size) by Burke Heffner

 

‘… and never regret anything that makes you smile.’

I emailed that to a lovely guy who spoke of the back pain he experiences from degenerative discs and the time he’s had away from work to manage that pain. DB’s cute description of ‘anything from picking up a pair of socks to coughing will see it chuck a wobbly’ made me smile and I hoped he’d had an opportunity to smile that day given his suffering.

That was in the morning.

In the evening, I discovered an old friend’s sister who I’d grown up with, had made another attempt to take her life. This time she’d succeeded, whether she meant to or not, and her children had to make the decision to turn off their mother’s life support. Gut wrenching. It made me think of the rest of Mark Twain’s quote –

‘Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Laugh truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.’

I wondered about my old friend’s sister and whether she had a life that was full and meaningful to her. I believed she did. While I was sad that she was gone and for the family and their loss, my sadness was for the anguish my old friend’s sister must have endured through her life. Or had she? Her life was what she knew and who was I to judge it as one of enduring.

Mental ill health is growing by the minute. I see it in people around me and what I consider ‘extreme’ actions they can take. But to them, those actions aren’t extreme. It’s a way of coping with the daily torment they live with. It’s their reality. Their life. It may not be one of torment that I understand torment to be.

Some take ‘extreme’ actions that make perfect sense to them. I’ve seen what I consider  most irrational actions being taken where the person taking the action believes it to be perfectly rational – the shaving of eyebrows because it looks good and the dodging of cameras in every corner of their own home and in the streets, following their every move. The spying that occurs from being followed, to the point where holding up a 711 store at knife-point to distract those spies from following the family, to protect them, is the only answer. And the swallowing of pills, because that’s the only way.

Years have taught me to not inflict my biases onto those actions and the reasons behind them, to accept them as actions relevant to the person. I don’t have their experiences so how can I know. Truly know. It’s not easy or straight forward for anyone experiencing mental ill health to understand the effects of their thoughts and actions on others. The illness is all consuming, and a reality onto its own.

Someone said to me yesterday that if the friend’s sister could see the hurt she’s caused, she wouldn’t have taken her life. While that may be a ‘Christian’ view, it’s not one I hold.

There is almost always commentary about the selfish act that suicide is. But what of the person experiencing the pain to the point of having no alternative but to take that action? I’m not sure they could see past their torment to understand the impact of their action. To me, there’s a selfishness in those that hold such beliefs that those experiencing such torment should act in ways that are appropriate, as appropriate in their eyes. I’m trying to be kind here!

Every day is a reminder to live life in a way that matters to me – Mark Twain ensures that, with his quote sitting on my desk for me to read each morning. He’s done that all year.

‘Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Laugh truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.’

While I work hard and may not take on each of those elements every second of every day of my life, I do aspire to them and make a solid attempt at achieving them. I can’t have everything all of the time and can’t always fit everything into a day that I might want. Life’s too short too for regrets and each mistake is a learning from a new fork taken in my road.

I found myself commenting to one of my boys last night on something similar: don’t do things because you feel you should. Do them because you want to. Go out with that friend because you will enjoy it and not because you feel it would make them happy. There’s a level of deceit in that to them and you. It’s a balance of self-respect versus being selfless. Be happy to do that something for someone else.

Standing beside DB the day after we emailed, wearing what my mother calls my grandmother’s bright pink floral, flowing dress, his grimace was all pain. He commented that his back probably threw its current wobbly because he’d been busy balancing work and finishing off his study for the year. I replied to his asking of how I was with being good and sometimes not knowing what day it was. What I wanted to say was sometimes I leave the house and am driving to work or University and I look down at my legs to make sure I’m not still wearing my pyjamas as I rush around trying to do so much in the morning that I don’t remember changing! (But I didn’t want to embarrass myself saying that in public so I’ll say it here instead!) He acknowledged the need for slowing down and taking it easy. Perhaps I should have sent him the whole quote.

I’ve been called many things over the years – queen of clash, being to gung-ho or aloof, asking too many questions or never doing things ‘normal’. It’s probably all true but I’m pleased that I have a true appreciation and understanding that life is short.

 

Time is lost in all ideals of time, where the cocoon has toughened as tungsten steel.

Diamond tips tap to tunes of break free, seeking to escape to a place of new. They sometimes grow as clashing bangs that smash through a weakened fissure into sun shining onto fields of sunflowers waking in the heat of summer. The scent of new life intoxicates to an exhilarating trepidation.

Sometimes those taps are barely auditable whispering feathers and no amount of push can break free. Eventually, the trap secures. The trap becomes all that’s known: the norm.

 

 

Ode to an angel

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My ‘Ode to an angel’ rounds off a new book called, ‘These Winter Months: The Late Orphan Project Anthology’. The book is a collection of stories written after the death of a parent. The focus isn’t on grief or sadness, but rather the simpler things. It’s about the intricate and universal workings of family – regrets, learning, problem solving, daily life, and most definitely, love.

