The last few months I found myself increasingly more so occupied with thinking about death and the influence it has on those who live on. I came to the understanding that it isn’t only about those who die, but also, maybe even more so, about those who stay on after. Because it is them that have to deal with the gap the passing of an individual leaves.
More and more did I develop compassion when caring for my patients at work, opening up, becoming vulnerable, to be able to understand what others feel. A couple weeks ago did I attend a training session on end of life and advance care planning. A week ago I was talking to someone about my personal, insignificant, experiences with bereavement. A few days ago I received the news that my godmother had passed away.
It felt a bit like this was all a cunning plan. Another piece in the puzzle to understanding human feelings and behaviours. And although the news were sad and accompanied with the old lump in the throat, I still feel like I didn’t have much time to think about it properly. Almost a little too sober.
But then I have to say that there are different rules at play. A good 30 years ago, my godmother had been given about six more months to live, if at all. She dedicated every single minute of her life to helping others. She was very ill, sometimes gravely, for most of those 30 years. Still, she loved what she was doing, loved to help. She was deeply connected with the subtle world, the energetic dimension of our existence. She made good use of it, since her physical body wasn’t always very helpful, extending her sense of helping others by mere thought when unable to leave her bedroom due to another bout of illness.
Explaining this in more detail would take me away from what I try to discover. But it might help understand why I feel this deep connection with her despite the fact that I haven’t seen her all that often in the last few years. We lived in different countries. She in Denmark, I at first in Germany, now in England. When I was a child my mum and I visited her about once a year. It got less as I grew older. The last time I visited was two years ago. We spoke on the phone last at Christmas. She had sent me a book she had written.
I do miss her. And I’m asking myself whether all my past recordings of sensing those around who have passed on are a mere denial of the fact that they have simply been and gone. Talking about the different stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Denial is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.
Whatever I think, whatever I want to express, whatever I want to write it is not happening. Tears have started to well up unexpectedly but not come out properly. It is building up while I’m trying to make sense of it. The situation is made more complex by the fact that “normal” grieving just doesn’t fit in here. I know that she is still around, I can feel her. I know that she is able to do an even better job now than she was ever able to while still in physical form. It is just that the communication is a little more tricky now.
The day I found out, I was at work, and after putting the phone down a trusted colleague came in and I told her. She hugged me and I felt understood. I was called away to another phone call straight after for someone to meet me. Then I had another meeting, with the chaplain (completely unrelated to talk about their work and bereavement!) and when I got back to work my boyfriend suddenly appeared saying he was in the area and popped in to say hello.
Now, this is a very untypical few hours to spend for me at work! And may I say that it really does feel like my godmother had her say in the running of it. To send another phone call straight away after I had received the news (I only very rarely get phone calls at work), as if to say that I shouldn’t start worrying and simply carry on. So typical of her! The meeting with the chaplain ( which had previously been cancelled) was another way of giving me the opportunity to talk should I feel like it (I didn’t). And then to send my boyfriend in the area (who was on work duty himself, and only did this about three times in 5 years) felt like yet another sign of ensuring I had someone there to make me feel supported. When I arrived home after work, a book I had ordered on my brothers recommendation was waiting for me. It is written by someone who was diagnosed with cancer and talks about the travels and experiences he had for the years to come. Very apt in line with her own life.
I like to see signs in things like that. Especially when they accumulate like this in a short space of time. She was always the one I thought of asking when something strange and unusual happened that nobody could explain. She was the expert in that field. Understanding and reassuring. We didn’t have enough contact, but both knew full well that the connection we had was always there. Tight and strong. And it still is.
I find it difficult to make it to the funeral. Travelling from England to Denmark on short notice is a bit of a trek. Driving is long and flying I find uncomfortable. On top of that is the university commitment, which I could skip for a few days. The unconventional thing is that I don’t need to go to someone’s funeral in order to…whatever you do at a funeral….say goodbye? I don’t need to do that. But I long for feeling her surroundings one more time, as if she was still there. Waiting for me, welcoming me, making me feel at home.
Is this what bereavement is? That this comfortable sense of belonging is broken? I worry that I will regret not going to the funeral. There will only be one. I whish life was easier than that.
As usual, I’m probably making more of a fuss about this than I deserve. I also realised that the older I get, the more these experiences will occur, the more I will learn about them. I suppose this is all part and parcel of life. A never ending cycle.