Good Grief – Part Six

If there is frustration at trying to get back to where you left off, this can be solved by entering into the search box ‘January’ for the beginning, or Part Two, Part Three etc.

The name of MARCH comes from Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar. It was named after Mars, the Roman god of war, and an ancestor of the Roman people through his sons Romulus and Remus.

1 March

Butterflies popped up unexpectedly this morning on my new socks! Kate and I had a very busy day again and made good progress preparing her new home. I am tired and need to sleep. Last night I dreamt about Elle. Like Kate, I seem to know in my dreams that Elle has ‘gone away’. She had come back and looked just like I remember her. I miss her.

2 March

While in London I met up with a few girlfriends I haven’t seen since Elle died. Last night I had dinner with Louisa, who I saw while visiting our grandson Isaac, just before seeing Elle for the last time. She is someone I have a long connection with going back to South Africa. These moments bring all the emotions flooding back.

As Louisa and I shared a curry the conversation flowed easily. We have always enjoyed meeting up, and when it’s just the two of us we usually end up discussing our daughters. But not last night. Eventually a point came when I needed to talk about Elle. I could see the pain in Louisa’s eyes as I went over some of the details of just before and the moment of Elle’s death. She told me about her mother’s experience of losing her mother, and later her husband, Louisa’s father. She described two different ways the grief manifested. The one that simply is incorporated into your life in a peaceful and logical way and the one where grief doesn’t seem to want to let you go. I found my dad’s death hit me hard at the time, but within a few months it settled into its rightful place as part of our soul’s history. He was always going to die before me, plus I didn’t have any unfinished business with him. I last saw him six weeks before his death, and he seemed strong and well. He was seventy-one, and died of a single heart attack while enjoying a shower at the end of the day. My mother described his face as being devoid of all wrinkles and looking so peaceful. Perhaps he was spared the pain of the attack. He had previously had three coronary thromboses at the age of fifty-one, and wasn’t expected to pull through. But he was in one of the world’s greatest heart hospitals, Groote Schuur in Cape Town, and with a recovery programme and lots of prayers, he got to live another twenty fully active years, saw his children grow up, and even met his first three grandchildren.

I am lucky to have had a special moment with my dad just before he took Kate and me to the airport. We cried a little as we hugged, and I believe that subconsciously we both knew we would not meet again.

When my mom died about twenty years later, after many painful years of severe spinal arthritis, all of us children reached the point where we wanted her suffering to be over. My brother Greg was with her when she died, along with wonderful carers who had been looking after her for a few years, and my sister Heather saw her nearly every day. I had wanted to be with her when she died, but it was not to be. Greg got to see both our parents after death. I had visited a couple of months before this moment, and that was how it was meant to be. Roses had been a recurring theme in my mother’s life, and it so happened that without consultation we all marked her passing with references to roses. My sister had rubbed her body with rose oil just after she died, and when I got the phone-call I was driving to a garden centre to buy rose bushes for our garden. A few days later, Heather, her husband and Greg described putting roses in the coffin with her after saying goodbye to her body at the crematorium, before leaving for Cape Town. For some reason the crematorium had a delay, and they were told her cremation would happen only about forty-five minutes later. Forty-five minutes into their onward journey, with the windows up and the air-conditioning on, they tentatively asked each other whether anyone else could smell roses. The unmistakable scent of roses filled the car! Again, my grief moved on naturally and I found living with her memory very comfortable and natural.

Louisa and I continued to talk about the different forms grief takes. I do not for a moment believe that one person’s grief is worse than that of another. Grief is grief, and it is wholly subjective. But I feel that grief for an aged parent can manifest differently from grief for the loss of a young parent. It is quite possible that we are built to accept the loss of an elderly parent—it is in the normal flow of life. How hard would it be to continue on our life journey if the loss of an elderly parent were to permanently cloud our emotional wellbeing? It is different again when one loses a spouse, a cousin or a close friend. There is no doubt that this has a lot to do with love, and equally, grief can refuse to let go its hold on us if it exposes unfinished stories, but nor do I think that it is impossible to do the required work to finish our stories with loved ones after they have gone. I can also see that the grief a mother feels over the loss of a child differs from the grief of a father over the same loss, and it is not a quantitative observation but has more to do with shape. One of my first thoughts was that I was not able to comfort Elle in her hours of confusion, as a mother should. I think as a mother we always want to be close to our children in times of danger. Perhaps it has something to do with birthing them from the ultimate safe space. The egg from which they were formed was inside us when we were still in our mother’s womb. Our connection is beyond what is imaginable.

I told Louisa that I had learnt a lot more about love through my grief. I love my nearest and dearest more thoughtfully than before, and my love travels further into my social circle than I realised. Sometimes it feels that while grief has taken its toll on my body, I now have a bigger heart. Strangely, other interesting positives have been delivered through grief, most notably that I am more trusting, much less fearful, kinder and more patient, and I am very clear about what is important to me and what is not. I have little fear of dying, and want to make my existence worthwhile to others until I die. I hope I manage this. What happens here on earth is no longer the most important thing to me, but I don’t want others to feel this way, as now is their time, and what they do and how they conduct themselves in their life story matters.

3 March

Today I had lunch with my younger sister Heather and an old friend Elize. I have always joked that all the world’s ley lines intersect at a point within Elize’s consciousness—or is it in her subconscious? I am not sure why this is, and nor is she, although she has come to accept that she has a strange ‘antenna’ that seems to bleep wherever she goes and draws in strands from all corners of the world. Perhaps it serves as a reminder for us—her friends and family—that strange happenings matter, and we should look more closely into them for clues to the meaningful events we generally dismiss as plain old coincidence.

I need to sleep. Little Isaac has been waking up around 4.45 am and not wanting to go back to sleep. I hope my passport issue is settled soon. I am supposed to receive my renewed passport in the next few days. Peter has been looking after the dogs on his own which is quite an achievement for him, and I have enjoyed these two weeks helping Kate and spending quality time with her and Isaac. There hasn’t been enough time to get everything done, but we have a few more days available to us. We want to get our group email out to everyone who has said they want to come to Elle’s ‘birthday’ on 13 April at Kate and Alex’s new home.

4 March

I left home in quite good spirits this afternoon to visit friends of ours, Frank and Gwen, in St Katharine Docks, who moved to the UK around the time Peter and I moved to London. I have known Frank and his sister Lorette since my teenage days—they are my contact with a stone house in Noordhoek that led me to the house in Pasadena Glen. Elle was doing her second and final school year at Hurtwood House, and joined us in London most weekends, and Frank and Gwen moved into an apartment on the same floor as us.

As I got closer to Tower Bridge tube station I found myself flagging. I started to feel a little breathless, and anxious in the area of my solar plexus. It crossed my mind that this was an area of heavy ‘Elle’ footfall. There are a couple of restaurants around the docks that she worked in, especially during the year after she finished school. She was saving for a gap year trip to Australia with some of her Embley Park girlfriends. I have so many memories of bumping into her as we both went about our business, or as I walked my dog in the area many times a day. I clearly remember the day Peter and I first met Graeme. He and his friend were laughing and joking, and we nearly collided on some steps in the dock. Peter and I had been away for the weekend and I think they had just visited Elle at our apartment for the first time. It was early on in their relationship and spirits were high. I knew how much Elle liked him, and was glad that things seemed to be moving in the right direction—in fact it was the start of a four-year relationship! Most of their time together was good fun and has given us lots of wonderful memories. Kate was living on the other side of the docks initially, and when she started law school later, we all moved (yes, again) into a bigger property nearby.