My story, ‘The Teacher’ is one of more than 20 short stories that form the collection. You can find the book at https://www.createspace.com/6021628

 

Ode to an angel ~

Two baubles of hazel rimmed in brown, glimmer and follow my walk across the expanse.

They know.

They care.

They watch high and low, near and far, protecting as a long-time guardian.

Their ripples of warmth flow on wings of abundant love that nurture its young.

Tears well at the framed image of you above our table.

We know you’re here today, where we have gathered to celebrate.

The woman dressed in red knows too, within her own pale eyes of grey, sad and lonely and that pine for you.

They say more than anyone dares see.

You breathe into our home of joy, among the fluttering fuchsias and vacillating vines that once you tended, within the wine you brewed.

We know you’re here, where you watch over as a sentinel on lookout duty. Our keeper and custodian of this family.

We see you in the face of those sitting today, in their smiles and laughter and eyes too, in their weariness after this being together, grand day, dressed in an apron of yesterday.

You’re always with us, in the hues of our dreams and thoughts, in your knick-knacks within our homes and seedlings of our garden, in our every way.

We know an angel is here today.

The wedding ring

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After the drain and sometimes despair of the past weeks, I just want to lie here forever, cuddled up into son two’s doona, my feet dangling off the edge of his bed. He sits at his desk scattered in books, while son three squats on the floor opposite, clasping his knees and leaning into the wall. Son one sits on the edge of the bed strumming a few chords of a Spanish study on the guitar. His slender fingers pluck with such agility, their dexterity evident after playing piano for more than twelve years. The three of us have crashed son two’s study time on the way to our bedrooms. Son one hits a twang in his tune.

Son two takes the guitar. ‘You’re hopeless,’ he says, and starts playing Don McLean’s, American Pie.

Son one falls back onto the bed. I scooch my head into his side and begin tapping my foot to the tune. Son one begins to sing.

So, bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

His baritone lows send a vibration into the room and into my heart. Extraordinary tones.

Did you write the Book of Love
And do you have faith in God above …

Die and Love. Such power in those words. I really don’t want to leave the comfort that surrounds me. Such peace is priceless.

Die and love. I’m living in the reverberation of an abundance of love that extends beyond this room, circles and circles of it that echo and intersect. Pat’s circle of love began when Vince slipped that eternal ring on her finger to signify their unity in endless love. She became the centre of concentric and overlapping circles.

It was only a few weeks ago that Pat asked me to fix her wedding, engagement and eternity rings. Her doctor had to snip them from her fluid-swelled finger as they had begun to cut into her circulation. Creating jewellery and bigger sculptural metal pieces was a career from a life gone by for me, but I couldn’t say no to Pat when she asked because of the need in her tone at wanting the rings back on her finger.

So the following weekend, I spent hours on them. I soldered an extra piece into the wedding ring and hammered the other two to slowly stretch the gold to widen the rings. As they were over seventy years old, I couldn’t risk damaging the collapsing settings and diamonds of the engagement and eternity rings with heat if I added a piece to make them bigger. Slow hammering was the best option. I filed and used various abrasives and polishes on the metal until the rings shone to become the desire of any bower bird.

When I gave the rings to Pat that weekend, she thanked me with such heartfelt hugs and when I slipped them back onto her finger, she sat there smiling in the proudest of proud. A perfect fit, they were.

To everyone’s surprise though, the rings fell off Pat’s finger days later. It was thought that Pat must’ve lost some body fluid to reduce the swelling in her fingers. I felt such sadness for Pat that she’d lost something so dear to her.

The wedding ring was found days later and immediately put onto a gold chain to hang around Pat’s neck. No-one could find the other two rings. I was pleased that at least she had the ring most important to her and that it sat close to her heart.

The wedding ring has a long history that signifies never-ending and immortal love. It’s believed that the ancient Egyptians exchanged the first wedding rings about 4800 years ago. Back then, they were made by twisting and braiding sedges, rushes, reeds and papyrus into rings for fingers. The circle was the symbol of eternity, with no beginning or end and the hole in the centre of the ring was the gateway or door to something new.

Days later, Pat passed away, with her circle of love around her neck and close to her heart, surrounded by her circle of family that filled her room in circles of love that spread to homes of vigil.

Pat may not be here physically today, however the power and influence of her and her battered and thinning gold wedding ring extend in a force and energy way beyond understanding. It remains emblazoned onto all touched by her, including me here tonight and every night, with those concentric and overlapping circles that these three pookies are also part of as descendants of Pat, these pookies that always seem to be near, in shadow or light.

Purging minions

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Scurrying to hide and go, and move and do, flying and jumping in erratic motion of crazy … manic minions fighting for attention like spoilt children vying for the last sweet on Earth without knowing where it is.

They clash and scrap within a mess of scattered matter, bullying if they must in their desperation for validation and prime place. The frenzy becomes a bubbling cauldron of emotional prod and pull, too big for the heart to contain. It erupts, overflowing to the brain.

