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)