I wasn’t expecting to find my visit distressing. Perhaps grief has its own consciousness. Grief following a sudden death is termed traumatic grief, and I suppose this may be akin to battle trauma and flashbacks. From what I know of flashbacks they can occur anytime and anywhere for no clear reason. I have certainly experienced a few over the months, and for a moment or two they leave me feeling crippled and struggling to breathe.

5 March

Today we sent out the invites for Elle’s birthday celebration on 13 April. I also had a visit from Elle’s ‘twin’ cousin James, whose birthday is the day before hers.

I met my sister Marion today for lunch. Our history has been complicated through no fault of our own, but our relationship has now reached a more peaceful place. It is a story I have written but it is not for now. Maybe Marion and I will write it together one day.

It’s late and I have a headache—until tomorrow.

6 March

I am thinking back to one of my more illuminating dreams. I can’t see how it links in with now, but perhaps in the retelling I will draw out some meaning.

It happened just after we sold our much loved stone house in Pasadena Glen, during our last few days together as a family in Los Angeles. Just as when we arrived in the US we were staying with Claudia and family. Peter was going to stay on for another month to tie up the loose ends before joining us in the UK. The dream was one of those I regularly thought about.

When the dream opened I was already dead, and seemed to be floating in a space between earth and the great beyond, with my mother ‘having my back’. My body was limp with sorrow and I couldn’t take my eyes off Peter, Kate and Elle who were no more than three or four floors below me. But I knew I was not in their space or dimension. My mother touched me on the shoulder and said, ‘You do know, Jennie, that where you go to next you won’t feel sorrowful.’ ‘I know,’ I said, ‘but I can’t bear to leave them.’

I remember waking up the next morning feeling naturally very shaken by my dream. The information from my mother felt familiar, like something I already knew. This may have been true within the dream, but I don’t recall knowing that before I had the dream. I wrestled with this dream throughout the day, wondering if I was about to die, but what gave me hope was that my mother was still with us, and in pretty good health. Perhaps the reason for the dream was simply to pass on that small piece of information. It has certainly taken it place in the pantheon of received knowledge in my mind.

The very first time I was deeply affected by sorrow and grief was the death of my dog Abigail during my student days at Stellenbosch University, just after I had broken off my relationship with Peter. Neither my mom’s nor my dad’s death were deeply traumatic for me. There was a natural order to them. The next time death felt unbearable was when my dog Oscar had to be put down. One of the hardest things I have had to do was hold him in my arms as he was given a lethal injection, and feel his life fade away. When I recall the moment it is as if I have ancestral memories of this experience, but I can’t imagine what that might be. Oddly, this reminds me of another dream!

I know other people’s dreams are mostly considered boring, most likely because their relevance was only for the person having the dream. Personally I have always found interest in the dreams of others because it is an opportunity to have a window into their subconscious. In this dream a group of us had been abducted, as if we were still living tribally. Another tribe had taken a group of us into some large caverns, and we were separated into groups. I don’t mean tribes in a primitive sense; it was more futuristic than archaic. I came to understand that we were all going to be put to death by lethal injection. I had no sense that killing us was warranted, but there was also no panic anywhere—as though we were all reconciled to our fate. I remember accepting the injection without a fight, and I felt the sting of the liquid as it flowed through my body and sensed my body shutting down.

I can’t help wondering now whether these were all moments of preparation for the loss of my daughter one day. Another one of these moments could have been when my bag was stolen one night in a Spanish coastal town. I was staying alone in a hotel while completing the paperwork on a property we had just sold. As I gave chase through the darkened streets knowing my life was in that bag—an interesting thought in itself—I eventually realised I was beaten, and stood on the beachfront and wailed for about fifteen minutes, not knowing what else to do. Again it all fits in with the regular playback of my life as I process what has led up to my new reality.

7 March

It is a year today since Tinker died. I am thinking about her a lot, and naturally, Elle and the little red vase feel permanently twinned with Tinker´s last moments. Maybe they are thinking about us today.

8 March

Independently, Kate and I have been feeling downcast for the past few days. Yesterday and for the first time, Kate watched a video friends, Zoe and Casey, had made for us. They have a film production company and had filmed Kate and Alex’s wedding. We had helped Zoe with accommodation, advice and contacts over the years as she sought and then bought a house on the island, and the wedding video was a gift to our family. After Elle died, having been reminded of the song ‘Courage’ which Elle had emailed to us a year before her death, we asked if they had more footage of Elle that could be made into a video with that song playing in the background. Yet again, they produced a stunning piece of work, but still too painful to watch. At the airport this morning I met up with a friend travelling home to Ibiza. She said she had also had a very emotional few days, and that there is another big cosmic shift going on in the stars. It certainly feels like something big is going on. Kate and Isaac are coming to visit us for a few days in a week’s time—that makes me happy.

Since tears have become a big part of my life, I was intrigued to read research on the fact that some tears weigh more than others. In an artwork I made around 1999, I played with the double meaning of the word tears; those that fall from our eyes and the tearing of paper or fabric or just tearing apart—perhaps just coincidence, but again it makes me wonder. My first thought about this article was: what attracted someone to do research on it? I couldn’t see what biological or evolutionary purpose this research could serve. But then it got a little more interesting:

Scientifically, tears are divided into three different types, based on their origin. Both tears of grief and joy are psychic tears, triggered by extreme emotions, whether positive or negative. Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities to keep the cornea lubricated. Reflex tears are secreted in response to an irritant, like dust, onion vapours or tear gas.

All tears contain a variety of biological substances (including oils, antibodies and enzymes) suspended in saltwater, but as Fisher saw, tears from each of the different categories include distinct molecules as well. Emotional tears, for instance, have been found to contain protein-based hormones including the neurotransmitter leucine-enkephalin, a natural painkiller that is released when the body is under stress.

Scientists have also found some evidence that emotional tears are chemically different from the ones people shed while chopping onions—which may help explain why crying sends such a strong emotional signal to others. In addition to the enzymes, lipids, metabolites and electrolytes that make up any tears, emotional tears contain more protein. One hypothesis is that this higher protein content makes emotional tears more viscous, so they stick to the skin more strongly and run down the face more slowly, making them more likely to be seen by others.

What all of this means for people who don’t cry is a question that researchers are now turning to. If tears are so important for human bonding, are people who never cry perhaps less socially connected? That’s what preliminary research is finding, according to clinical psychologist Cord Benecke, a professor at the University of Kassel in Germany. He conducted intimate, therapy-style interviews with 120 individuals and looked to see if people who didn’t cry were different from those who did. He found that non-crying people had a tendency to withdraw and described their relationships as less connected. They also experienced more negative aggressive feelings, like rage, anger and disgust, than people who cried.

The above was written by Dr William H. Frey II, a biochemist at the St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota, who goes on to describe another interesting discovery about the content of tears. He and his team analysed two types of tears: the emotional ones (crying when emotionally upset and stressed) and the ones arising from irritants (such as when cutting an onion). They found that emotional tears contained more of the protein-based hormones, prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine-enkephalin (a natural painkiller), all of which are produced by our body when under stress. It seems as if the body is getting rid of these chemicals through tears. That explains why we usually feel better after a good cry. So, there you go. Cry as much as you want—it is probably good for you—but no cheating with onions. Your tear glands know the difference.

