There's been a bit of death around me lately, though this is not something the phases me. Rather, it makes me feel somewhat blessed.
My aunt, a midwife for over forty years, once told me that it is an honour to witness both birth and death, as you see a person entering and leaving the world. I've never forgotten that.
What both of these events always bring, is a period of adjustment.
I'm sitting here pondering my niece's passing. A year ago on Friday she left us and the family has been in a state of adjustment ever since.
At present, a friend of mine sits next to her mother's bedside as she rages against the dying of the light. My friend's mother is in her late nineties - and she doesn't want to go - fighting all the way as her body fails her.
She deserves some peace.
My other friend, who I spoke of last week, spoke eloquently of how her six-year-old daughter died in her arms on Friday night. Her end came suddenly after a short but very well loved life. My friend's faith, her friends and an outlook that looks for blessings and kindnesses is seeing her through.. In my friend's case, I'm sure this was something that she may have known could happen. Not that it makes it any easier.That she is being supported by friends, family and faith make this loss a touch more tolerable to the outside view.
My friend is only just finding her adjustments - of which there will be many.
These adjustments will come for years to come.
I spoke to my sister on the weekend and we spoke of my niece and her passing.
It's hard to know what to do or say under the circumstances of an anniversary. I know when I finally saw her after my niece had died, after they had travelled back from Brisbane, after she had re-settled in the house she hadn't seen in three month.
It was Christmas Day last year, all I could do is hold her and say, "Well this is shit."
It is shit. It's always going to be shit. That never goes away.
We spoke of the relief we both felt when she finally passed. Her death was a long, drawn out and horrific affair. Leukaemia can do that. She said it took months to get over the guilt she felt for feeling this relief.
I can't feel bad about feeling this. Despite wishing she was still with us in body, rather than spirit, knowing that she is no longer suffering made this feeling valid and acceptable.
There have been so many adjustments. When asked of family, I say I have two nieces, but one is no longer with us. Life is cruel like that.
I did my Christmas shopping on the weekend. I mentally ticked off that I did not have to get anything for Lolly - her birthday was just before Christmas. I smiled at myself as it always, sorta/kinda used to nark me that her birthday was so close to Christmas and my sister could have been a bit more considerate about the timing of her birth. It's a silly thing to get narky about, under the circumstances.
I remember walking into my niece's room last year. There, another adjustment - the apostrophe used to be on the other side of the 's'. Gone were the K-Pop posters and make up. Replacing them, a more sedate, yet happy room, reflective of my younger niece's less rambuctious personality. They used to share a room.
It's different now.
For me, a year after Lolly died, I look at the hole that has been left. That she died will always be a criminal waste, but this is the order of life. Some of us are meant to die young, and peacefully. Others, like my friend's mother, who is raging against what ever God throws at her, will try to hold off the inevitable.
For myself - for anybody - I wish for the peaceful option. JK Rowling put it well in her "Tales of Beedle the Bard". In the tale of "The Deathly Hallows", the last brother in the tale, the one who lived the life under the cloak of invisibility, when he was ready, “And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.”
I know that I'm blessed to bear witness to these departures, as much as they hurt.
Then it's a matter of preparing for the adjustments.
I keep a translation of the Jewish Kaddish for the Dead close to me at times like these. The Hebrew cuts me to the quick every time.
In English, the prayer is softened.
Exalted and hallowed be God's great name
in the world which God created, according to plan.
May God's majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime
and the life of all Israel -- speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.