It’s been a tricky month, hence my absence on here. My only aunt, my mum’s elder sister, died on Friday after a short illness. It’s been particularly hard on my mum watching her only sibling unwell and in pain, especially when she’d been so robust and independent before then.
Although she was 83, she still lived independently and definitely knew her own mind. She was widowed nearly 30 years ago having never had children so my brother and I were spoiled by her as the only children in the immediate family. She continues to look after us now she’s gone which I am particularly grateful for. The last few days have been focused on supporting my parents, informing others, arranging her funeral – selecting music and readings – and ensuring her last wishes are honoured. It’s all been a bit surreal.
There’s something about this time of year that makes losses or difficult circumstances more poignant and harder to deal with. I think it’s because everyone is expected to be ruthlessly jolly from Hallowe’en to New Year and the focus is on the family unit, which can be particularly difficult for those who can’t, don’t or won’t fit that mould.
As well this bereavement, a distant cousin is losing her six year battle with cancer, and leaves a 13-month old daughter behind. An old friend and her husband have made the tough decision to separate. Another is nursing their partner after a serious car accident. All feel guilty for not feeling festive or being as invested in the seasonal activities as society tells them they should be. It’s always hard to have to share sad, bad or tragic news, but at this time of year it always seems worse; as though you are responsible for spoiling the happy times of others.
It can be really difficult to articulate sadness, loss and grief. Edna St Vincent Millay says this so much more beautifully than I ever could, so I close this post with her words.
Dirge Without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Edna St Vincent Millay