You crossed over.
Several weeks ago, you left. I held your hand tightly, afraid to speak too loudly in case you woke, aleaving you to feel the weight of your physical pain once more.
I wanted to be your saviour, the one who walked you to the water’s edge and then kissed you goodbye. I can handle this, I told my loved ones – It’s meant to be me.
And it fit, felt right and so I continued, stroking your hair and feeling the warmth leave your body as you slipped deeper and deeper into unconsciousness.
It was just the two of us. Me, planning to hold you overnight before slipping out the next morning and darting across the road to work and you, surrendering slowly, preparing your wings for flight when you were ready. I just hadn’t expected you to fly quite so soon.
We come from a small family of strong minds and even stronger hearts. We try our best, stumble along the way and make up for it at the end. I was your only granddaughter, and you, the only one who held onto stories I wrote about you as an 8 year old – proud of something within them.
And while you did descend into the night as quickly as you had stepped into it, it was, at first, beautiful. Those last few moments of stillness, of silence, where I realised that I couldn’t have the peace to myself for much longer and needed to call for the nurses – were beautiful. While they raced in with tears in their eyes, their hands on their chests, I felt pride and joy that you had departed to a safer, kinder place.
I can handle this, I told myself once more, caught up in the adrenaline, the fast moving pace of life within those white walls and of feeling as if I could truly help.
Maybe I could even do this for a living, I thought to myself afterwards, scrambling online to find out more.
I pushed to the furthest parts of my mind the parts that scared me: Watching you change, the sound of you getting ready to go and the sad ones: the warmth leaving your tightly held hand and the forehead kisses I couldn’t stop giving you as I played with your hair, knowing that this was the last time I’d be able to do these things again.
She was older, it’s not meant to hurt, I also told myself. Death is a part of this life experience, a departure from here into the next room, an upgrade in flight seats but the humanness, the feeling of grief and loss, did not evade me.
So I put on my running shoes, and I tried. I got to the first corner. So far, so good. Double knotted my laces and raced around the block. Better, but not quite. And since that night you died, I haven’t stopped.
I’ve kept myself busy in the mornings, in the daytime and late into the night. Mindless stuff mostly, interweaved with heartfelt moments with my favourite people and spontaneous decisions: grabbing the scissors from the kitchen drawer, cutting my unruly hair inches shorter, choosing parts of my life to change – clinging to it as the only constant in the ocean of unknown waters.
We leave this life eventually, after all.
I’ve felt rebellious, daring to be different, to not care (or at least attempted to pretend that I don’t), to pick up the tight ball of sadness nestled beneath my ribcage and fling it far into the ocean. But it kept coming back, kept swirling around my tired feet so this is me, picking it up, twirling it in my fingertips and examining it.
In two years, I’ve watched several loved ones pass – each with their own unique processes and yet when I grieve for her, perhaps I simultaneously grieve for them all; favourites from my extended family, the last 3 of my remaining grandparents, and him, a cheeky soul who I don’t feel like has visited me in a while.
Things to do, places to be.
As a sensitive soul, I swallow down as many emotions as I can as not to drown in their depths. Yesterday, I asked someone who was encouraging me to feel, what happens if I can’t get back out?
Your body won’t let you.
And it was short, and sweet, yet comforting to explore the possibility that perhaps my soul, my highest self, my heart, mind, my vessel – this body of mine, would love me enough not to leave me stranded without a life raft to reach out to.
It was reassuring, and I trust it, I trust myself in this journey.
And while aside from a homestyle haircut job that quite possibly is not straight all the way around, and a weariness in my bones, a tiredness of simply being – I haven’t done many useful or helpful things – for myself at least – study included, and I’ve beat myself up enough for that. It hasn’t taken me far, or anywhere fancy at all, this running of mine. So my shoes are off, and I am here to stand in this feeling, arms at my side until it passes through. Maybe I’ll whisper a soft thankyou as gratitude for the good nestled beneath the sad. I know there’s plenty.
You can’t kill off weeds, Rachel. She used to say that, my nana. A sign of her stubbornness, a mirror reflection of my own.
Perhaps. But she was a wildflower – slightly crazy, determined and strong and it’s these qualities I am happy to embody moving forwards.
Vulnerability and all.