Tales of a sixty year old orphan
I recognise in me a tendency to expect that just because I understand the process of grief on an intellectual level that somehow gives me a dispensation from going through the worst of it. The bad news is it doesn't. There isn't a shortcut or a get out of jail free card, just the softening of the gratitude for a long life well lived and well loved. But grief still waits in unexpected places. Sometimes it's a slight catch in the throat when you see something and think, "Mum would love that". It can also be a repeat of a much used phrase like "I'm not a bit of bother" that doesn't just cause a tightness of sadness but thankfully also evokes a smile or even a laugh.
Yesterday it was a fruit jelly that did it. Now the family and the staff at the care home will understand this, in recent years it was a particular favourite of Mum's. It reaches back into childhood memories too. Although to be true to them it would have to be the carnation milk jelly ( nutritionists avert your eyes) with some tinned mandarins. Admit it if you're of the baby boomer generation, your mouth is watering now, isn't it?
But this wasn't any fruit jelly it was an M&S jelly with raspberries. As I had the first spoonful I felt a tug of grief that felt like a punch in stomach. So much so I stood up and leaned over the balcony to breathe through it, like a labour pain. Perhaps it makes sense that the pain of giving birth should be echoed in the pain of accepting death? Fortunately I could just give in to the tears and I do admit the sadness felt newly raw for a time. But a walk on the beach with Cara lifted me a little.
Today a small robin following us on a walk was more of a warm reminder as Mum loved robins. It helped me feel connected to her rather than to loss. I know in time these moments willl outweigh the others. Until then the kindness of friends and the love of family is hugely consoling. There is a unique quality to grieving when it comes at the end of a long life. In many ways it's recognising the abilities and real talent of next the generation of our family as well as experiencing and witnessing their care, compassion and wisdom. This creates a sense not just of comfort and pride but of continuance too. My sister reminded me of this song by Nancy Griffith as we acknowledged we were 60+ year old orphans....It closes with the line we are all one family, a reassuring message of how those we grieve for live on in us all. May have to draw the line at jungle juice though....