Please don’t cry

Hold your head up high

She would want you to

She would want you to

Above the Clouds of Pompeii, by Bears Den

I have just arrived back on the island and it is a beautiful, still and sunny day. Peter was waiting at the airport, and we drove straight over to Salines beach to take the dogs for a walk. Then we went to one of our favourite restaurants, Ses Escoles, for lunch. All day I have been experiencing strange sensations I can only call connectedness. I just have to look at something, like a bottle of wine standing on the counter, and it will connect to something else, and I am left with a feeling that is a cross between a dejavu and something forgotten. Maybe there really is something going bump in the wider universe!

9 March

It’s been a very busy day, and I’m sitting up in bed to write just a few words before the midnight hour.

On Monday in London I met up with Barbara, one of my oldest friends, and again the South African link is there. Barbara said to us, not long after Elle died, that we had permission now to do and say whatever felt right for us. I was taken aback in a good way by the statement, and although I never felt inclined to take advantage of that position, I felt deeply comforted and supported as if an honour had been granted to our family in our time of traumatic grief. Our families spent a lot of time together through our children’s childhoods, and we have lifetime’s worth of shared memories. It felt good to spend a few hours talking about my last months with Elle and catching up on her news. When I read her email this evening, I could feel how intimately Barbara knew our girl even though she saw so little of her in recent years. It highlights what is valuable about respecting and nurturing lifelong relationships. It reminds me too of something I heard recently (and mentioned in my writing on 24 February), which my ever faithful gut tells me is true. It is within the family that the important work on oneself and other family members is done. The success of this will be reflected in the quality of our familial relationships, while our dear friends provide the support structure that helps us as we struggle on through difficult and complex times and emotions.

Dear Jen

It was lovely seeing you all in ‘that’ London as the wonderful Stewart Lee calls it.

Our conversation has stayed with me. You draw such a vivid picture of the essence of Elle that reveals her to be extraordinarily strong and heroic. She was very strong and determined from the minute she entered this world. From what you said so lucidly, she chose, in the face of unbearable adversity, the less travelled road in search of purification and enlightenment casting aside all earthly possessions. This can’t have been easy, in fact, it must have been so hard and forever challenging, requiring such self-discipline and must have often been a lonely, frustrating and solitary journey. I feel Elle achieved the enlightenment she had searched for, so assiduously, and this is mighty humbling. It’s so hard on you and Peter and Kate and all of us who knew and loved her to accept that she’s no longer physically with us but she is here.

I know you’re all in such pain and I know how much you’re suffering and I’d do anything to take away your pain but you must be so proud of Elle exploring the unknown and those areas we lesser mortals fear to confront in her quest for spiritual enlightenment. What a girl!

I hope I’m not presuming too much because I wasn’t there and hadn’t seen her for a long time but her goodness and bravery shine like the brightest star, which she is.

So much love

Barbara xxx

10 March

Today I met up with Eloise, one of Elle’s friends, at a café in Santa Gertrudis. I am truly grateful that Elle connected me in some way or another to all these dynamic young people. We had a coffee together at a ‘special friends Saturday morning catch-up’ haunt called Plaisir. I had been looking forward to this for a while. Elle had mentioned her name a few times, and I could tell how fond she was of her. Eloise returned to the island to be near Elle within a couple of days of her dying. She immediately went around to see Greg, and that was where I met her for the first time. We connected straightaway—perhaps not surprisingly.

I learnt a lot more about Eloise this morning, and can easily see why they shared a strong bond. She also brought the full story to me of an incident I knew something of from Elle. It is an amusing and illustrative moment in Elle and Betty’s (her dog) relationship. Last year sometime, perhaps just before Christmas, they both went for a walk at a quiet spot in sight of Es Vedrá—a particularly powerful part of the island—and took Elle’s dog Betty with them. When Elle stayed with us Betty regularly went walkabout for hours and we never worried about her. Betty had been homeless for a while before she came to Elle and entered our lives. She was an odd-looking little dog, with a beautiful, brown shorthair coat, a pointed nose and big, soulful brown eyes. She used to pee balancing on her front legs, in other words a doggy handstand, which I was told is a sign of an alpha female. She may have had some Italian greyhound in her lineage, as her prancing trot indicated some nobility. She was certainly smart, intuitive and stubborn, and definitely didn’t like being told what to do, especially by me.

On this occasion, as usual, Betty wandered off to investigate and explore. When Elle and Eloise wanted to leave, she wasn’t with them, and after hanging around for a while and calling for her, it started getting late and dark, and they needed to go home. Elle said she would come back to look for her in the morning. Eloise suggested that Elle leave one of her socks on the ground, which Betty might find and be comforted by later.

When Elle returned home, I asked where Betty was and was somewhat bewildered at Elle’s apparent lack of concern as she explained what had happened. I said we should go back for her, but Elle said I shouldn’t fuss, and I needed to learn to trust. She would return for her in the morning.

The next day, sure enough, she returned home with Betty as if nothing unusual had happened. Eloise told me today that when they went back to the same spot they found Betty sitting on Elle’s sock. Is it any wonder that I find Elle so wondrous, and Betty so oddly human? This is exactly why I have been motivated to write our story. She taught me how to trust—not in her life, but in her death. She gave me life lessons that are worth spreading, but I can’t help feeling sad that she is not here now to pass on more extraordinary life lessons. These days I am eagerly learning about consciousness and communication through unusual means or, as some scientists call it, the two-way flow of data between the universe and all things via wormholes ranging in size from the quantum to the cosmic. Did Betty know telepathically that Elle would be back in the morning, or was she just hoping that she would?

11 March

I have been thinking a lot about something else Eloise said yesterday. She referred to twin flame relationships, and it wasn’t the first time I have heard this referenced. Something I want to write about today may be relevant to this idea of twin flames.

Living on the island and before Peter and I got back together again, I felt open to meeting someone, and while I had a few interesting relationships, some more meaningful than others, I can’t say I fell in love. I became more adventurous and learnt to take greater charge of my own feelings and desires. Although I certainly wasn’t heartless, I felt less responsible for how others felt, without losing an awareness of consequences.

I am returning to the young man I met when I was running the Madhouse Bar one evening when he and a friend, both coming to the end of their medical studies, made a late night visit. They were equally good looking, one blond and the other dark,  and I found myself powerfully attracted to the dark-haired one whose name was Jurg, or Jorge. As the three of us talked, Jurge and my eyes remained locked on one another, as if they were doing their own thing! We met up again a day or two later but the details of how and where escape my memory. I remember feeling naked in his company, but not in a sexual way—more as if all of me was revealed. There seemed to be no need for flirting or game playing. The conversations and silences flowed easily.

He had a friend staying somewhere in the Ibizan countryside, and invited me to join him there overnight. I remember nothing of the other people in the house, only of being there with him. The next day we walked into the fields with their magical terraces of olive and almond trees and dry-stone walls, and while he sat on one of the walls, I found myself drawn towards a strange tree. As I got closer I noticed it had fruit hanging from it that I had never seen before, oddly tomato-like but more orange. I picked one, and the skin felt exactly like that of a tomato. I took a bite and it wasn’t unpleasant, but nor was it moreish. I walked over to where he sat, held out the fruit, and said, ‘Taste it.’ He looked amused for a moment and then burst into joyous laughter. Initially I was confused, but in a moment I got what he was laughing about—the ‘fall from grace’ scene happening here in our own special Garden of Eden, and we laughed together. Much later, I learnt that it was a persimmon, known on the island as kaki fruit. I believe it is also called Sharon fruit. The scientific name is Diospyroskaki, meaning ‘divine fruit’ or ‘wheat of Zeus’. Again, I can’t help considering synchronicity and its deeper meaning. I can see that I started on a path of interconnectedness long before I knew how to describe my journey. It was never going to be easy for me to forget why I am here.

