I sat with my mother in-law a couple of days ago, sipping our cuppas and chatting. She’s currently grieving the loss of her mother, Peggy and my heart hurts for her. We are all grieving. We all grieve differently and what is normal to one, is completely alien to another. Death can either bond a family together or rip it apart. You hear it time and time again, and it’s true.
Rip or fold.
Throw or hold.
Peggy lived a long life of ninety one years. She married only once, bore seven children and saw dozens of grand children, great-grandchildren and great, great-grandchildren join the world. The last third of her ninety plus years was on her own after the loss of her husband, Stan aka Grampy. Over the years I chatted often with my Granny In-law about her earlier years, and in all those conversations she would never really talk about him. She would skip around my question, or change the subject with something else close to the topic. Painting or orchids. She still grieved for him. You could see it in her eyes. In her heart, her broken heart. Peggy lived on though. She grabbed that ‘wheel of life’ and kept on keeping on.
She often told me the story of her immigration. A journey from England to Australia when her eldest children were little. Peggy and her four children came over by ship, a long and arduous trek to a land they had never seen. Grampy had applied for a job in the RAAF earlier and was accepted. Leaving almost immediately he traveled with a mate to Laverton, Australia and set up what was basically four walls in the middle of a paddock, as a home. No running water, no power.
Times were hard then. Very little money meant feeding kids with barely anything in the cupboard, and clothing them with what ever you could use to sew an item together. Peggy was skilled with a needle, wooden spoon and paint brush. Both Peggy and Stan made it work, they had nothing to lose and everything to gain, including another three children.
Yesterday we said farewell to Peggy as she reunited with her one true love, Stan, up in the stars. I sat in the chapel, sinking into a familiar place. Grief. I know grief, we’re not friends, but I know him. Grief can announce himself to you; you know he’s coming, and then he can surprise you by just appearing. Once again he was sitting beside me. I was waiting for him. My tiny gasp when I lost my breath was his tell as my throat closed.
Looking around me through welling eyes I was surrounded by many I didn’t know, many I did, all sharing one element; Peggy. Grown men sobbing as pictures flicked over on the screens, unraveling her story. A love story of Peggy in Stan’s arms. An active life full of swimming at beaches and pools, children and travel; crafts, orchids and paintings; birthdays and family BBQ’s at Christmas. I watched her daughters and sons comfort each other in their sadness, doing what is natural. I know their pain first hand, the loss of a parent is profound, regardless of their age. I grieve for them, in their loss and in their darkness and pain and i am sorry anybody has to ever feel this way.
Families don’t always hold it together. People change, needs change, others move on, and some stay behind. It’s a constant mix and roll of lives, situations and opportunities. Death can be a catalyst for tiny fractures to become gaping holes and then there are times when that same death ties people together, uniting, reuniting and forming a common bond. No death is ever the same.
So as I sit here thinking of yesterday, and of all the family and friends that bid farewell to Peggy yesterday in that chapel, I have one hope for them all. May they all comfort each other today, and tomorrow, and 10 years from now. May they be there for their kin, whether they’re heading East or heading West, remember who Peggy was and how she loved. Honor her and her love of family.
You shall be missed dearly Granny but you won’t be forgotten. Every time I look upon your painting ‘Lilacs’ or my bridal bouquet that you painted for me; or when I cut fresh roses from the front yard for a vase and smell their heavy perfumes; and every time I cut back an orchid and watch them re-flower; or fumble across a picture of you in the boys photo albums. You will be remembered and loved, and never forgotten, of that you can be sure. Rest well.
I choose fold and hold.
Make sure you turn the teapot twice clockwise and once anticlockwise!