Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Strands of Life

For Veronica
Tibetan prayer flags
Mayne Island, 8 July 2006

Veronica, my Beloved Mother-in-Law, died on Wednesday, 5 July 2006. She passed away peacefully after a difficult, eight-year cohabitation with ovarian cancer. She had only recently turned sixty-four. Though we all knew for some time that she would be leaving this world sooner rather than later, I cannot quite believe it has happened.

I miss her tremendously. It hurts. And though I feel I want to say so much, I'm not sure how to say it. I fear this will be an inarticulate, fragmentary post.

During her last couple of days in hospital, I witnessed her body decline. Her breathing grew shallower and more laboured, her pulse more thready. Her thin frame had become almost bird-like, as if she were preparing to fly away. The narcotics had finally purchased relief from debilitating pain, but at the price of her consciousness. At that stage, however, it was an appropriate bargain.

The long process of her physical unweaving was nearing conclusion. And in the early hours of last Wednesday morning, with her husband, my Dearest Father-In-Law, present, her skein of life finally unravelled.

And yet I can still see many of the strands that once made up Veronica. They are strong. They are magnificently colourful. They are vibrant. And they are all around me.

I see them in the fortitude and devotion of Dearest Wife, Veronica's child.

I see them in the irrepressible exuberance and impish laughter of Little Man and Darling Daughter, whose very existence was a direct, life-affirming response to Veronica's initial diagnosis.

I both hear them in the folky music she enjoyed, and see them in the quirky little dances she would unconsciously do while listening.

I see them woven into her net of cherished friends, a net that she cast wide and is now drawing tightly together in support and remembrance.

I see them in the memory from a few weeks back, when she thoroughly delighted in the here and now of a summer's evening spent with us all at the UBC Botanical Gardens.

I see them in her mindfulness towards adversity and suffering, bereft of bitterness and imbued with a desire to use every single experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I see them in the non-judgemental openness that made her to me as much a friend as a delightfully inherited relative (though I don't think she ever fully understood my love of what she called my "loud music.")

I see, hear, and smell them particularly acutely in the sparkling seas and vast skies of her beloved Mayne Island.

Veronica is gone, but she is not missing. I, we, just have to remember where to find her.

Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
So that I may be part of all you see, the air you are breathing
I'll be part of the curlew's cry and the soaring hawk
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds
I'll be riding the gentle breeze as it blows through your hair
Reminding you how we shared in the joy of living
-- Ewan MacColl

Joey Ramone - Wonderful World (buy here)
Bourne & MacLeod - Dance & Celebrate (buy here)
Ewan MacColl - The Joy of Living (buy here)


Mentok the Mind-taker said...

I don't think I've ever read a better expression of reincarnation. If you don't mind, I think I may save it and print it out whenever someone asks me what we mean by reincarnation.

...And that would become a further strand of hers, weaving its way all over the world...the immortal power of karma.

Take care and best wishes to your wife and family. I can't think of anything more profound to say than that, but in my recent experience of loss I found that all expressions of sympathy were simultaneously totally empty and totally meaningful. Do you know what I mean?

L'Anonyme de Chateau Rouge said...

Fil, tu écris vraiment bien. Dans d'autres circonstances j'aurais essayé d'écrire en anglais. Un "veritable sale anglais". Je me contente de mon mauvais français.
En tout cas toute l'émotion du monde se retrouve dans tes mots.
pas de commentaires, pas de jugements, pas du reste du monde....Juste l'impression étrange d'être en communion avec une autre personne...toi.

keep the faith, like we speaks in canada.

Rachel said...

A Veronica ! A une vie a habité bien ! A son esprit qui continue sur !

Vos mots célèbrent ici sa vie et cela est une belle chose. J'envoie mon amour à vous, votre femme, la petite une, et votre père dans la loi.


L'amour, Rachel

A. B. Chairiet said...

Oh Fil,

I'm so sorry.

I hope you and your family are well. And I wish, hope, and pray for your comfort.

Just truly sorry...and I'm so sorry you're hurting. I hope that hurt goes away as soon as it needs to.

Best of well-wishes and peaceful thoughts to you, your family, and everyone who's feeling that hurt along with you.

Happy Thursday, Fil.

~ Ash

coxon le woof said...

Sorry to hear of your loss, Fil.

My thoughts are with you and yours.

May your memory's continue to live on and bring you some consolation.

merz said...

Sorry for your loss Brother, beautiful words and memories...



Brad said...

Very sorry to hear about Veronica, and I'm sure this is hard for your family, especially after your own father's passing. You wrote her a beautiful eulogy. My mother is visiting us this week, and your note is a good reminder to give her an extra hug.

Anonymous said...

So sad to hear about this, your 2nd loss in the last few months. I hope your family is holding up. Luckily you have each other to share memories.

The other night, I got home really late from work and before we went to bed, Neil had me watch the last 10 minutes of the series finale of Six Feet Under. It was so amazingly powerful and beautiful. It got us both thinking about the importance of the connections we make in this lifetime and how special and fragile they are. Family and friends are the reason we exist and enrich our lives like nothing else.

Best wishes for you and yours,


FiL said...

Mentok, of course you may use this as you see fit. I'm humbled.

ACR, merci. Vos mot m'émouvoient. Et je garderai la foie!

Ash, Coxon, Merz, thank you so very much.

Brad, indeed, do give her an extra hug from us on top of yours! Yes, it is all a bit much, but there we have it. I visited your blog briefly, but I must do so again and spend more, be it virtual, time with you & your lovely family.

Bryce, thank you too for your thoughtful words. Indeed, those connections are vital. I'm so glad we have them. At the same time I'm also witnessing in another (as yet unblogged) sphere the damaging effects of not having them. And that's sad.


colleen said...

oh FiL -- so sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. that was a beautiful post. xo c