The water creature

The funeral was yesterday. The sun shone brightly, putting Wiltshire’s landscape in sharp relief with the overexposed colours of autumn.

In the morning I had discovered that waterproof mascara works on eyelashes already wet with tears.

In the last post I wrote about grief being like waves of all sizes, from small lapping ones to tidal waves. Now I have another water metaphor: grief is a water creature (I’m picturing the Loch Ness monster) which usually stays quiet in its dark, cold depths but recently has been living near the surface, and raising its head up for a look around.

During the whole service yesterday, I kept my eyes fixed on the back of my goddaughter’s head. Her long brown hair now features some captivating purple streaks. She was upset and crying and also extremely brave and collected, and managed a reading with hardly even a tremour in her voice.

The death of Christopher, the father of my goddaughter, has stirred the water creature and brought it to the surface. But it’s my mother’s death, so seminal in my life, that makes up my own water creature, this mass of dark pain. How is the death of a loved one felt by somebody when they experience it at an older age? Not so big, so deep, so dark?

Staring at the back of my goddaughter’s head, I thought about her being on her own journey, with her own story, and her own pain. I wonder how she will think of this time in ten, twenty, thirty years, and when she has children and grandchildren.

That word, “seminal” coming from seed, life: life and death. I was actually the first person to see my goddaughter at her birth, which I mentioned to her the other day – and in her world-wise way, of course she already knew about it.

At the funeral was a friend from those times more than a decade ago, who had also been at the birth. She said that it was such a profound experience that at the time, she thought she would have changed her work or her life’s path somehow. You often hear of a death, or illness like cancer, changing people’s lives, but I’d never thought of witnessing a birth having such a profound effect.

Christopher’s vibrant personality made itself felt in the service; in fact, he had orchestrated the whole thing and the priest mentioned a few times that it was the first time one of her sermons had been commandeered from the beyond. It was full of humour and music – not only Lou Reed’s Perfect Day and The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, but also “Hail the Pirate Captain” from the most recent panto, Peter Pan, which Christopher and his daughter had performed in.

Playing Perfect Day this morning brought tears to my eyes again, and I’ve had The Staves on constantly over the past couple of weeks: it’s a balm and a lubricant for emotions.

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