Dear Beth, I miss you.

5 04 2012


Dear Beth,
you’ve been gone for 16 weeks. 16 weeks today.
I don’t care what the date was, I’ll always know it was a Thursday. I was there when the phone rang at 5.30am, wrenching us from sleep with an instant knowing that something was wrong. No one rings at that hour. Blinking my eyes quickly I saw my beloved standing in the doorway, her face horrified, clutching her chest in disbelief, yelling at Dad. I sat up, my heart was pounding and tried to make my ears work properly. This isn’t real, I can’t be hearing right, it’s a dream, I’m having a nightmare, a night terror. I tried again to wake up, shook my head, blinked, slapped my own face. She sat on the edge of the bed pale and stunned. Dad’s words repeated through the speaker-phone, his voice reduced to a small, husky choke. You were gone.

Just like that.

We farewelled you the next Thursday in an overcrowded chapel. I keep hoping I’ll wake one Thursday and it will be different. It’s crazy-making. My mind knows you died but my heart still holds you alive. Sometimes my heart and mind argue and I’m caught in the middle.

My mind knows you’re gone. I was there when they carried your body away. We all huddled together and I said a prayer. As your body left your house I asked you to stay in our hearts. And you did. My heart still holds you alive, tricking me, replaying your voice, your laugh, causing me to take a second hopeful look at ladies lunching in town before it sinks again. Oh, that’s right…

Some days I go along fine, I talk to you and think of you or point out lovely things to you when I’m window shopping. My throat doesn’t hurt, my heart isn’t heavy and I can miss you with pure thankfulness and love, grateful for you being part of my life.
But not today.

Today is one of those days.
They come regularly, privately, suddenly.
I miss you deeply. I long to hear from you. My throat hurts and my stomach tightens. Parts of me feel like they physically peel back as tears well up from nowhere. They’re not from nowhere though. They’re from deep within, in a sacred heart space where we shared warmth and joy and love together, laughter, a knowing look, an understanding, a great respect. Now you’re gone that space echoes without you. Why do the tears start? I don’t know, they just come on at random times, as uninvited and impossible to stop as a sneeze.

I didn’t realise how much I loved you. I feel foolish now that I didn’t show you enough. I hope you recognised what I couldn’t see. Next week I’ll go to that new fabric shop I passed near the bakery and I’ll show you around. There are some really nice table runners in there I know you’ll like… Maybe I’ll buy some handkerchiefs. x x x

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Create a memory for someone

13 02 2012

Street Parade - York St, Albany, Western Australia. Photo: E. Morrison.

Photo albums full of pictures, telling stories of adventure.
Men with long side-burns and ruffled shirts. Women in long gowns and gloves.
Moments in time captured in candid colour.
People, places and parties here and overseas.
Photos of children holding fish, running races and homemade costumes.
Weddings, babies, cakes and candles.
All moments in time, all telling a story, all important enough to keep.
You documented your family’s life in pictures unposed.  
So many albums of memories for all of us left here – but so few of the one behind the lens.

I know I’m preaching to the converted here – most of you reading this will be keeping a blog of some description. But how many people know our personal story? How many of us tell our story? What will be told when we’re no longer here? For a time, some of those around us will have fond memories to talk about but what about the future?

I’ve been looking at my family tree lately, trying to piece together scant information for a particular branch that moved to New Zealand. Some relatives are literally just a name on the Census or birth certificate. There is no story. With more work I can find a marriage certificate or death certificate, but in some cases, that’s it. A great uncle moved from England to New Zealand with his wife in 1921 and he died in 1974. A life was lived but there are so many gaps, so many blank sections that make me wonder.

I’ve also been cataloging photos for our family. There are so many albums full of polaroids and insta-matic photos, all taken by Beth. She spent so much time behind the camera, capturing candid moments to share later. It has taught me a lot about the photos I take. The ones we treasure are not posed or staged. They are not straight or well composed. They’re the quick shots that capture a person’s famous laugh, rather than the photo face we all seem to find. I must get out from behind my camera too and leave some trace of me behind.

We sit now without her and tell the stories behind the photos. There is a painful irony to the activity. Beth would have loved nothing better than sitting around the table with us, going through photos and remembering stories, telling and sharing them with love and laughter.

Are there captions to your photos? Do they tell a story? Would anyone know what captured your eye as you took that shot? Was it beauty, sadness, awe? Was it taken by chance or did you set out to find it? What does it say about you?  Where were you?

It makes me wonder – how many people really know your story, my story?  When you’re not here, even the mundane questions will be mulled over. Make a start, caption your photos and get out from behind the lens so we see you and not just the world through your eyes.

I wish we’d made time to find out more, to share time and tales together. If you want to start your story but aren’t sure how to get going, check out these Interview Questions from Ancestry.com and see how you go.

If you want to take small steps, visit my friend Cee’s blog and take part in the “Share your World” posts she runs.

Write it, post it, blog it, draw it, but do something for those who will miss you when you’re not here.  You’re much more than a name on the Census.





The Precious Pearl

30 01 2012

Pearl Lugger – Broome, North West Australia.

Pearls are precious to us my love,
they remind us that our love is strong and unique,
growing slowly and quietly,
year by year, layer by layer,
shining with a soft and pearly lustre.

Our pearls grew inside the tough shell
of an oyster that had its insides punctured.
In response to the painful wound
it grew a pearl to heal the scar.
Year by year, layer by layer,
such a beautiful and precious response.

May the pain and sorrow we all feel
in our punctured hearts
heal as a pearl,
with grace and beauty;
slowly and quietly
year by year, layer by layer.
So we will treasure, remember and speak of Mum
with a beautiful pearly lustre.





The steep path of grief

23 01 2012

Bluff Knoll - Stirling Range National Park, Albany. WAustralia.

I wish you were here.  I wish you were here to help me walk this way, I’d be telling you all about this journey.  You’d be leading, making us rest, cheering us on, keeping us going.  I can’t see very far ahead today, the path is steep and uneven, just as I thought it was levelling out.  How did I get here?  I keep stopping, looking back over land that spans a lifetime, the pauses make the climb seem easier for a moment.  I can catch my breath, see where I’ve been and trace my footsteps with certainty.  I look backwards towards the horizon and see some things with a clarity never realised.  Some familiar landmarks look totally insignificant from this viewpoint – funny, I thought they were monumental.  Each step forward is uncertain and tiring but it’s physically impossible to rush.  The ground is unfamiliar and I have no idea how far I have to go until I’m ‘there’.  I have no idea where ‘there‘ is.  I wonder if I’ll recognise it.  I wonder how long it will take.  I wonder where the others are.  I wonder why I bother planning when the only certainty I have in life is this moment – this breath, this minute.  I wonder what I’m doing.  I pause to breathe deeply, sucking in the silence before turning back to the path before going on.  I try not to look to far ahead, just take one step at a time – “When walking, just walk” I hear my Zen-voice say.  I still wish you were here.








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