Tenacious invisible threads tie us to those we love through our heart through our gut and leaving after an all too brief time spent together can be so painful. We are aware of the final ending that will come only dimly but the knowing is there especially if we have faced loss before and had our heart torn out of our chest or broken in two from someone else’s leaving.
I was conscious of this pain today as I sat in the hospital with my Mum who is recovering from a fractured pelvis and my nephew arrived with his mother, my sister to visit after a three hour journey from his home some 250 kms away. These kind of get togethers are exceptionally rare and painful for my sister who has gone through so much over the past ten years including an ending of a 30 year marriage amongst so many other changes, endings and losses.
As I considered the three of us sitting there with my youngest nephew (not so young now – 33 but still the last in a line of 9) I was reminded of how much love is there and also of the many ways in which due to being hurt I have erected barriers and defences against love as well as the deep pain that comes as we say goodbye.
I don’t have any of my own children so in this way my nephews and one niece are extremely precious to me. There have been fractures in several of these relationships which never fully repaired and left me bleeding for years. I see the part I played in this and also how they may not be so aware of what has gone done in my own life to make these connections extra important.
I think of my Dads’ second sister who I only met properly 14 years ago, of the love she had for us so far away on the other side of the hemisphere, of how when I was suffering at the end of my own marriage and being treated cruelly by a family I was boarding with in the UK, she was the one to reach out and offer the comfort I needed.
She is gone now and I was so sad when she died. But I was also glad for the connection we finally made which helped me to realise how deeply we are joined by ties of blood even when that person has not been a highly visible presence in our lives.
This evening as darkness falls, I think of my sister having so say goodbye to her youngest son after only a day and being returned to the hospital, of the pain of that. I want to comfort her having known that pain. And yet, I hesitate.
Lately a therapist said to me. “We come into this world alone and we die alone, so we better make sure we treat ourselves well and become our own best friend.” And yet the connections with others in the long run are what are so precious and valuable too. Leaving will remind us of our true separateness from others, that endings come in earthly connections but not within our own heart where the longing and love remains and our connection goes on.
Last Easter Saturday (a year ago) at this time I was by the bed of my sister holding her hand as she lay dying awaiting the arrival of her four sons, one of whom was flying in from overseas that night. I knew that in a few hours I would have to say goodbye along with the rest of the family. We had had to make the difficult decision to take my sister off life support.
I remained with her for 8 hours and during that time they turned off the machine that was breathing for her. At 1 am I said my goodbyes and left the hospital. I knew I had to let her go. But at the same time it seemed impossible that she would pass, I was sure she would rally and rise from the flames like phoenix as she had in the past. Early on easter Sunday morning I got the call to say she had passed over at 3 am. Tonight I lit a candle for her by the photo of her on her wedding day with her little book on angels nearby. Though I miss her, have grieved and still grieving her deeply, I know that as long as I live on we are connected and she lives deeply within my own heart.
Parting is such sweet sorrow and at times the sorrow is not so sweet but cuts like a knife. In the cutting and with the separation we know the wound of love that is the price of having connected for whatever time we had. With some relationships we will have been forever changed by the connection for good or ill and the hurting that is left will be an essential part of our journey on the road of life and love.
In the privacy of our heart we remember, alone, in the silence and stillness of now. Coming to terms with this aloneness and with the pain of separation is part of the bittersweet journey of life, love and connection along the path we travel.