Another time we put together a picnic lunch and set off in the little Renault 4 I was using. We searched for a perfect setting, and after a while we found it although I cannot identify where we were on the island. I know we ended up on top of a cliff and we may have been looking down on San Miguel beach way below. It felt comfortable and non-sexual for us to be naked, and sitting on the blanket we had brought along, we enjoyed our picnic lunch and wine. I remember so little of what we actually talked about, but I can clearly remember him telling me that he lived with a girlfriend back home. She had a child from a previous relationship (I did ask), and he told me he had to return to her in Germany. It may sound strange, but I never felt this as a betrayal of what we had experienced. I understood rather the honour he felt towards this partner. The other thing I remember him saying was that I was an artist, and one day I would paint. I am not a particularly creative painter, but I have always understood myself as being something of an unrequited artist, if that makes any sense! Whenever he and I met up, whether pre-arranged or by chance, I could feel his eyes on me before I actually caught sight of him. I also had no name for what existed between us.

A couple of weeks later his last evening on the island arrived. My father happened to be visiting my brother and me, and we all sat and talked for a while before Jurge and I went out into the autumnal night to wander through Dalt Villa, the old town of Ibiza. I remember tying a scarf around my head, in a style not done before or since, as protection from the cold wind—perhaps a past life memory remnant. We walked arm in arm up through the lanes until we reached the top and stood there for ages looking down over the port. Later we wandered down through the cobbled streets and made our way back to my house. There wasn’t much we wanted to say to each other. This was a final goodbye to ‘us’, whatever us was. I remember we lay together on a mattress on the floor of my bedroom and made love, kissed and hugged through most of the night. The lovemaking was definitely not the most exciting event of the night—it had more to do with clinging to each other. The next day we walked down and he hailed a taxi. I stood on the Vara de Rey as his taxi drove off, and we both maintained eye contact as long as it was possible to see each other.

While I was left feeling empty and disappointed that he couldn’t stay for me, I had this odd feeling that all was as it was meant to be. Nevertheless, for some months I still hoped and waited for him to return. He never did. While I would not presume to say that we had fallen in love, and I have no leftover feelings for him, I believe that something powerfully spiritual passed between us. I can see many things I learnt about life, love and faith through this brief affair—just a moment in time. Perhaps he was my twin flame, or someone very special in my soul tribe. I have no doubt that we have met before and will probably meet again.

12 March

This is the latest book to find its way into my hands: ‘Fractals of God: A Psychologist’s Near-Death Experience and Journeys into the Mystical’ by Kathy J Forti. Talking of books, I left off reading ‘A Journey to Oneness’. Perhaps, for the moment, one journey is enough—my own. I may return to it one day.

13 March

Last night was not a sweet night. I spent too much time awake thinking about my girl. Perhaps it is the full moon—today is a full moon day. I can’t stop thinking about Elle and have been close to tears all day. I assume that I’m facing the wrong way.

I have been thinking a lot about some of Elle’s more painful experiences and trying to work out how they may have affected her journey into adulthood. I suspect there could be a few that I never got to hear about too. From time to time she would say, ‘Mom, I don’t know why life always feels like such a struggle for me. It’s as if I am constantly being tripped up.’ I could see clearly what she meant and there were no easy answers.

Even before puberty, Elle attracted attention. As she grew older, her innate sensuality meant she had to learn how to handle unwanted attention. In later years her sensuality transformed into a graceful and feminine elegance.

14 March

Today I met up with Larah who is going to have a baby girl very soon. We drove to where she keeps her horse, and we both found it meditative to groom her mature old mare Bibi as we talked about life and Elle. It is many years since my ‘horsey’ days, and Bibi has a kind nature and enjoyed our attention. For a while I had been wanting to find out more about the last few months and, even more specifically, the final weeks of Elle’s life, and I wanted names of people who may be able to give me an insight into Elle’s state of mind while we were away in Galicia. I have a feeling our talk was also what Larah needed. What happened on that Tuesday morning, before the sun had risen, was not a random tragic road accident but one that followed on from the events of the five days previous at least. Most of us who had an interaction with her during that time became implicated in her death, and a couple of complete strangers are included in this group, and this has nothing to do with cause or blame at all. What I am rather saying is that we have had to go deep within ourselves in order to find a way of processing what had happened. It was a sudden and violent brush with death which left us with no escape. Some of us have been able to help each other through our grief and from time to time, Larah and I have needed to look into each other’s eyes. There are words that are too painful for us to say to each other, but our eyes relieve us of that burden while always reflecting the love that exists between us and can never be lost.

15 March

Kate and Isaac arrived today to stay for four days. He is growing up so fast and has even changed in the week since I left London. He is much more vocal and strong and seems a confident little lad, but sensitive too. I look forward to watching him grow and develop.

It is true to say I am driven to find any information that might help me to understand what happened to destabilise her mood. I don’t suppose that is an unexpected consequence, but will it diminish my suffering? It is not possible for me to always keep moving forward. It feels right to keep searching but that doesn’t mean that it is. I desperately want to hold her and tell her, ‘I am with you, and you are safe now’. I want to tell her not to be afraid. I need to. But I can never be with her in those days and hours of confusion. It is something I am going to have to learn to live with, and accept that it was not to be, even if I don’t understand why.

Yesterday I learnt something more of one of Elle’s last days. That Friday before she died, Elle talked to Larah about the voices and visions she was hearing and seeing. She had seen The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This had upset her deeply, particularly as she saw that one of them was her father. Some Christians interpret the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as told in Revelations in the Bible, as forewarning humankind of troubled times coming to Earth—a time when many will die because of multiple catastrophes, and that it will precede a time when God will judge us, giving us time to repent before we die.

According to Larah, Elle cried a lot. And when she wasn’t crying there were moments when she wasn’t present, while in other moments she seemed lucid and able to respond. It did though also seem like it was difficult to explain what she was experiencing. While I cannot know what any of this means, I do have thoughts of my own. Perhaps the father she was referring to is more the Father of us all. Everything about Elle’s death is so complex, as was her whole life.

Larah’s business partner Susie reached out to us today in an email. Larah must have mentioned my need to her. It feels like a good note for me to sleep on.

Hi Jennie,

I hope this email finds you well and that you are able to feel some softness in these difficult times. I’m so so sorry for the loss of Elle and I wanted to share a little about my experiences of working with her. It was such a pleasure!

Her presence, her attention to detail, her passion and her grace always struck me. She was never a loud or abrasive person, but almost like this woodland fairy or sprite—soothing, grounded and I was always able to take an exhale when I was around her. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with such special energy. She was, and she is, truly unique, Jennie, and I have no doubt that her onward journey is a continuation of this work she began here. My feeling sometimes was that this dimension was not always easy for her—perhaps because I have struggled with some things in my own life—I felt her suffering too on some level. And I hope she has found release and eternal peace. What a special soul, Jennie. I’m sure you must miss her dearly, but I am sure you feel her presence daily.

We will miss her so much at Lakshmi this season! Oh the flowers! And the puja! No one has her touch or her patience. So much love, Elle.

Much love to you and your family. Fly free, free Elle. Always remembered x

16 March

Tomorrow I shall write again.

17 March

I am disappointed that I didn’t find time to write yesterday but I ended up having an important and busy day with Kate, and fitting in time to be with Isaac.

