For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
This is the last part from Kahil Gibran’s teaching on death. I read this at my mothers funeral in October last year. It seemed even more fitting that the book I read from was given by my older sister to my father, he had been gone over 16 years when my mum died, we found it by the chair she used to smoke her cigars in.
At the moment death seems to have a large presence in my life. A good friend of mine had to put one of her beautiful dogs down recently, I sent her a message saying I was thinking of her, her four letter response reduced me to tears ‘my heart is broken’ … Today is my sister’s wedding anniversary, her husband passed away over 2 years ago. I can see the pain for her is still very raw. I don’t think anyone will ever understand the loss of a partner unless you have been through it. I never considered the loss my mum felt when my dad passed, regardless of their relationship. I think it still hurt her until the day she died, the photos around her cigar chair confirmed this.
This morning at work there was a meeting held at 0920 to tell us that one of our colleagues had had an accident whilst on a business trip and passed away suddenly over the weekend. He leaves behind 3 children under the age of 6 and his wife. The tears for some were uncontrollable. It was when the psychologist started talking about what you may feel and think, that I felt the irrepressible volcano of emotion rising in my chest, her words brought back all the initial thoughts and feelings that loss threw on me when I saw the people in my life pass away.
Death does bring sadness, loneliness, the ‘why me’ questions, the thoughts that life can be cruel and unforgiving. For me it also brings lessons. Each time I try to treat that moment as a reminder that life is short, that you shouldn’t put off to tomorrow what you can achieve today and as hard as it is, you should try to look at what that person brought to your life, not what has been taken away.
Death is also an amazing test of character. It can be some of the worst moments of your life, mentally it is relentless, and physically debilitating at times. But you do come out of the other side and you will come out stronger, because you are still alive, you realise you have choices and more importantly a certain amount of time that you should seize by the hands and dance with, because it won’t last forever.
When my mum passed away, I went home from the hospital that Friday and thought of spending the night alone. My next thought was to be around people that understood me, that I could laugh and cry and just live through that moment with. I went and saw my Team Tavs, it was the perfect way to spend that evening, I could talk all I wanted about my mum, drink tequila, cry and then dance! I think my mum would have been proud.
That Sunday my rugby team, Wasps, were playing Saracens, massive game for us. I didn’t for one second consider not going. I went out and probably played one of my better games of rugby. It seemed easy, I was surrounded by people that I knew if I needed to break down, I could, if I had to walk off the pitch, no questions would have been asked.
Life becomes easier when you are surrounded by people who just ‘get’ you, I realise this also comes from allowing them to see who you really are; vulnerability, an amazing word, this took me a long time to open up to but it’s been so worth it.
I’ve realised my parents gave me a lot when they were here, maybe not conventionally but it all seems to be slotting into place at the moment. I love the way I think and approach things and some of this is down to the weird and wonderful way they brought me up.
They also gave me a whole lot more when they passed away. I don’t think I would be as mentally resilient as I am now without having gone through losing them both or be as open as I am to new situations or constantly allowing myself to adapt.
I definitely wouldn’t have signed up to do a half ironman … Which is this weekend people!!
The Guardian published a list of the top 5 regrets people had on their deathbeds, none of them related to material items. They all were based around people, relationships and the wish they had been strong enough to do what they want. If you have a moment when you question yourself, picture yourself on your death bed and wonder if that person would be happy with the decision you make. Life is for living not conforming, it’s for failing and learning not hiding. Be someone amazing, we all have it in us.