Ghosteen, from the album Ghosteen by Nick Cave
Oh what to do on a day like today. Such a sense that sadness is thick in the air for all, do you dear reader, really need to know more about mine? I will try and give you some shades of light, with my darkness, and maybe a reason to believe, but if you want to look away please do.
It is always alright to look away. Sometimes we just can’t take any more sadness and that doesn’t mean that we don’t care. I know this is true, but I’ve struggled with this one.
You see my little girl would have been 26 tomorrow. And that really really matters to me. Each milestone a chance to reignite that roaring furnace of love, so tightly woven together with searing pain and grief. It is now eight years since my Chloe Jane died, but if you saw the state of my heart you’d think it was minutes ago.
As CS Lewis observed “It is the case is it not, that grief is, at the very least, one of the prices we pay for love.”
…and was it worth it? She asked me that once. She asked if I’d regretted having her as she could see how her dying was ripping me apart. Oh dear girl if only you knew – my girls were my very reason for breathing. I’d give my life for a minute to hear her voice again, touch her hand. It was worth everything to me and in a heartbeat if it meant I could have picked her as my daughter I’d do it all again.
Pictures are so important don’t you think. Words so often feeble in the face of this kind of grief. I scoured them all. The gorgeous blue eyed long limbed child who shone with life, hope and possibility. Tall and dark like her father, but I could always see my family in the way her eyes tilted slightly downwards and her mouth with that huge grin. I remember her mouth so well.
The picture had to nail something for me. Her burning spirit and a single minded mission to drink up all that life was offering for a beautiful, funny, sassy teenage girl. Boy, just a month ago this girl had had life at her feet, we hadn’t known then of the tsunami of cells that were about to break loose in her body and bring our wonderful life to an end. Forever.
The scene, a familiar one. The ribena bottle with a nod back to “I’m still a little girl at heart”. Drawers stuffed with the obligatory make up (including quite a bit of mine that had mysteriously gone missing) and my bold girl bursting with creativity wanting to dress up to the nines at any opportunity. F**k You Cancer – she had this emblazoned on her very spirit – this girl was not going down without one hell of a fight.
Chemotherapy in the morning, heels, nails and her oh so loyal girl gang seemed to form a steel circle of love and protection to see her on her way. Maybe they knew, as we did and I’m quite certain that she did although she never let on, that every evening was a chance to grab a little of life’s magic in the fading of the light.
I don’t write to make you sad, I write because it is terribly terribly important for us bereaved Mothers to raise the flame of our child’s memory above our heads and keep charging forward so in some way she gets to be taken into the future that she was so cruelly robbed of. Say her name, I shout. Because, you know what, people stop saying it and that hurts us all very much. And I know that people don’t really mean to hurt me – it just does.
Hope is a funny thing. It comes back when you least expect it. A hushed white winter morning, a smile from a random stranger, a promise of something better. I glimpsed it today in a beautiful painting with hints of warmer lighter spring days ahead. We humans are built to survive anything and I am living proof of that. I’ve come to love and embrace my dark days – major health warning here never push these dark days away as that is where trouble lies – I sit with them and let the emotion permeate my whole body. I am very very sad and that feels very appropriate.
When it’s done with me the weight of the sadness lifts a little and like a flickering candle a little joy and hope peek above the gloom. And for that I’m very grateful. In those moments I can tuck my child back into my heart and keep her close and safe. She talks to me sometimes and often I answer always in a whisper.
I so wish I’d written the following, as it so perfectly captures what I’m trying to say here. But how can anyone match the mighty Nick Cave when it comes to things like this.
“Grief is tidal. In time it can recede and leave us with feelings of peace and advancement, only for it to wash back in with all its crushing hopelessness and sorrow. Back and forth it goes, but with each retracting drift or despair, we are left a little stronger, more resilient, more essential and better in our new life.”
There is always light to be had. Always some light.
I dedicate my post to my daughter first and foremost and then to all of you who have suffered bereavement recently. Step gently dear friends it will in time get better.