Yesterday, when Kate and I were driving over to meet her builder, I put on my ‘Elle playlist’ in the car. It wasn’t a good idea, as we had been talking about Elle a lot and feeling a little blue. Some of the songs bring a strong emotional reaction from Peter, and it can feel too painful for him to listen with me. It doesn’t matter to me whether the songs bring on sorrow or joy—I always enjoy my playlist of songs. One of the songs that came up was ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses, a song that could be called our family’s theme tune.

When Peter was working for Sanctuary Music in Los Angeles, he represented a man who claimed he had contributed some lines to the song, and he received a royalty as a result of Peter’s involvement. As a thank you he presented Peter with a framed disc which we always hung in our guest toilet wherever home was. It caused quite a stir with our girls’ friends. But the main reason we love the song is for all our memories of being swept into a frenzy of dancing as the music got turned up, especially in our first holiday home in Ibiza. Kate arranged for this to be the last live song of the evening at their Ibizan wedding. She said a few lovely words to her dad, led him onto the dance floor, and then both families joined in and danced our socks off. As the song rolled on and on, I thought that if it didn’t end soon one of us oldies might have a heart attack! It was an amazing moment.

As Kate and I listened to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ in my car, we both got prickles, and we understood that the words mean so much more to us now.

She’s got a smile it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories

Where everything

Was as fresh as the bright blue sky

Now and then when I see her face

She takes me away to that special place

And if I’d stare too long

I’d probably break down and cry

Oh, oh, oh

Sweet child o’ mine

Guns N’ Roses

W. Axl Rose / Saul Hudson / Duff Rose Mckagan / Izzy Stradlin / Steven Adler

18 March

Greg cooked a beautiful Otto Lenghi-inspired lunch for us today at his home on the roundabout. We invited some friends to join us so they could also catch up with Kate and Isaac.

I feel so ungrateful today. Loved ones, good friends, Kate and adorable, engaging little Isaac surround me. He is more than I could have hoped for in a grandson, and already shows such love towards us all. Sometimes I feel as if I have gratitude forced on me. ‘Now see what God has given to you to compensate for your loss.’ Still I find myself feeling hard done by. What happened just after Isaac arrived in all our lives is not his fault. I feel so guilty again. Shame on me! I have been out for a walk with the dogs, and the wild flowers in the open land around our village carpark are bursting forth. Spring is my favourite time of year. Still I continue to feel that all the colour has gone out of my world—nothing can ever be good enough to compensate for the loss of Elle. I know this is not the space I should be lingering in. I have my beautiful caring Kate here with me and she is suffering so deeply over the loss of her precious sister. I feel disappointed in myself. At some point it will be sink or swim, Jennie, and you had better ‘man up’ as there is no alternative other than do or die. I know what I have to do, but today I don’t feel brave, generous or compassionate. Maybe tomorrow…

19 March

Peter is taking Kate and Isaac to the airport. It is good to know that we will see them again soon.

I have been trying to work out what is driving me downwards at the moment. It doesn’t feel like anger but something not totally unlike it. I know I am generally kind and considerate, and I have an approach to problems that usually leads to solutions but I don’t like to come across obstacles standing in my path. I have had to learn how to get the best out of a situation when faced with bureaucracy and data-privacy walls, and remember to retire gracefully rather than try to smash down walls that will not be broken. I think it is pretty obvious now—I would like to have my solution to this problem heard! I must retire graciously because it can never be implemented.  I am stubbornly refusing to accept what has happened? Yes, I think that’s it.

Acceptance is one of the ‘steps’ that keeps rising to the surface in the grieving process. I know most of the facts, and certainly the big one! I don’t dispute reality, but at the moment I am feeling resistance, resistance, resistance. I also feel so self-obsessed. I hope it passes soon. Trust, as Elle would say.

20 March

I woke at about 5 am this morning, and tried to turn off the thoughts driving my mind in circles, much like a cowboy with a rope and a herd of skittish cattle to corral. It felt hopeless to hope they would stop so I might drift off to sleep again. But eventually I was forced to do the next best thing—to write. Perhaps the last few days have had something to do with this urge. I have now written what I wanted to get down on paper, but it’s not for today—perhaps for the final entry.

Busy is what I am, when solitude is what I long for. I keep looking to see how I could slow things up. Elle would always look at me with a bemused smile on her face when I complained about being busy. I knew what she was thinking. ‘Ma, you bring this on yourself.’ I look and look, but I cannot determine what I can eliminate from my life. It has always been like this. Day after day and week after week I think, ‘Once this is done, or I get all these things done this week, I should be ahead of everything and have a quieter time next week.’ But I never seem to get ahead. And yes, I know Elle is right. What is it about me? Sometimes I fantasise about dropping out of everyone’s lives and guarding my privacy fiercely, but deep down I know that I am here today in this life to do all the things that keep me busy.

21 March

I have been feeling a lot more fluid and serene since writing early yesterday morning.

Justin, a good friend of Elle’s, met us today for breakfast. He had introduced her to Wing Chun, a martial art, and they often trained together. He is going to find out whether her master would be happy to meet us. Justin and his partner had a baby a few days after Isaac was born. Kate and Alex were keen to have a name that could be coupled with Ziggy. I think it has to do with Alex being a long-time admirer of David Bowie. This finally explained why he and Kate loved the name Isaac so much. We asked Justin if he had a name for his little boy yet, and were amused when he said Marley. Ziggy Marley! I love these little moments of collision. It was through Justin that Elle met Swo Boda at the Wing Chun studio. Swo Boda is someone Elle met in February 2019 and they became more closely involved in the last few months of her life. It is his chosen pseudonym.

Justin knows we want to learn more about the last three weeks of Elle’s life. He took Elle to the airport when she set off to meet Isaac. We don’t yet know who collected her when she returned. But he saw Elle the day before she died, when she went to the studio of her master to look for Swo Boda.

He told us that Elle felt so close to us and wasn’t sure whether she should fight this or not. This ties in somewhat with my perception of her holding out an invisible hand to keep us at arm’s length. He said that Elle had discussed recently with him that she felt she couldn’t give people what they needed from her. It is sad that she thought this when we actually know, based on the many emails we received after she died, that even if she didn’t feel able to give them what they wanted from her, she seems to have given them what they needed anyway. It has always been an enigma for us that Elle was never able to ‘receive’ any of the positive feedback I know people gave her.

22 March

We don’t know the details yet, but there was a terrorist attack in London today, and after the first moment of horror, my next thought was ‘Oh God, this is going to play right into Donald Trump’s little hands’. The world seems to be going to pot! Whales about to be slaughtered in Norway, that national beacon of what could be better about this world, and the rainforests being destroyed for yet more palm oil or to raise cheaper beef cattle. I am not in a good frame of mind to write today.

When the true king’s murderers

Are allowed to roam free,

A thousand magicians arise in the land

Where are the feasts we are promised?

The Ghost Song, Jim Morrison

23 March

Maybe feeling a bit better today…

For the last few days, when out walking the dogs in the various car parks around us, I have been entranced and intrigued by the multitude of varieties of wildflowers, so they are my topic for today.

There are so many shapes and sizes, from tiny specimens who love to take their chances with the big kids on the block, to others that feel more comfortable hidden in the shadows thrown by the bigger varieties. Of the larger specimens, some are still quite delicately formed while others are over-the-top blowsy—they just love to sparkle for all to see. Within each variety, some are more perfect than others, and perhaps this has to do with where last year’s seeds fell. Do you feel lucky, punk?