That’s when true plumbing havoc begins with blockages of activated sludge and leaks into cracks of permeability. Crusts of tar form to smother reason and logic, fear grips to suffocate what’s right and best and nurture the growth of trepidation and uncertainty. Manic minions have now become tribes of egos that squabble amongst their own.

Where to look and what to do …

A stroke of unexpected softness from innocence, a touch that says, ‘It’s okay.’ The stroke becomes a hold that stops your breath and grounds you to the earth in shuddering reality, sending those manic minions scurrying.

Their withdrawal is short-lived however, and those minions return revived and more frenzied than ever. But you’ve had a glimpse now, a reminder from your heart.

The minions come and go, like and dislike, take a sneaky peak. They want but don’t know how to want and send mixed up messages. They’re greedy and self-satisfying with egos that thump and demand.

Each minion has its own agenda that changes by the minute, sometimes repeating to never end or begin, as the chicken and the egg. All are urgent, yesterday urgent … the wheel spins faster and faster until a centrifugal force kicks in.

Then, in the momentary flick of a switch, everything stops. Everything falls to nowhere.

A life is gone.

All that remains are memories and grief, and people with minions yesterday, bound together today. Nothing is the same again. What mattered yesterday, matters nix today.

Instead, spending an hour having dinner together, savouring the conversation more than the food, takes centre stage. And when that stage moves to the kitchen to clean those dishes, the chatter moves with it, as an oozing luscious centre from a warm chocolate pudding. Yesterday’s minions are floundering as they wash down the eternal emotional drain. Until the minions are gone.

You remember what’s important to you and not what’s important to anyone else, what makes you happy and your heart sing as the most exquisite sound on Earth. You remember the power of love and that when fear knocks at the door and love answers, there’s never anyone there.

Life is like a box of chocolates

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Life and death and everything in between … it’s the essence of our existence on Earth.

Birthing is endless. Eighty babies each week are born where I live. That’s 11 – 12 babies each day of the year; over 4000 babies a year.

And then begins life and the act of living, a ride of ups and downs in bobs and bounds. Wants, desires and needs; repulsions, successes and failures. There is joy and happiness and fun too, moments of elation and some of deep desolation and chasmic depression. Positive and negative emotions and learning how to cope with those and the challenges thrown at us are an inescapable fact of life. And sitting at the foundation of all life is love. Sweet, deep love and love gone awry.

Life truly is a roller coaster ride, or as Forrest Gump says, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.’

I always see that box of chocolates without a cheat sheet to identify which chocolate is which. Some chocolates are covered in gold wrappers to entice, while others appear plain and smooth, uninteresting. One bite into either can lead to a surprise, sometimes a jackpot, while others are spat out in repugnant disgust, never to be sampled again.

There is always an end to the sampling though, no matter if there are a million and a half varieties or three, to choose from. In life, that end means death.

Birth and death are inevitable, as necessary as breathing, drinking and loving. They are guaranteed. Birth can be one of the most joyous life events, just as death can be one of the most destructive and ravaging. And like the chocolates, there is no cheat sheet on how to deal with the passing of someone dearly loved or the grief that follows.

There have been many souls leaving this Earth around me lately, and some near misses. Even those near misses can be challenging, especially when they happen to those so close to me and I wonder if it’s a type of grieving I must process.

I feel for those grieving and for those that still grieve years later. Grieving can be so long and drawn out for some and sadly, a process that never ends. It can feel as though stuck in a quicksand that does not release its grip. For others, it’s an instinctive and subconscious process that must be had, step by step, day by day. It’s a huge adjustment to live without someone who has always existed, been so caring and trusting, a confidant and someone to lean on for support. A massive abyss appears where once a garden of the freshest and most succulent flowers thrived.

Sometimes there can be regret too, regret for not saying and doing more, for not being more. That can be like biting into the most bitter of chocolates that leaves a second acerbic, lingering after-taste.

Adjusting to life without someone so prominent in our lives, where yesterday they breathed and spoke, can be like living in a twilight zone of somewhere yet nowhere. What’s next, where to next and how to release from the anchoring within that strangle-hold quicksand?

Sometimes there is no light at that moment, not even a glimmer. Until at some point, a flicker will appear. That may be within days, or years, and could last a second, a day or more.

I’ve come to realise too that just because the physicality of a loved one is missing, they’re not truly gone. Their soul lingers around me as shadows or come to me in dreams. After thirty plus years, I still feel my father’s presence, especially when I’m feeling troubled or stressed.

It’s important to feel all the emotions, feel the sadness and loneliness. Feel those moments of joy, past and present. Feel the anger. Feel scared and anxious and don’t shut any of those feelings down.

I think that’s the key. Allowing oneself to feel the range of feelings and understand it’s okay to feel those. Accept what is. Know that we’re loved and supported and that there’s help if we need it. Lean on people. That’s what we humans do, as social creatures with well developed social system.

So sample that next chocolate with someone by your side.

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