For the last few days I have been thinking that “ the world” or perhaps “my world” needs to just pause. How long? Five minutes, ten minutes? I’m not sure. Just a pause. The world seems to have gone mad and I don’t recognise it!
So many messages! Drought, flood, fire, virus and this latest tragedy of the slaughter of innocence in Brisbane!
Today I attended the funeral of my cardiologist. She was 45, loved wife, beloved mother, brilliant clinician, daughter and sister. Before the funeral I received a photo from my niece. A tiny baby wrapped beside her Dad on the day she was born. I was astounded by the resemblance between Paul, my brother, aged in his 40s and my own son now about the same age. It took my breath away a bit. Motor- neurone disease took him away in 2016 after living with it for nearly 20 years. The same bastard of a disease took Angela away in less than five months.
I hope I never have to be present at the funeral of any of my children. I watched her Mum and Dad. When he arrived at the church, he patted the coffin like a Dad patting a small child , a sort of “ there, there, you’ll be alright” gesture of Dad love. Her Mum was Angela fast forward into grand parenthood! She walked like her, stood like her, gesticulated like her. She greeted her family with bear hugs. And she stood at the head of the coffin, placed her hands on either side , bent over and kissed it twice. Strength. Dignity. Endurance in the midst of what must still be mind shattering disbelief! And then in a gesture of “ you’ve done well” she gave it a double tap and turned into the arms of family.
Angela’s husband and children stoic and shell shocked shattered. Dignified. Her husband spoke truth that hundreds of others would be unable to speak. Raw and honest agony. The “ why” that has no answer. And then he told their story and there was laughter, sage nodding of heads and comforting calm. Her sister, her little sister, spoke acknowledgement of the custodians of Country . Something not included in the traditional Christian rubric. I felt wholeness. Tenderness and gratitude , the admiration of a “ little” sister for her beloved “big sister”!
Her professional medical colleagues told of her incredible ability within the context of her compassion, sensitivity, determination, organisation, grace and balance.
“ Grief is the price we pay for love” from the presider. A message from her Majesty’s Christmas message no less. I wondered if Angela’s reaction to this may have been similar to her reaction to my “Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington! I suppose you get that all the time.” “Yes” she said, but not usually from someone YOUR age!’ I never mentioned it again.
My beautiful niece, Sophia , Paul’s daughter, wrote of a conversation with her three year old daughter Tilly
“Although my daughter and Dad will never meet in this life, I have a strong belief they ‘know’ each other…..
This is what she said to me ‘ Grandpa Paul was with me today’
Taken aback I asked ‘ Really? What were you doing?’
‘Drawing together. He was drawing in his wheel barrow’
‘Oh! Do you mean his wheel chair?’
‘Yes. The wheel chair . We were drawing in it. Why was he in a wheelchair?’
‘Because his arms and legs didn’t work.’
‘Because he had an illness.’
‘We don’t know , darling.’
‘Mmmmm… maybe he ate something.’
‘He’s not sick anymore. He’s fine now’
‘That’s right baby’
‘I want to see him’
‘Me too. He’s not alive anymore darling. But Mummy has him in her heart.’
‘He’s in my heart too. A circle. I miss him’
Sophie writes ‘I don’t want to give the simplistic and abstract narrative of heaven. But I do want her to follow her intuition and know about our energies and essence.
I want her to know the ordinariness and finality of death but not to feel overwhelmed or scared”
Sophia is “living” Paul ! It’s not about heaven for me. It’s about story and presence and listening and telling and awe filled silences and joy filled cacophony. . Spirit and essence – they remain.
Today in sadness and gratitude I paused and in so doing I was once more astounded by the power of lives well lived and well loved and the absolute certainty that those lives never end.
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