Some weeds thrive growing out of the dry-stone walls that are a no-go spot for others. And so they all manage to live in a somewhat cohesive community, as most of us humans do. Sometimes there is no telling why one weed is more perfect than another of the same variety when conditions appear the same. Could it simply be in the genes?

I can’t help wondering why wildflowers, or weeds, look so perfect in the countryside, but just wrong when they grow in our gardens. I have tried hard not to regard them with a prejudiced eye, but this doesn’t solve the aesthetic problem. Weeds definitely do not look good when left to grow in a formal garden setting. Perhaps it’s a case of oil and water not mixing. If Elle had been a wildflower, she may have been one of the miniscule blue specimens that hug the earth and are easy to miss, but when you do spot them, they are perfectly formed, the epitome of beauty, elegance and understatement. My nephew, a plant expert, says this wee weed is called a blue Scarlet Pimpernel. I think Elle would appreciate its ambiguities!

blue scarlet pimpernel

It got me thinking about human physical beauty, a contentious subject for many, as it most likely involves the Golden Ratio, symmetry, balance and harmony. Most people prefer to think of beauty as purely subjective, and there is no rule to say they can’t. I tend towards a more objective view of beauty and see it as separate from attractiveness. I also think attractiveness is much more important than physical beauty in humans, as not all beauty glows with a warm light. I think the reason for viewing human physical beauty as subjective is because it is not a skill or talent we can develop, but rather something that comes by chance, or DNA, and it seems somewhat unfair that one person’s DNA may be ‘better’ than another’s. We have all heard it said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, beauty is skin deep, and even that beauty is a curse. It can be male or female and be seen across all age groups. Sometimes there is beauty in a baby or young child, but later it has less impact. At other times, a baby or child can be quite ordinary but grow up to be a beauty. There is also something about our willingness to see beauty in all we behold, and or how we value it. All the sayings about beauty work, but there is possibly also more to the story—something connected to our souls.

I think we all get ‘gifts and poisoned chalices’ of varying size and value in the cards we are dealt at birth, and it is easy to assume that they come to us through our genes. Genes or not, I like to think of them as tools in our toolbox that can make our lives ‘richer or poorer’—it is up to us how we view and use them—but what of the tool of physical beauty? It will always be a specific gift or curse because of its great effect on others. Perhaps those with this gift have something connected to it to deal with in this lifetime. I have been in the presence of only a few adults I would describe in this way: one a girl, not yet a woman, also born with great intelligence, who seemed to understand how powerful her beauty was, and it made her afraid. She did all she could to play it down. She rarely wore makeup and hid behind layers of long, loose clothing. When I was in her company, still a girl myself, I found it impossible to relax in conversation with her because her beauty was so overwhelming that I couldn’t see past it to her. Perhaps as she grew into a woman it became easier for her, and allowed others to relax in her company.

Another beautiful young woman floundered because no man could say no to her—they all fawned at her feet. She married one, divorced, and married another, only to take her own life a short while later. It was so sad. Even then I recognised the difficulties beauty can bring. She desperately wanted to be loved, appreciated and respected for what was inside, but she couldn’t find that person in herself so how was a man going to be able to. I have met a few physically beautiful men, but perhaps their problems are a little different. There doesn’t seem to be the same pressure on men, and perhaps this is because they are mainly the viewers, while women tend to be the viewed, as explained so well by John Berger in his seminal book ‘Ways of Seeing’—a book everyone should read.

The reason for the gift of great beauty would be different in every case. Perhaps it is the ultimate lesson in how to separate yourself from the world’s view of you, live a thoughtful, open and curious life, not bullied or cajoled into doing things that are unrepresentative of who you are, or in order to learn to resist the great temptations like money, greed and laziness. Beauty, if allowed, can bring you everything without effort, which is not good for character development and self-esteem.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, the protagonist in the novel of the same name, led a band of men on a mission to save aristocrats from the guillotine, and the red version of this flower was his symbol. I am enjoying my relationship with the wildflowers around our carparks, and happy to follow their lead for the moment.

I couldn’t help noting the tiny orchid specimen beside the blue ‘Elle’ flowers that were closing for the night as I walked the dogs earlier. It is one of the bee orchids, and my sisters and I have chosen the bee as something of a moniker—all three of us ended up with married surnames beginning with B! As you must know by now, I don’t believe in coincidences anymore.

24 March

When we met Elle’s Wing Chun master Nino today, he felt strangely familiar. He said Elle had made a big impression on him, and then told us more of what had happened on her last full day, and how she and Swo Boda managed to connect. That will come up later when I speak more specifically of Elle’s last few days when the time is right.

I have been waiting for the moment when it feels right to tell more of the story of Greg and me, and today is the day. There has always existed a strong bond between us, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a straightforward or comfortable relationship. At times in our relationship the bond has felt stifling and it has even threatened my relationships with those I love. But I would never have chosen to break the bond. The glue that binds is love but not what I would call pure or unconditional love. I have come to understand that the bond, not unlike the one that exists between you and your nemesis, is there for good reason. It provides, when we are ready to hear it, a direct conduit into areas of ourselves that we need to work on. This is the story of when that moment had arrived for me.

These were very distressing times for my whole family, but particularly Greg, Peter and me. While it may seem too personal to write about, I believe I should because it proves that transformation of the self is possible at any age when we cast aside fear of change. There are always positive reasons for the writings I include, especially about sensitive issues. In this case I want to show that it is always good to take another look at certain key events in your life that have caused you and others pain and anger. In the end, I firmly believe it is less likely to drive you mad or bring on mental illness, and more likely that understanding with acceptance can lead to greater peace of mind, and ultimately a better outcome for all. There was work to be done and everyone stepped up to the plate. The alternative, to stay in a form of hell, was not an option.

What a journey Greg and I have been on! We are true brother and sister now, beyond genetics, but it took a lifetime to get here. We reached our worst moment, at 3 am on 8 July 2012. I had not slept well for months, and that night I prayed to our mother. ‘Mom, please,’ I said, ‘you got me into this, and now I need your help.’ A few minutes later I was at my laptop, and I didn’t stop writing for two hours. The reason I asked my mother to help me was because a few years before she died, she told me she was so happy she didn’t have to worry about Greg after she died, because he had Peter and me. Subconsciously, I had taken on a sense of responsibility for him that seemed only normal within a family. But I believe that my sense of responsibility for Greg got started somewhere in our early childhood. Greg was a deeply sensitive and kind child who preferred to step away from confrontation. As his older sister, I was expected to head off danger. I didn’t like confrontation either, but I felt I had no choice.

I will start with a piece from my writing that night in question:

Greg’s anger about feeling rejected by me is nearly doing me in, and I feel trapped in the here and now, in his/our crazy space. My mind is never free of him unless I am asked a question that I need to think about the answer to. The only way I can keep going is to dig deeper and deeper into our combined pasts to try to remember what I have been to him, done for him and felt for him, while not forgetting what he has done for me. I am writing this because it is 3 am and I can’t sleep, as Greg sits in the next-door room also doing what he is doing. I am writing this so that I can find some peace from the thought that I am responsible for this.

This was the start of a letter to myself when everything around me was failing. Before the death of Elle this was the hardest time in my life, and equally for those who loved Greg and me. This was not about right or wrong although that is how it kept trying to express itself. It had to do with an existential crisis of karmic proportions. Whatever the source of the karmic disruption, what was necessary was the will to resolve it, and ultimately Greg and I both had that.

