Little Girl Lost

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the rainbow comes and goes,
and lovely is the rose,

the moon doth with delight
look round her when the heavens are bare,

waters on a starry night
are beautiful and fair;

the sunshine is a glorious birth;

but yet I know, where'er I go,

that there hath passed away a glory from the earth.

An old school friend of mine lost her mama this week.  Her mama was Clara, a lady whose life converged with my family’s history and made our story better for having her in it. She was a beautiful, gentle, loving person, a special friend to many; but to her children she was the beginning of love itself.  To not have her here with them now must be so hard to come to terms with.

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there is beauty even in the end

Losing your Ma is a journey I know well.  It’s the trip you never want to take, the inevitable traverse through times that test and trouble the very fabric of our identity. Because, who are we without our mothers? Can we walk through life without them? Can we possibly take the torch of their wisdom in our families and communities… are we even ready for that?

I remember how Mum’s death was a relief and also a shock. We’d been with her as she battled seven years of cancer. So it was a relief to know the pain was gone, the struggle ended. But I wasn’t prepared for the finality of death. The absolute ‘gone’ of death. No more smiling waves and see-ya-laters. No more one-more-times.

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The strongest feeling I had the day of my Mum’s death was a feeling of being little girl lost. I remember being about four, lost in the shopping mall. It was a terrifying feeling; an empty wide chasm of fear and abandonment opened up in my little heart.

I retraced the way we had come, hoping to find her back in time. She was nowhere. The tears obscured my vision, I sat down and howled. A nice lady took my hand and led me to the mall head office. I was placated with a lollipop and the loudspeaker called my Mum. When she found me there, my relief was complete.

Losing her to death reminded me of that feeling I’d had as a child. I didn’t know if I could do life without her. I didn’t know how I could carry all the weight of my love for her, now I couldn’t give it to her anymore.  I wished there was a Universal loud speaker system that could bring her back to me.

In some ways, there is. I see her in the beauty of life, even in the peonies that are slowly fading in the vase. I feel her when I am mothering like she did. I hear her words coming out of my own mouth and I see her expressions in my daughter’s beautiful face.  I didn’t know if I could do life without her, but I have. I didn’t think I could carry all that love, but I do. Sometimes, I give some of it back to myself.  I mother myself because she can’t do it anymore.

I still cry a lot about losing my mum. Things set me off. Like trimming our Christmas tree, or a song, or seeing a mother and her grown daughter meandering together through a mall.  Sometimes just talking with my siblings or hearing a laugh like hers can do it. Seeing my children do something my Mum will never see them do. Watching from afar as Clara’s family gracefully carried her through her final days. The triggers are everywhere. The sudden upsurges of grief never far from overwhelming me.

I will always miss her. I will always yearn for her to be here with me still. That’s the nature of love.  There’s no time limit on grief, it is just an ever present part of life without her.

This poem meant a lot to me during the early days of Mum’s absence.  I return to it, days like today, when we are remembering the beautiful woman that Mum’s friend Clara was. She will be so missed.

Daniella, Geoff and all of the Tabor/Ila clan, my heart is with your hearts. It is so hard to travel the days without your Mama. I know you will find strength in what remains behind. But I wish she hadn’t had to leave so soon. I imagine in heaven, our mamas will be together.  It’s nice to think of them together.

Love to you all from my family. Clara was one in a million. A truly beautiful soul.

we will grieve not, rather find
strength in what remains behind;
              
in the primal sympathy
which having been must ever be;
              
in the soothing thoughts that spring
out of human suffering;
              
in the faith that looks through death,
in years that bring the philosophic mind.

The poem is ‘Intimations of Immortality’ by William Wordsworth.

The flowers are my vase of peonies that I can’t bear to throw away; every day they seem more beautiful, even as they draw near to the end.

Something Always Sings

 

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This: words we thought were lost.

 

Of late, there’s been a good deal of Spring Cleaning going on around here.  We’re finishing off a little reno, so tidying all that up has spurned some sorting.   Yesterday I sat in a chair in the sun (quiet duties for me, so soon after getting out of hospital) while my hubster photographed things for an auction site. We’re culling. It feels good.
It’s our first real clear out since we moved here six years ago.  It’s good to let go.  Even better to find treasures you didn’t know were even there.

