”The empty path welcomes you,
fragrant with grass and little flowers,
the path paved with paddy fields
still bearing the marks of your childhood
and the fragrance of mother's hand.
Walk leisurely, peacefully.
Your feet touch the Earth deeply.
Don't let your thoughts carry you away.
Come back to the path every moment.
The path is your friend.
She will transmit to you her solidity, and her peace.”
Thich Nhat Hanh.
For seven days we have grieved. We have cried, we have laughed, we have cried some more, we have prayed, we have talked, we have remembered, we have hugged, we have kissed, we have shaken hands, we have shaken more hands, we have cried some more. Today we got up from the Shiva, the seven days of mourning, and returned to Mum’s grave. The circle of mourning has been completed. Now we begin our new life.
During the Shiva I learnt things about my mum I didn’t know. Well, not really things that I didn’t know, maybe things I didn’t really notice. I suppose you take your mother’s qualities for granted unless you get the opportunity to see her as others see her.
Throughout the months of her illness, Mum was always so grateful to the many people who were such good friends to her, so kind and so devoted in their day-to-day help and support. I said to her many times, we all did, that this was because she had been such a wonderful friend to them and they wanted to show their appreciation and love. She refused to accept this at all. I don’t know why, maybe because she was a genuinely modest person.
Mum didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in the way she always thought about other people and made such a great effort to show them she cared about them and appreciated them. Dad says she used to spend a fortune on stamps. Right up to her death she was more worried that her caregiver wasn’t eating properly and about the social worker’s sick child (to their amazement) than about her own troubles. When I came to be with her, she was forever sending me home to look after Bish and her beloved granddaughters. Her main worry, when she was diagnosed, was how would she look after Dad. I’m sure that’s why she was so determined to fight the illness, against all odds.
It was only during the Shiva, listening to people’s recollections and seeing the great efforts some people made to be there with us, that I realized how many people loved her and thought she was special. Someone said she was a ray of sunshine. People said she was always happy and smiling. Many people talked of her remarkable energy. Others spoke of her extraordinary ability to listen.
She lives on in our hearts. In time, I will come to accept that I will never again open the front door to find her standing there, smiling, with baskets full of gifts, her fragrance and freshness filling the room. In time, the pain of not being able to be with her will ease. It will take time, because she has always been there for me, for thirty-seven years. And I will be happy, knowing how very fortunate I am to have had her for my mum. And I will know that she is still there for me, but in a new way.
My family and I were surprised and deeply moved by the many kind, comforting words we received, on the comments of Not a Fish and by e-mail, from readers and fellow bloggers. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) says: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting” (Chap. 7). And I say, better, but not easier. I have been comforted, knowing you have been with me in my bereavement.
When I started Not a Fish, Mum had not long been diagnosed with cancer and was receiving heavy doses of chemotherapy. At first, I suppose, writing a blog was a feverish escape from sorrow and worry. But soon I discovered my parents were delighted and proud and it became a joy for me to be able to give them a little something of myself every day. I never mentioned Mum’s illness here (besides a hint here and there), because it was her private matter. I didn’t want to embarrass her. Later on, towards the end, I didn't want my personal pain to add to the heavy burden already carried by my dad. He was so devoted in his caring for Mum. I’d like to think Not a Fish has been some sort of small comfort for him.
When she became bedridden, Mum liked R.T. to read her this poem, which was one of her favorites when she was young. It always amazed me that, however busy she was, and she was always very busy, she always seemed to have time to enjoy looking out at the sea and at the sun setting into it, at the end of the day.
By Wm. Henry Davies.
”What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
Wednesday, December 04, 2002
”The empty path welcomes you,