How we got to this point in our relationship is that Greg did not like or agree with a decision Peter and I had made to sell our first home that we had built on the island. We had our reasons but to Greg they were deeply flawed. He also felt happy, useful, stable and settled, and found it hard to contemplate the change. It took two years to reach a crescendo, perhaps better described as a vortex. It culminated in us having to ask Greg to move into a place of his own. Something I believed I never could or would do. Below is the last paragraph of the twenty pages I wrote that painful night, which helped me to better understand what was going on, and my part in it.

It would be wonderful if it turns out that I should have let him stand independently a long time ago, find a job, accommodation and live with his own friends. I would hope that if he were to come out of this with something better, there is hope for us to have a new relationship. I will probably have to face up to my part in contributing to his continued dependency. But I never knew I might be doing something wrong.

Most of us at times, to varying degrees, get caught up in contributing and participating in dramas of our own making. I see them as intricately linked to our soul development over more than one lifetime. We think of ourselves as capable and autonomous beings who know it all because we have reached adulthood. We forget to keep learning. I also know with the help of hindsight that there was a truth to some of what Greg kept raising, but I accept this because I now see that what followed was a necessary and deeply cathartic experience that has only had a wondrous outcome. What came out of this painful journey was a great transformation in Greg and his life. I can’t think of another transformation of someone I know that equalled it, Peter and I bringing up the rear. But at the time it was a play none of us wanted to be in.

Life is a play and we all play a part,
But it often gets hard for the heart.

Hard for the Heart, Duffy

Going over all this again has been difficult. This is the first time I have reread all of what I wrote during those fraught times. I understand now that nothing is set in stone. Everything is surmountable. All one needs is the will to engage with ‘the dragon of chaos’, to seek out the important elements, not baulk at facing all one’s responsibilities, and attempt to gain a new and deeper understanding, and then continue with the work of repairing and restoring. I shall write the conclusion of this tough journey tomorrow.

25 March

I spoke to Claudia last night to get her dates for joining us in London in April. All sorted. I have also just had a lovely conversation with Marise, the friend from my student days who introduced Peter to me. Marise’s husband, lover and friend died a month after Elle, finally taken by cancer. But he had a long reprieve, as it nearly took his life about ten years earlier. Marise and I both view our journey as a mountain to climb. We have come to realise that we are important members of each other’s soul group in this life. We laughed at all the twists and turns on our vertiginous paths and decided it was time we turned around to look at the view. I also told her we would be coming to South Africa in November to visit all our good friends. It feels like the right thing to do, especially following Elle’s death.

26 March

Today is my first Mother’s Day without our girl. Kate surprised me with a bouquet of flowers courtesy of Interflora. She is now the keeper of the family keys. Elle sent me a protective shield.

More interesting things are happening following a communication from one of Elle’s housemates at the time she died. About a week ago I decided to contact Sapphire to talk about Elle’s last three weeks, and I kept noting that she was still in Bali. Sapphy told us she had been doing a Clarity Breath workshop at the Bali Spirit Festival, and had amazing insights throughout her time there. She felt a strong presence of Elle from day one. She said she would like to train as a breath work facilitator herself. Having watched an introductory video about Clarity of Breath, I feel that Elle might well have chosen breath work as her healing vehicle. It will be interesting to watch Sapphy develop through this training.

I am still working through the ‘Greg and me’ story. Throughout this painful period, Elle never took sides, and gently refused to be drawn into the drama. Perhaps this was the first time I saw just how different she was from most people. The pain of that period is now alleviated by the transformation Greg went through over the first couple of years of living away from us. Little did we know that there was a tumultuous time to come, and how intimately it would again involve Greg. Elle’s last April, which is both of their birthday months, was one of the happiest of Greg’s life, and many friends and family shared the moment we all gathered at his home—some even coming from South Africa—to celebrate his 60th birthday. Greg said that for him life begins at sixty! Four months later his house was doused in sorrow.

27 March

The evening has taken a difficult turn. Kate and I had an emotionally charged battle today. I started the day feeling like a failed human being. In what way have I ever contributed to the greater good? There are such amazing people in the world making a real difference on a grand scale. What will I say has come out of my life when I get to the Pearly Gates? Almost everyone gets married and raises a family, so no big achievement there! I was in the bathroom, and yes, on the toilet, when a little voice inside me said, ‘Perhaps you were not meant for the big stage, but you have made a difference to the lives of many people’, and their names started playing through my mind. That is true, I thought, and it is good enough for me. Kate and I love and admire each other so much. We will get through this moment. It is a part of why we are together in this life—to get to the heart of things.

I don’t feel I can write anything more today. I know that Kate’s Elle is somewhere at the heart of this.

28 March

I just returned from a walk around the car park and my weed garden. It was lovely to see even more blue Scarlet Pimpernels than a week ago, and they are colonising whole areas in the ‘border’. I am so proud of them!

Kate and I are taking a gentle time out over our disagreement. We have acknowledged our feelings and love for one another, and will carefully keep on working through whatever this is.

There were more hard moments today. This morning I accompanied Greg to be interviewed by the judge presiding over the inquest into Elle’s death. Greg had to answer questions about his statement, and about how Elle was when she stayed with him. I could tell he was emotional when he came out, but also steadfast. I think that was for me.

It could be that Kate—and she has confirmed this to me—has suppressed her grief because she is afraid of what will happen if she lets it surface. We have had a chance to read some of her writings around her grief, and it is so powerful and authentic that it takes my breath away. I can only surmise that she is afraid of letting her grief loose because when it has calmed, this is the moment one has to accept the death as fact. She is also afraid to grieve because she needs to be a cheerful presence for her husband and child, and for the running of their lives and business, and her career.

Like Elle, Kate in pre-puberty had a quiet power that could sometimes become vociferous. She, too, went through some tough times, although she would be the first to admit that they were nothing like as tough as Elle experienced. Kate made a decision to be a warrior rather than a worrier in life, to go for her dream and reach for what she wants through effort and hard work. This requires steeliness on the part of a sensitive soul. At times it has left her  fragile, but to date she has come through without sinking too deep.

Kate believes, and I agree, that she and Elle are made of the same stuff. Two sides of the same coin, we would sometimes say, but not mirrors of each other, rather back to back in the way they faced out towards the world. Though close as the two sides of a coin are, they did not interfere with each other, even in their differences, but had total respect for each other. They may have had differences in their interpretation of life, but shared the same standpoint. In her last birthday card to Kate, Elle wrote, ‘You are my friend, my family, my guide, my inspiration, my support, my love, my heart and my angel’. This struck Kate so deeply, in my view, because it is exactly how she felt about Elle. In spiritual terms, I may even describe their coin sides as representative of the yin and yang duet. I say this because perhaps one feared the light and the other feared the dark. You work out which way round. They would often help each other with whatever they were facing or had come between them. When one was in the darkness, the other would give of her light.

Kate still needs to keep Elle close, but she also should understand that Elle worked far and wide. At times her friends were as important as her family. This I understand.

29 March

I just had a gentle conversation with Kate (who is at home in London), and her voice was soft and vulnerable. She is preparing for a module of her Master’s in Law, which is probably not what she needs to be doing at the moment. As I said goodbye, I looked up and said, ‘Elle, your sister really needs you now’, and immediately, with no expectation of it, a shadowing (shivers) went right up my legs past my knees. Tears ran down my face, and I just said, ‘Thank you, Elle, it’s good to know’. I remember her saying that I stubbornly refuse to seek help. Perhaps I am learning—and finding it.

