At dawn you peacefully and quietly took your last breath. Our daughter felt it. She woke wailing. I rushed to her room and took her outside. Trying not to disturb our son who was still sleeping or your father who was resting on a mattress on the floor – by your side until the very end.
I took her outside under the big tree that shelters our deck. She wouldn’t be consoled. I nodded at your mother and my mother as they appeared on the deck. They had been sleeping across the road at our dear friends home and had both woken early and decided to return to our home to continue the bedside vigil and their support for us.
Your Mum went in to see you and returned a few minutes later. “He’s gone” she said. I looked up through the branches to the sky that was fading from a deep purple to a brilliant blue. It felt right that you had left us at dawn on what would be a beautiful day.
Almost 8 years later, it is autumn again and the big tree has lost most of its leaves. The afternoon sun shines on what is left, golden, fluttering and occasionally falling against a backdrop of infinite sky.
Before you became bedridden you sat here under this tree in stillness. Our young children would be playing noisy games moving, not stopping and I would be following them, cleaning and cooking. I would glance out to you and wonder how long you had left and what was happening for you. Perhaps you were preparing for or testing your connection and place within the infinite.
Our son loves to climb in the branches of the tree. His longer and stronger limbs mean that he can climb higher among the branches. His body is becoming a mans. It is sad that you are not here to witness and support him through the transition from boy to man. You would be so proud of him. He is shining at high school. Conscientious. He knows what he wants and what he doesn’t. A wry sense of humour and numerous wisecracks. Sometimes his defiant looks or thoughtful looks or jokes or the way he holds his frame reminds me that you are here still – just in a different way.
We celebrated our daughters 3rd birthday under this tree with dear friends and family just a few weeks before you departed. Last week she turned 11. The unusual circumstances of COVID meant that we had to celebrate a bit differently. We still managed to connect with friends and family and she revelled in their love and friendship with poise, presence, gratitude and creativity. She is maturing. She is kind. She continúes to express her deep emotions on the surface every day. Reminding us of the joy, anger, sadness, confusion, fear, loss, delight that we all feel in our lives. She reminds us to feel.
Your parents continue to be committed to making the best of life. They are present grandparents for our children, nurture their strong friendships and prioritise their fitness and health.
My Mum? As you know she is a good egg. Thank goodness for her love, friendship and wisdom. She anchors us and supports us steadily while balancing her own life and supporting my brother and his family.
My brother’s daughters are now 1 and 3. It is a joy and delight spending time with him and his family. Our children dearly love their younger cousins and are wonderful caring playmates and babysitters.
Our friends still remember you and love you and love us. And my more recent friends, I feel like they know you too. You would love them.
And me? I am continuing to live and love as true as I can. The world has slowed down for a pandemic. I have been living slowly for several years now. It is a relief and kind of amusing to watch our collective community and culture begin to reassess and remember what is most important to their lives. The world is going through upheaval and reassessment like we did when you were first diagnosed.
And so I lie in a hammock looking up at the leaves, taking a moment to just be with the mystery of it all. I can hear our kids kids laughing and playing with each other and connecting to friends via the internet. Strange times.
Love, being present moment to moment and living slowly. That is all.