Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Rites Of Passage

Life has been hectic. We thought we were on holiday but we now feel like we need another to get over it! Bank holiday after bank holiday, sunshine and fun!

We've made way for new furniture, at last the children's room looks cosy and inviting with a bunk bed - Zander's pride of place as he is on the top bunk being the eldest and the most skilled monkey in the troup!

And my little boy is turning four on friday. Four! where has the time gone? We made a countdown calendar for the final six days of waiting and I've started to scurry about making preparations for the big day. Zander has his cake request in (chocolate with white icing and cherries in a circle on the top!) and likewise with birthday tea. I'm trying to think of all the little family rituals I can start that will make things super special and leave memories that will have them bursting with anticipation for the next birthday and reminiscing fondly in years to come.

I am extremely excited for him yet I have drifted into a slightly more sombre place in the last forty eight hours after news on saturday night that my maternal grandmother is dying. She is in the latter stages of alzheimer's, her body is shutting down I think.

So I have a busy few days ahead. I have a birthday candle to decorate, a cake to make, presents to wrap, balloons and streamers to adorn the playroom with and a picnic party to bake for.

I am ashamed to say I've only seen her once in the last two years but I visited on sunday before it was too late. She didn't look much like my Grandma, her eyes were sunken, nothing holding them from behind. Her jaw hanging open as she drifted. She clearly woke for a few beautiful minutes which reminded me of watching a newborn wake - not very long at a time, gazing at those around them taking it all in. But her energy was unmistakably that of my Grandma.

I held her hand and I chatted a bit but felt no discomfort sitting in some silence too, just holding her hand letting her spirit know I was there. I had taken Gaia with me as she's too young to grasp what's happening and I hoped her bubbling chatter and giggles might be a tonic for old tired ears. I went to take my hand away so as to attend to Gaia but my Grandma tried to pull my fingers back - the slightest movement but unmistakeable - like when you try and release your finger from a babies grip. And I could not pull away. The love I felt flowing from her, even now in her most autumn of days, was so pure.

She's lived a very pure life. When I think of everything she's done, everything she's accomplished I cannot think of anything she's done that has not been for the good of others. The most remarkable woman, the strongest of women, the kindest of women, the boldest of women, the bravest of women, the most inspiring. She and my Grandad have inspired us for as long as I can remember - with their own interests - gardening, cooking, making clothes, nature, birds, camping, crafts and their qualities - respect, compassion, equanimity.

This is a very big moment for me. Since I was fifteen and first gave it thought, I have not been at peace with mortality, mine or anyone else's. Not even the spirituality and philosophy I've read into since nor the people I've met and spoken about it with, or the books I've read and pages I've written have not bought me peace with it.

I have been tested recently with Zander who has myriad questions about the subject. I know I must not pass down irksome feelings about old age and death but hearing him talking about it breaks my heart. Already, the repetition of answers to his young inquiring questions has started to heal my uneasiness. And already I feel this experience will help to iron out more. It is time to face my fears.

Today the time looked closer, yet another beautiful day spent with her today - with my brother, my sister, my Mum and my grandad. Thankful for my bosses understanding and need to go to her. We sat and listened to her life stories from my Grandad, of how they met her enormous role in the war and memories of our times together. It feels like we are truly walking this part together, holding hands, her hands, walking with her as far as we can go. It feels like this rite of passage is not only hers but we share it with her. I feel like I am doing what I should be - participating in the other end of life's rites - I've birthed my babies, the next generation and so i must help my grandma with her transition, her re-birth. I know she believes in God and Heaven and though I do not share her particular faith I know that energy cannot die and we must all leave our footprints in the sands of time, our imprint on the universe. So this energy must go somewhere, this energy I know as soul or spirit must live on.

It feels like time is slowing down, for all of us so that we can take the time to do as our ancestors would have done before us. And as she cared for her girls and us when we were young, so we now care for, comfort, reassure and attend her needs. Timeless in the same sense as those first days spent with a newborn where no one runs to schedule, normal activities can cease and make way for a more subtle gentle rhythm. We take off our work hats and direct our energy towards a vulnerable spirit.

I must not forget to mention my Grandad here and his immensely inspiring unconditional, unending, wholehearted love and devotion to her. He is staying with her in her care home and sits holding her hand each day, talking to her, playing music - favourite hymns and songs invoking past memories. He strokes her arm and he is brave, so brave. I cannot imagine what it is like to sit with your most beloved as they prepare for the journey. It must be agonising knowing the inevitability that is to come yet waiting as she refuses to give up just a little longer. She never gave up on anything.

I have so many words swirling round my head, bursting to get out. I think I could write for hours more but I am tired. There is a great deal to be celebrated here and I wanted to capture it as it happened, as I did when my babies were born and so I will at each landmark I come to in life. What a lady! 

And I must get into birthday gear too, I know she would have wanted that!

Peace X


  1. Oh Rose that was beautifully written. You made me cry just reading it.

    i am thinking of you over the next few days a weeks as i know how you are feeling. when my grand parents died we were in a similar situation, holding hands every moment i could manage, children babbling in the background, and the unconditional love they had for each other. so sad, heart breaking.

  2. Beautiful, Rose, absolutely beautiful.

    My heart aches for the loss you will experience, but oh, so many good things to remember, hun, so much life to celebrate and remember.

    Blessings, my dear.

  3. Beautiful words Rose
    Let death hold no fear as the joys of the life lived will linger on in the memories of all who's path was crossed. The living will feel sadness as they are the ones who are losing something and someone special, the dying are going on to life anew.
    My thoughts are with you, and I hope for your peace to continue.
    Birthday wishes too for a special boy.


  4. Beautifully written, and this has stirred some memories for me of my own grandmothers passing. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    I do hope Zander had a lovely birthday on Friday. x