The heart will break, but broken live on.
There was something about Elle, and I don’t think just for me, that was puzzling and enigmatic. I have lingered long, through darker and lighter times, recalling the following memory of special moments spent with her. It also serves as further proof of the benefits of giving deeper consideration to the relevance of synchronicity, and what revelations it may be highlighting that assist us to keep moving forward on our individual journeys through the school of life.
This is what Carl Jung meant by synchronicity: it occurs when events that have no causal relationship come together, and in the process they reveal a deeper meaning. In the majority of cases this clashing of two events will more often be put down to mere co-incidence. While I have been sensitive to synchronicity all my adult life I am sure I have missed much, and certainly not always understood all the meaning that was intended.
Peter’s mother, Tinker, was a part of our girls’ lives for many more years than my mother. She was one of the most stoical women I have ever known, and a force to be reckoned with. And she also beat me hands down on stubbornness! Her love of her family, her mischievous and playful ways, and her desire to get as much out of life as she could, was a great inspiration to us all, and particularly noted by her grandchildren. She died on 7 March 2016. Her life had become physically hard, and included a substantial amount of pain during her last years, but she continued to want to live, and was game for anything and everything. Elle, unbeknown to us, had been regularly calling Tinker from her ‘casita’ in the last couple of months of Tinker’s life. It was only when I told her that her gran was unwell, and suggested that she call her, that we learnt of this.
After Tinker died, and in early May, the family had organised a memorial for her in the church next door to her much loved home in Chesterton. After the service we returned to Peter’s sister’s home, and were all given the opportunity of choosing various items that would mean something to us from amongst Tinker’s everyday possessions. Elle, in her characteristically simple manner, wanted only a couple of small things. One item was a little box. The other piece she brought into our kitchen once we were back home. It was basically broken glass. She asked me for something to put the tiny shards into. She then explained to me that she had wrapped this six-inch fluted red glass vase, with an image of a spray of flowers on the side of it, in her shirt, and put it in her cabin luggage. When she opened her bag it was shattered. The glass was around one millimetre, maybe less, in thickness. All that was left in tact was the base, and the rest of it was in pieces, and most of them frighteningly small. She asked me to help her put the vase back together using Superglue!
I didn’t, for once in my life, voice my opinion that this was an impossible task. It fills me with comforting joy that I held my tongue, and instead I said ‘of course’, and we began straight away on what felt, even at the time, like an intimate journey together. Elle had quite shaky hands so it was decided that she would apply the glue, and I would accurately place the shard in its position, hold it in place for a while, and then she would clear away the excess glue. Only one piece could be glued at a time. Day by day it slowly grew back together. It was only when thinking back on this event, after Elle died, that I realised some of the most remarkable elements of the process. I don’t have a memory of her searching for the exact piece that needed to be glued in next (there needed to be a sequence of placements), and neither do I remember us completing the job. I think that she completed it by herself. This only adds to the mystery and magic of the process.
It was either the first or second afternoon after arriving back on the island that we visited the three girls who had been her housemates from sometime in May until the end of August. Claudia came with us, and it was something we needed to do, for them and for us, but it was all about sorrow and tears, and a deep longing to understand what had happened and why. The girls were naturally in a deep state of shock. Before we left they asked if there was anything we wanted to take away with us now from her room. Her room was as if she had just left it for a moment – clothes strewn around, a mattress on the floor surrounded by books, notebooks and Spanish newspapers. Peter noted later the relevance of all the Spanish newspapers. Elle was determined to improve her Spanish. We were all in a trance of shock! I could hardly bear to look around the room, but my eyes were immediately drawn to something familiar on one of the shelves – the little red vase! When I picked it up it looked like it had never been in pieces! The fracture lines were barely visible. There were also no little telling spaces anywhere, except for one triangular piece missing from the gilded and fluted top edge. It was seamless except for that one gaping omission.
It took only a moment for a thought to spring to mind. Elle had ‘demonstrated’ how it was possible to put our family back together again, even though, yes, there would always be one vital and meaningful piece missing. We chose to put this valuable little vase into the coffin with her, a white dress, and a single white rose. I do have a photo of these items, but a part of me wishes I still had that little vase, especially when courage drains from my hurting heart. Of course the colour red never escaped me either – there was something distinctly heart-shaped about the memory.