In the garage, he found a box.
“Honey, can you check out this box?  It needs to be sorted; is it a keeper?”.
The box is lurid seventies green.  I remember Mum kept her sewing patterns in boxes like that.  Surely they’re not still in there?  When I open the box, I see that it is only about a quarter full.  No patterns.  I see the kodak imprint on the back of some snapshots, a packet of lace coasters, a journal, a folio clad with swirls of purple, orange and green vinyl. It seems familiar, yet not my own.  Where have I seen that stuff before?

I reach for the photos first.  Pictures of me that my Mum used to have. I see myself at various ages.  It’s confronting, seeing that vital girl.  The sophisticated graduate. And comparing those selves to the sick me I now am.  I put the photos down.

My school reports.  A smattering of them from across the years.  “Rachel is an excellent student with a mature attitude to learning” (aged 8) alongside “Rachel is easily distracted and would do well to focus on the matter at hand. Aim higher” (aged 15).

This must be a box of things Dad gave me after Mum passed away.  Things my Mum left.  I remember vaguely, putting the box he gave me out of sight.  It was too hard, back then.

The kids and I laugh at my school report that shows a string of As and one D. 
“What does Grade: D Effort: 3, mean, Mum?”

“Experiencing Difficulties and Attitude needs Improvement”
“Mu-uum!  What was that for?”
“Physical Education”
My daughter looks at me with a grin on her face.  Her own frustrations on the sports field suddenly making sense, “Oh!”

The box contained some of the cards I had made Mum over time.  Even a letter I sent her from Germany when I was working there as an Au Pair. I didn’t know she had kept these things.

The journal was her own. A journey through her life during the times she lived in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing.  Then some sad entries about the time back in New Zealand before it all picked up for them again.  I looked at the loops of her handwriting, so similar to my own. I tried to hear her voice talking the words. I could only see her eyes, crinkling up into a smile. I was holding another fragment of her life, like her cup, both so absurdly present even though she can’t be. And yet, there she is, a breath away.  Her perfume in the air and her remembrances in my hands.

I reach for that folio.

Long after my Grandma passed away, Mum would speak of a folio, a special folder that carried the things my Grandma held dear.  Snippets from newspapers, poems and scriptures.  Little things she found or noticed that spoke to her.  My Grandma was a soulful person who carried a deep faith.  My Mum shared the same faith and often spoke sadly about the missing binder that held so many of the writings that inspired her own Mother.  After Grandma passed, my Mum thought her sister had the folder.  She urged me to find it. After her sister passed too, I did ask after it. But her daughter hadn’t seen it anywhere.  It was a mystery.  It seemed to be lost, like that whole generation of girls.

Until yesterday, when it was found, in our own garage, tucked away in a green box.

I wish I could give it to Mum.  She must have had it all along and not realised she did.  I wish I could travel back through time and show her.  I think of my sister and my cousins, I must tell them it is here.

I turned the pages carefully. Looking at the things that helped my Grandma through her most difficult days.  I could see a familiar interest in finding the words to carry you.  I do the same in my search for quotes and excerpts that say important things; in striving to find my own words.  This deep connection with words must be part of my Grandma’s legacy.

I thought again, about handwriting.  About the words we make, the words we keep.  The way my Grandma, my Mum and I stored words for inspiration.  Used words to make sense of life.  Wrote words to excise the pain.  I thought about how Grandma’s collected words could still speak to me, long after she is gone.  Even though I never really knew her.  It made me feel better about my own.  My own legacy.  Maybe my Grand-daughter will read these words one day and understand that I love her, even though I haven’t met her yet. That she is me, carried forward, just as I am the women before me, carrying on.

 

...on the first page of Grandma's folio.   In her own handwriting, these words that reached across two generations.  Thanks Grandma. X
…on the first page of Grandma’s folio. In her own handwriting; these words that reached across three generations. Thanks Grandma. X