At the end of the end.

I had a chat with my son yesterday, about responsibility and growing up. About how as he gets older his chore list will inevitably grow. I explained that it’s time to begin carrying his own weight more rather than expecting to have everything done for him. His chores aren’t very onerous.  He’s been sick and can’t do as much as a ten year old should.  But I am a big believer in doing as much as we can, no matter how we feel. It’s better for the mind, in the end. Even when it is, so hard. His beautiful eyes welled up and it took me by surprise.
“Why are you sad, little guy?”
“I miss being little,” he said. He crawled up into my lap and let the big tears roll down his cheeks. Mourning the end of babyhood. I confess, I could fully empathise. I often wish I could go back in time and be in my mother’s arms, cradled and cushioned from the big wide world.

Last week one of the mothers from school died in a motorbike accident. Her name was Nikki. At her funeral, the people close to her stood and spoke; so bravely in the face of their grief, about who she was, about how it felt to be without her. She had three children, the youngest was born on the same day as my son.  Her son and middle daughter both went through the junior school years with my two.

My most vivid memory of her is the time she hosted our Year Group party at her house. She opened the front door in a floor length emerald green silk dress. She was stunning.  The sight of her long, willowy form, the wow factor of her gregarious personality and beauty.  It was both intimidating and impressive. It’s hard to comprehend that she is not here anymore.

The tragedy brought into sharp focus the gift that each day truly is.  I think this truth is always close to my consciousness, yet still, it slips away sometimes. I forget the inevitable and get bogged down with all the daily tasks and endless aggravations of life. I lose sight of how lucky I am to be alive, to be able to have conversations with my babies as they take on the incremental approximations of their adult selves. To hold them when they cry and raise the bar for them when they need to push a bit more. I’m here, parenting and loving. That’s no small thing at all. But oh, my mind has so many questions!

I’ve been wondering, why. Why we strive for things. I don’t know why I tried so hard to put my kids through expensive schools, now they are happy in our local schools. I don’t know why I care so much about the state of the carpet that I won’t invite people over. I don’t know why I strive to do it all.. all. of. the. time. It makes me grumpy and listless and down.  I wonder why I feel like a failure if I’m not groomed, cheerful and deeply fulfilled as I go about my many thankless tasks, like so many other women seem to be. I wonder if I should be. I wonder what it is all for. I wonder if it will all be worth it in the end.

Do you wonder about that?
Here we are, alive and able to love.  We breathe, our hearts pump the baseline rhythm, our feet syncopating a melody we never pause to hear. We are so consumed with the minutae of our micro-worlds.  The planet turns, ice caps melt, species become extinct, wars burn through vast swathes of humanity, mothers die, stars are born, lava erupts from our molten core. Rainbows arch across the sky above the school gates.  And on goes another load of washing.

I’m going to leave here a beautiful song, as a tribute to all the people who have left us, we hope, for a ‘better place’. My friend played it for me last Friday. She’d been to Paul McCartney’s recent concert and she knew I would love this song as much as she does.  When Nikki died, her family and friends pulled together a truly beautiful funeral service. At the end of the end there was some kind of tragic peace, some sort of beauty and grace as they faced their final farewell. I wish all my wondering could help me comprehend why things like this happen.  There is too much sadness in the world.  I hope he is right and at the end of the end, there is no need to be sad.

I don’t understand anything.

One thought on “At the end of the end.”

  1. Rach, as always you ask the tough questions and it’s important for us to sit with them for a moment every now and again. The hardest things to understand is why some of our lives are cut short, while others go on. Like many other people, I have a really hard time finding peace in the face of good people dying while horrible people flourish. That’s been the seed of bitterness for me. Why??? I struggled the most with this personally when I lost my mom to cancer at 62 (I was 30). She was everything to me, my rock, the person I needed the most. And I lost her when my daughter was just under 2 and I was desperate for her guidance and so wanting my daughter to know her. I know how much you understand this loss yourself. But my need, my desire and my prayers didn’t stop life and death from happening. And yet, my father who was never there for us, who was physically and emotionally abusive, lived to be 85 years old. He added nothing joyful to anyone – yet he lived and my mom who brought joy to so many, was gone. How do you reconcile these things? At 30, I just felt bitter. I was angry, furious and wanted to scream whenever someone said “only the good die young”. Yes, it does seem that way. But then where does that leave me on the good vs bad scale at the age of 58? I still miss my mom everyday. Every day there is a hole where she should be. Yet, when I see my daughter roll her eyes the same way she did, I visit my mom. When I see her exhibit the amazing artistic talents that my mom had, I visit her. And when my granddaughter, at 3, looked over a sea of framed photos, paused and picked up the one of my mom and said “Who’s that Nonny, she’s so pretty” I couldn’t help but smile and feel my mom’s hand on my shoulder. I don’t feel bitter anymore because I realize that my mom is still alive in all us who knew her because she was needed, because she loved us all so well. My father is not thought of that way. He has no place to visit. He didn’t earn it. It’s as simple as that. And I realize that for me, at least that question is answered. I still don’t know why, but I know that a parent lives on because of what they gave us as parents. And as their children, we will go on too, because we learned from their example to earn it. And that thought takes me through the days when the wash piles up and I think that I am not fulfilling my potential on earth.

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