The cold air blows through the concrete shed. It is just us in here. Still, I leave my mask around my face. I don’t want to be here, and I don’t want to have this experience. I think of my mother sitting at home, unable to bring herself to stand here in this shed with us. I understand her. He takes photos and sends them to her. She approves and tells him to “go ahead”. Technology is a beautiful thing, especially during these times.
We walk around quietly. My husband begins to talk. I look at what he is referring to while my father agrees, “It is a nice one”. I want to pick one and go.
The cold marble feels icy as I run my fingers over it. It tingles throughout my fingers, making its way to my spine. I don’t want to be here, but I need to pick the right one.
How can I choose the ‘right’ one? This block of stone isn’t a gift I am choosing for him. What does ‘the right one’ even mean? My head spins.
No one talks about this part of laying those we love to rest.
Is it taboo?
Is it uncomfortable?
Is it too hard?
It is the second most challenging thing I have ever had to do in my thirty-nine years on this earth. And here I was once again, standing in an unfamiliar world, having an experience no parent should have with my parents and husband.
We choose two; one for my brother and one for my son.
The man came back into the room, his almond eyes low. “So you have decided”. The three of us nodded.
We spoke to him for a few minutes before walking out of the cold shed into the afternoons light shower of rain.
We sat in the car in silence.
“Mammy might have had the right idea”, I finally spoke.
“Nah, you’re too like your dad, you like to be in control”, he laughed while holding my hand.
I thought about that; I am very like my dad, I felt I had to go. My parents are the strongest people I know; when my mother can’t, my father can and vice versa. I looked at my husband and knew if I couldn’t come back here to discuss the final details, he could. I could count on him as my mother can count on my dad. And vice versa.
This week the Galway Hospice shared a video entitled “One story encourages another”.
A little piece of my writing was included in the video. It was an honour to hear my words spoken.
I wanted to leave it here too for you to read.
“It’s a lonely place. The wind carries the sound of cows grazing. The faint noises of passing cars float above me while the sun shines. The sun provides little warmth, while the cows remind me that life does indeed go on, the wind pushes me from side to side, ensuring I know that I am not rooted to this spot, this time or this place of rest, not yet, anyway.
I think of my little sister living over in Australia; I think of her pain this past year. I think of her strength to get up each morning to look after her little family and how her heart must break for us, her family, here in Ireland. I think of how the world stopped, and she could not be with us as we said our final goodbyes. I shake my head as tears fall; I am grateful for video calling, but what I wouldn’t give to hug her.
I think of my family here. I think of the two funerals we have had to go through during this worldwide pandemic. The first one was so isolating, so lonely, having no people around us to the second funeral where people could be around us but only if they had masked up, stayed outside and left in 15 minutes.
I think of funerals before the pandemic. I realise how essential wakes are, how invaluable the house filled with people talking, sharing stories, hugging, kissing, laughing and crying all helps with the grieving process.
We didn’t have that back in March when my darling brother left this world, and we didn’t have it when my precious son left this world in September.
I visit this place once a week now before it was daily. I break the five-kilometre rule to stand here and think about what has happened to our family over this year.
It’s become a place where I meet my family. We all stand apart, yet together, unable to hug, kiss or hold each other tight. Grief, they say, is a process. This pandemic has stopped everything in this world, including the process of grieving.
Yes, I stand at their resting places as the world goes on around me. I pause as the tears fall, and I know pandemic or no pandemic, my life will never be the same as it once was. The lives of my family have changed forever.“
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