Words Fall Out

If we’re lucky, it visits us a few times before taking us away; Death.
I remember the death of our dog.  That first aching glimpse into the yawning chasm of ‘gone forever’.  And the death of a grandparent; quiet censored whisperings of adults and the hurried ushering of the children away from the coffin.  Gone forever. First one person, then a sprinkling of elderly others.  Watching the grief in my mothers eyes spill over into tears.  She didn’t usually cry.  It sent a chill of foreboding through me, seeing her mourn her own mother.  I was fourteen then, and beginning to comprehend.  Death loomed close to my imagination. An irrefutable, unescapable, cruel end and a bitter suffering.

Then, facing the shock news of a car crash, a cousin, close to my own age. Another friend too, another car. Somehow so much more tragic than losing the elderly; more personal, more real.  The horror of knowing they are gone.  Forever.  And it could just as well have been you.  You contemplate all the things that you get to still do that they don’t.  You think about the future they’ll never have.  You marvel at how the birds still sing, but they cannot.  You can’t absorb the fact that everything they were, the entirety of their being, is gone. It’s too frightening. Too close to your bones. A whisper too near to your ear.

You let the tomorrows slowly ease your mortal fears.  Time anaesthetising you from the truth.  We die.  One day that will be my funeral.  One day it will be yours.  We try to forget that immutable fact. We are expert at it.  We close our eyes and batten down the hatches.

We pretend that we will live forever.

But we won’t.

Any of us, at any moment are a hairs-breadth away from it…  why don’t we live like that is so? Why do we pretend?  Diminishing our existence by living as if there will always be a tomorrow?  Another chance? Limiting what we see and ring-fencing our hopes, saving them for another day?

Why do we do that?

Death is on my mind today because this is the anniversary of the day my Mum took her last breath.  I remember staying with her through the night of New Year’s Eve.   She was so tired.  In so much pain. Throughout the night I had counted her breaths, and the terrible pauses between, the gasp and rasp as she fought for air again.  I was terrified about how death would come. When she opened her eyes the next morning, her barely audible whisper: “am I still alive?”.
“You are Mum.  You’re here.  It’s a New Year” her tiny amount of energy collapsed her tiny frame, deeper into the bed, lost in defeat.  “Still here” she mouthed, this time, no sound escaping her mouth as she closed her eyes against the day, the year, the endless struggle of her ending.

I didn’t see her open them again. I left my shift of the bedside vigil and went to sit at the beach.  My brother called me when it happened.  She had gone when they had stepped out of her room. I wondered if she had waited for them to go, to save them the torment of hearing the last breath, of counting the pause that would never be broken with another rasp.

I sat there on the dunes and watched the skies as her spirit flew past.  North to the Bay of Islands, and on to Cape Reinga. She was free.  I knew I should be able to breathe easier knowing that.  But what settled on my chest was a heavy weight of knowing.  She was gone forever.   Forever is a long time to be motherless.  And I cried like the baby I am.  Her baby.  Cried because I didn’t know how I could do it.  This life.  How could I do it without a mother?   I felt lost and cut loose of the only tie that truly binds.  Her freedom became my burden.  My debt to her, paid in grief and measured out across my own forever.

Thank you Mum, for loving me.  I miss you.

I was in the car this morning, coming back from a morning out with the horses.  It had all been far too much for me. I was half-sleeping, listening to the music.  Kellie’s song came on the radio.  My eyes were shut and my head lolling against the head rest.  Her song pops up at interesting times.  I always listen.  Think about her, miss her.  Wish she was still here, wisecracking on my blog, or messaging me about something.  Another gone forever girl.  Breaking our hearts with her absence.  Filling our days with remembrances and regrets for all the things we never said.

I wonder what would happen if you say what you want to say,
let the words fall out
honestly

I want to see you be brave.
(Sarah Bareilles, Brave)

Death is not a palatable subject.  People don’t like to read about it.  We don’t want to be reminded.
We go to such great lengths to ignore the truth and fight the realisations.  We all want to live forever; I get it, me too.  But what I want to say today is hard to read.
Wake up! We all die, people.
My words are falling out.

gone

Don’t push it away, not this day.
Remember.
Do it for the memory of my Mumma, for the memory of Kellie, or for the memory of someone you loved and lost. Do it for yourself, as an act of wilful rebellion against the denial we usually prefer. Live like there’s no tomorrow, in whatever way that would be for you.
What would you tell your children?
How long would you hold your lover’s gaze?
What would you say that needs to be said?
Who would you forgive? Who would you ask it from?
What would you do today?
What would you choose to look at, to feel, to notice?
If this was it.  What would it be?

