I feel like I’ve gone through 200 rounds with Muhammed Ali this morning. Either that or my boat has for the past 48 hours been tossed around on stormy seas there are high winds and no sign of land only steel grey skies with sharks circling all around the boat and I am not sure that I will ever see dry land again.
Trigger today. My dead sister, Judith’s 63rd birthday. History between us, she the sister more like a mother who left when I was three, who I longed for. The only one who really wanted me and to spend time with me, would send for me at holiday time and make me a part of her growing family. Leaving them (they lived 300 kilometres away) would break my heart. I wished I could be her baby and be a part of her family but in the end her family got torn apart by the fact she strove and strove to be recognised in a family devoted to business. She went into her own interior design business and pushed the envelope too far by drinking too much, working too hard and there were other stressful factors I will probably never know about but the end result was a cerebral bleed in mid February 1980 when she was 36 and resulted in a coma. It was I who wished she would come home and live in our home town but when she did this is what happened. As a child on some level did I feel I had caused it by wishing her closer? I don’t know.
There was much, much, much more trauma to follow, her husband’s eventual abandonment, our estrangement from her four sons for quite a number of years, the two littlies never really knowing their mum never wanted to leave them when her husband sent her back home to Dad and Mum and me a broken woman with a twisted leg in a wheelchair in a blue tracksuit with one suitcase all that remained of her possessions. Her former passion and beauty slowly erased. There was the suicide attempt where we found her passed out with a photograph of her four boys clasped to her chest. It was her pain but it drowned the house which became sodden with it and it seeped into my tissues, I increasingly tried to keep it at bay with alcohol but so much other pain was going down for me then too and as I look back upon that time I see the truth, I was a young girl who was becoming increasingly lost. It was such a dark, dark time. As I think about it now there were no words for what was going down then and there for all of us, there was only this heavy laden atmosphere peopled with ghosts and shades within which I continued to struggle to live and find my way.
I need to remind myself, what happened to Jude didn’t happen to me, but what happened to her dogged my life anyway. Was it self centred of me to make it about me? In later years when I really needed to choose for my own life I found it so hard to decide to live so far from home when she was suffering, but I look back now and see that the decisions I made were a reverse form of narcissism on some level, (making myself responsible for her) but maybe even saying that diminishes the love I felt for my sister. I didn’t want her to suffer alone. I wanted to be close enough to be the one person who could sit by her and hear her pain because in the care home all they did was put meds down her throat. Apart from the beautiful Anglican ladies who befriended her though, I was surely not the only one who could really be there. And my other sister was there for Jude as much as she could be..
Yesterday I had a vision of Jude as she was in later years. Her hair formerly dyed allowed to now be a gorgeous silverly grey spread about her head like a halo or a lion’s mane. The shimmery strands of it framing an aging a face that had known deep pain, sometimes contorted with the agony of her entrapment there in a bed living like a beached whale her body now increasingly bloated due to inactivity and over 20 years of medication. And yet none of this could really erase the beauty of her soul, a soul that shone forth and in many ways accepted with grace the tragic trajectory of her own painful choices and their traumatic results.
I’ll say it again, it wasn’t my life but I was drawn towards her pain like a magnet. And lovers went down, connections went down when I refused to leave and embrace the happiness of a full life outside of that pain. Which I think is the real reason today that I feel like I am tired and strung out. I feel the tide of my living sister’s request to honour my dead sister pulling on me like a weight when all I really want to do is let her and the past go, fully realising in a way that I have not until now that she is gone and it IS the past. A past I will never in a million years be able to change. And perhaps why I held on for so long was that over the following years so much went down with the true roots of it laying deep and unrecognised in the absence of a witness to help me process all of the pain, shed all the tears, without a place to know the unrequited longing that drove me how could I let it or her go knowing that my longing is in vain and must be now turned towards my own life towards my own self, for time is passing and in the passing the growing emptiness I feel at time is so much, NOT what I want for the rest of my life.
And I feel so guilty saying that deep down today I want to say this. “No. I don’t want to go to the cemetery and grieve a sister who is not there and make of it some kind of celebration of ineffectual doom.” (sorry wow, that’s harsh). I want to be where there is life, for I know that Jude loved life. I remember after she passed being very angry with my niece in law who said to me “Jude wouldn’t want you to be feeling sad”, when I was feeling so sad, but on some level I get what she was saying. Maybe the dead don’t want us to be sad forever, for life passes and in the end the only joy we find comes from holding it lightly in both hands, in blessing it and then opening our hands and surrendering that life to the wind as we grieve. And it seems to me as I shed deep guttural sobs reading this that in the letting go is contained all the pain, all the grief, all the longing and all of the healing in equal measure. And each fully felt and surrendered to brings eventual transformation. Held in the jaws of the Lion we wrestle each with our demons until our demons become angels that fly free of the Lions mouth in a roar that can be almost deafening on a soul level but then becomes a beautiful silence. And it seems fitting as I write that to remember that Jude’s Pluto in Leo at 11 degrees opposed my Saturn Mars Moon Sun Venus Mercury and Jupiter and sat very close to my own Leo North Node.
In my minds eye I see the loving gaze she bestowed on me throughout my life. And I know beyond doubt that though she is gone from this earth on some level she is closer to me than she ever was and freer in spirit and I too am free to hear her voice in any moment in which I open up my soul and heart to feel her close by me. I know she would want me to leave a prison of pain to live and embrace a full life, the full life she lost access to and so longed to live but was thwarted from living by so many forces when ‘dis-abled’ . I want to live so much. She is and was the sister I loved but her earthly life was barricaded and full of frustration which makes me ask deeper questions about how I am living now and how profoundly her accident and trauma has affected my own world view and kept me in prison over years.
So today I am not sure what urge or pull I will honour in regards to going or not going to the cemetry, but in writing this some of the tiredness had left me, and part of me feels as though it is once more standing on dry land, a land fundamentally altered by a storm that has passed but leaves a memory a memory that in reminding me of pain beseeches me to live and embrace a full, deep, rich life.