I just saw a friend whose mother died just over a month ago and we were speaking about the empty space that is left that was filled by the loved one’s earthly presence. I was sharing how after my sister died I read the biography of Anita Moorjhani who died and then came back to life after suffering terminal lymphoma, on the other side she met only a vast expanse of love, she saw more deeply into nature of her enormous struggle to be herself outside of her conditioning and her biography of the experience is called Dying to be Me. What I shared with my friend was that on the other side she felt herself to be connected to her father who had died many years before and realised the truth that the soul goes on, to a new phase of existence, that all the love we feel never dies and that really our soul is part of everything in death.
There is no way this kind of knowledge can totally fill the empty space once filled by a loved one’s presence though, nor erase all the memories of earthly connection and experience perhaps etched with tragedy, great joy, happiness, devastating separations or heart filling connection. After a loved one’s death we find ourselves alone and it is for ourselves that we grieve on some level, for the person we miss, for the connection we shared or never got to share. But perhaps the insight that some essence of our lost loved one goes on is a comfort while we grieve and come to terms with our loss.
It is the anniversary of my oldest sister’s death tomorrow and I found myself crying as I went back to the car, I drove home along the tree lined street now bursting with autumn colour that my nana used to live in and remembered how little I was really connected to my grandmother. At home alone after school I could have easily gone up to spend time with her in her little flat at the back of our house where she lived out the last 10 or so years of her life, but I didn’t and the reason must have been that I didn’t know how to connect with her. I was reminded that that one person in my family I really could connect to apart from my Mum is now gone.
This morning I was in a very dark space. Mum called me to let me know that she and a family friend are going to the real estate agents to see about letting out the town house we went to buy at auction just over a month ago. I couldn’t really speak much, I was in a deep place of exhaustion with everything. The house smells of varnish as I have had the back deck finally treated after 5 years of neglect. One by one I have fronted up to the repair tasks this place demands of me but at times I feel so alone and empty and on some level I am grieving the loss of an opportunity to move into something new even though the place wasn’t ideal for me.
The difference these days is that I don’t let this emptiness paralyse me like it has before. This morning I just sat quietly with my inner self and felt into my heart to listen to the part of me that is so tired. I then got out for a walk with Jasper We explored a new part of the local neighbourhood where I sometimes go to get my morning coffee and came upon a play ground with swings, close to a preschool. It felt comforting to me to swing in the air and feel the autumn sunshine on my skin and some of the deep heaviness and exhaustion lift for a while. And I am aware now, as I was earlier when I connected with my heart that even though I would like to say I have put my sister’s death behind me, I haven’t fully, I am still grieving and that is perfectly natural. I have definitely accepted it in a way I could not really accept my father’s death for years. I need to keep my own hearts’ door open to the grief that at times and on its own schedule needs to flow into cleanse my mind of illusions and prohibitions others have placed in it.
My sister’s life was full of tragedy but she made the very best of it. She never really got over losing her boys and her marriage on the back of her cerebral bleed and psychosis but she always had a smile when she broke through from the deep dark depths of despair that often lay claim to soul.
And as I drove along that tree lined street a little while ago I had the thought that many of us are possessed by ghosts or phantoms, there are the longings, the very real longings for attention and connection that never got met in our lives, there are the ghosts and empty holes of wounds left by deaths, endings, leavings or vacancies we had no control over. The best we can do is admit these facts to ourselves and try our very best to embrace them, rather than try to erase the very deep reality that tries to make itself known to our soul. We move on the best way we know how. As I said to my friend before, there is no resolution or closure for some losses or difficult experiences. We carry the wound, or the emptiness or the gaping hole for life, and look for ways to fill it the very best we can with presence and love.
In the silence that is left after those last words are written I hear my sister’s voice. I feel the comfort she wants me to find, I feel the love that was always there and will never be ended by any separation or death. I know my life will go I. I wont always feel the heaviness I have felt today. There are places and spaces of reprieve outside the loss that can bring happiness. Loss is not all there is, it is just one big part of my life story.