This song probably says what I want to say in a much better way.  Have a listen to this.  And make today matter.

Adiós hermosa Chilena

(Farewell Beautiful Chilean Girl)

I love a road trip.
Today I’ve been down to Thames and back.  It’s a three hour round trip, not counting our stop.  For me, that means roughly three hours sitting. In my comfy car seat that makes for a pretty quiet day, though more tiring than sitting here in my bed.  I love the moving window views, but most of all, I love that I have the kids cornered.  Can I admit that!? On a road trip, we will talk, listen to music and re-connect.  And, like it or not, I will educate (because you can take the girl out of teaching, but never the teacher out of the girl).  Poor kids.   Yep, three whole CDs worth of education! Small wonder they fall out of the car at the end of a trip like a sigh of relief. Today, my travelling companions were Bee and Fifi.  Nine and Sixteen, but roughly the same height; vanilla and chocolate beauties, sporting, by chance, the same chin.  Fifi is here with us on exchange from Chile, and right now she’s feeling contemplative and emotional.  She’ll be heading home soon, after half a year in the land of the long white cloud.  Our beautiful countryside lived up to it’s name.  Cloudy skies and drizzle.  Vivid green fields and rolling hills. And lots of time to talk about life, travelling, the meaning of life and music.

A road trip isn’t complete without a soundtrack.  So Bee chose on the way there, and in testament to Fifi’s tolerance, I chose on the way back. The subject of investigation today was the importance of excellent lyrics (we agree that Rod Stewart was a bit lacklustre in that department).  The subtext was the importance of lyrical music.  I do feel my age when it comes to music;  I like a back story in a song.  A message.  A bit of universal truth packaged up in a melody that keeps you humming all day. I much prefer it to some fast-talking-bass-beating-boom-bah. I hear the sentiments of generations past coming out of my own mouth!

And… because my travelling companions were ‘my’ girls, I wanted to highlight with my song choices just how special and beautiful they are to me.  I do worry, about girls growing up in this world.  I worry about this post-feminist swing back into the badlands.  I see the sexualisation of girls in the music media and it seems so much more extreme than the gasp-inducing fifties advertisements that marginalised the value of women.  Back then, women were denigrated to their value as housekeepers.  Now, it seems to be their value as para-pornographic dancers, gyrating to some male gangster’s tough guy rap.

What happened to the work of our mothers?  The feminist discourse of the seventies seems to have become so diluted.  We are getting back there to the time where men are accepted to be the boss and women are simply sex props, without a voice. I worry about that.  Looking in the rear view mirror at my nine year old baby… and seeing sixteen year old Fifi’s face, just as fresh and beautiful and unscarred by life;  I just want to wrap them up.  Keep them here, suspended in a beautiful moment in time.  Before men and the messy business of love.  Before they change the way they see themselves and start to doubt the very thing that makes them so beautiful, right now.  It’s who they are.  All their dreams.  Every hope they hold for the future.  So breathtakingly beautiful it makes me want to cry.

 

Photography by Be Couper 2014
Photography by Be Couper 2014

I’m putting two songs into this farewell post today, one from the soundtrack on the way down to Thames (Taylor Swift) and one from the way back (Tim McGraw).  Both, for the beautiful girls who travelled the road with me.  Here’s to you two.  ‘Our’ baby girls (I know, you’re not babies anymore). Good people with so much ahead.  Kia kaha, sweet ones. 

And to Fifi in particular, Haere ra.  It has been an extraordinary experience having you in our family.  Go well, go far, and every now and then, look back and remember our Land of the Long White Cloud.  Our skies will be crying for you, long after you fly through them and back to your home.

(Fifi, you’re actually your own Mommy’s ‘baby’ but we feel lucky to have borrowed you for this important season of your life. Here is a ‘daddy’ song for you, from Uncle …and the rest of us too. XOX)