You know I owe it you my friends, those of you who have been generous in your thoughts for the loss of my mother to tell you something: Although it has been a long, arduous road from my mother’s first diagnosis of dementia 4 years ago to her leaving my world 2 weeks ago and in spite of the struggle (not least with the authorities), to see her way clear to a happy death; it has been an extraordinary, indeed enlightening experience.
I’ve been distracted so much of my life by shiny, trivial things and this last year certainly, has brought me into a focus and permitted me insights into things I had never known. The most pedestrian insight being the sorry regard our institutions have for the aged, the infirm and the demented. We don’t treat our weakest very well and I’m afraid that is because
we really don’t treat ourselves very well either.
The insight that I do want to share or at least attempt to convey is what I did feel this past month observing my mother’s diminishing capacity to engage with her surroundings first socially then practically. I had a tactile, visceral sense of an arc of a life; a universal trajectory from birth to death, as something that comes and then goes.
(The Rainbow in Norse mythology is the bridge to Asgard and Valhalla, the hall of fallen warriors.) I have no experience of the supernatural.
It’s all natural to me. But I did feel a deep and distinct tone, like the pealing of a bell resonating beneath my feet in her passing.
Between the last evening that I saw her, held her hand and spoke to the steady light in her eyes and the morning I visited her room from where life had been so recently evicted, I knew I had seen a life depart and the place in the world that it had left. I did not catch a glimpse of death.
I saw life very clearly as it fled my mother’s corpse.
That thing, that is everything, that same thing that still animates us all. Until our clocks wind down as well or are tragically, shockingly shut down. I saw life leaving me behind as it disappeared around some bend and I saw the life that was me, within it’s own place, on its own trajectory of escape.
I saw the light in the eyes that created me, that cherished me; fight, fade and extinguish.
I know that I will go there too, following her footsteps and those of my father’s before her and my sister’s before him. A death parade towards an unknown horizon. I don’t know where they went, I just know that they are no longer here; nor any where I will ever be again.
No ‘where’ to go to. Just end. Just stop. Just no longer being.
And these fingers tapping on my keyboard are tapping out time too.
I folded my mother up
Into a creased peace of paper
I folded memories into intentions,
Flattening the dementia of unstructured emotions,
Into a neat, file-able document.
We arc this abyss; tightening ropes over time.
We are not our worst intentions,
but we are the acts that follow.
Like clobbering footsteps tripping
over broken pavements of Being.
We are not the sum of our categories
Nor the crimes that we have witnessed.
But we are the balance
That keeps us falling forwards without stumbling,
Over our own shoelace sense of time.