30 March

It is seven months today. I have been communicating a lot and in my own way with Elle recently. She did say I only needed to ask for help. So often I hear her best when I am indulging in what I like to call ‘sacred smoke’, a ciggie first thing in the morning. I just wish I could leave it out for the rest of the day.

The wild poppies, cornflowers and gladioli are out today. I am still enjoying my ‘lil weeds’ story.

Greg started living independently around July 2012. At the beginning of 2013 Peter and I moved into our new home. I can see that the house would never have been suitable as a communal home for us all. We sold this house just before we left for Galicia, and it was a big relief not to have to return to it after Elle died. I am not sure I could have dealt with that. Elle’s footprint in and around that house was powerful. As things turned out, Elle stayed in our little annex, or casita, for quite a long time, and so it was just as well that it was free for her to use. More reasons for me to view life as a series of dots, and it is up to us to make the connections, both literally and metaphorically—and when we do, the passage of events becomes clearer and life flows more smoothly. More importantly, Greg had the opportunity to develop and grow in his new way of being and become the ‘new Greg’ he longed to be.

He moved from his first temporary digs to a communal country house that was extremely basic but offered him something affordable. He was eager to earn his own living, and started to grow the idea of renting a property big enough for him to be able to rent out a few rooms, and also create something a little less spartan for himself in the process. He then found a house in a beautiful part of the island. But while he gained experience there, once the summer was over the loneliness of living alone and isolated through the winter got too much for him. He was also learning a lot about relationships and how they could go wrong. His mental health was not quite back on a sound footing, but he was showing bravery and a desire to move on with his life.

His next venture was to take on an even bigger property. It didn’t have much character, but he thought its proximity to a larger town and improved accommodation could make it work for him. Within a month of moving in he decided that it was all wrong—he felt no connection with the property and the venture felt more than he was comfortable with. He panicked, but luckily he met a lady who wanted to take over the property and its lease, interestingly another South African. During this time I regularly met him for meals as we talked over his ideas. We were also slowly processing all that we had been through recently, and some discussions were warmer than others. Peter, on the other hand, had lost trust and confidence in him, and was haunted by memories of the pain and conflict. I could understand this, and Greg could too, but nevertheless it was still painful when Peter would avoid seeing him, or even turn away from him when we did get together. Greg and I both talked about the need for patience.

As a little boy, Greg was enchanting, loved by all.  His creativity was constantly finding new outlets. He believed that the world and its people were bathed in goodness. But as he entered puberty he began to learn that evil lived alongside good. During his teens he also struggled to understand his sexuality in a country where the only role models for gay men were ‘dirty old men’ in ‘flasher macs’ who hid out of sight in darkened corners. The transition from childhood innocence to accepting the compromises of the adult world was not easy for him. He seemed to withdraw from the natural process of becoming an adult, and eventually the only way to evade his disappointments of what the world appeared to offer him, was to find daily solace in the numbness that heroin could induce. Although today he stands fully restored as a contented, balanced and wise man, he still retains his boyishness. I like to think of him as a resolved Peter Pan.

I believe that three sessions of ayahuasca under the guidance of two shamans (one of whom was with us for my THC oil experience), finally brought him through the last few hoops to where he is today. But this is not a treatment for the faint hearted. Every minute of it is uncomfortable, unpalatable and frightening, but Greg was determined to come out of it with renewed hope. I am definitely not advising anyone to put themselves through it either. He was prepared to do the work essential to personal internal transformation. Most people would prefer to stay with what is familiar than enter the unknown.

Eventually Peter observed the changes in him, and his trust grew again. A new friendship began to develop. This was only deepened by Elle’s death. After Elle died, seeing how it had affected Greg, Peter told him he had only love for him. The relationship was better than it had ever been, and they now regard each other as equals, and we all love spending time together. But I don’t think Peter is open to the three of us living together again. That might change one day though. It shows what is achievable when the will is there. The deep work, and the realisations that altered how he saw himself and reality, was done solely by Greg, with the encouragement and support of his family.

I thought it would be interesting to drop in a few pieces of Greg’s writings. He has always had a few other personalities living somewhere within his being that surface particularly during turbulent times to help him express what he is thinking and feeling. They seem to have receded now, and sometimes I even miss them a little. Although they were mischievous and sometimes rather angry, they were always amusing. They are known as guru gregeeeji, the Mad Monk, the potty poet, and Sir Real. Greg was an undiagnosed dyslexic who made it through school only because of his innate intelligence and likeability. I will not edit his writing, as much as I itch to! I have been collecting his writings for years, especially as they come up as memories on FB which he then sends to me, and one day I intend to surprise him with a book of them.

5 October 2012

give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he may eat for the rest of his life ‘ …………Cool…….however…please remember that while you are teaching him and while he is learning he still needs to eat …da mutterings of a Mad Monk …

14 October 2012

……it will come as no surprise, to those who know me, when i say i still don’t have a clue as to what the id and the ego is supposed to be…well, its all so abstract…i do know that the ego is a bad thing….desperate to b rid of mine….and every guru worth his salt should have a mantra….so here goes…E GO E GOING E GONE…chantingchantingchantingchantingchantingchanting guru gregggeee ji

10 Feb 2014

mmmmm I understand the concept of fighting fire with fire, however if one is not carefull, one may end up with two fires burning….I prefer fighting fire with water….its a sure fire way to let off some steam…the mad monk…

4 March 2014

It seems, perhaps, that to savour the sweetness of heaven

It is necessary to taste the bitterness of hell…

For how may one feel the gentle release that peace brings

Without having felt the horror of war…

And how may one revel in love,

If one has not endured love’s absence.

The Mad Monk

19 Jan 2016


The flow of time brings me here,

This passing of time that erodes all fear.

A life (time) unfolded,

A vessel that has been moulded,

Year after year after year.

I am an Elder now, and yet

As my eyesight starts to fade

I see with more clarity the beauty and the pain

Of this existence we have made.

As my hearing recedes

I hear more clearly

The sound, the word, the logos,

This message of love

From the gods above.

As my skin begins to wither and die

My heart expands,

Grows wings,

And learns to fly.

And now

At this point in time,

This moment that is yours and mine,

I take time to pause,


Take a breath so pure,

So sublime.

As if it be my first or last time,

And it is

So very, very fine.

For what is the promise of life

If not to reach for the divine.

I will leave the rest for his book, but I am sure it is clear how much I love and admire my brother, who no longer seems as fragmented as he was, and personally I feel that we are greater friends than ever before. I too have undergone a transformational period as a result of how intertwined our souls have been since childhood, and lately by having to find a new way of being since Elle died. During one of Elle’s many moments of distress, when she would seek me out, she told me that around the age of twenty-two, at her lowest, she considered leaving this world. During those years I did sometimes fear that she may go, but in her last few years this fear subsided. I told her that if she were to take her own life, or die by any other means, my life would be over too. I would fall apart for good. I now understand, for many good reasons, that this option is not available to me, and so the need to find a way to transform myself and find reasons to live life fully, while not denying my sorrow, is an imperative for me. Writing has definitely helped me find purpose to my days as I attempt to chart a new journey into an unknown territory.

Author: jenniesredbook

Someone who is trying to find the stepping stones that will make a difference to her in this lifetime.

7 thoughts on “Good Grief – Part Six”

  1. Such an interesting read Jennie. So much for us all to think about. I particularly liked the dreams you had and the explanation of tears and uncanny that all your sister’s married names began with B. I fully relate to you always being busy and never getting ahead. Much more though is the insight you have and the truthful communications you have with your family. That is not something everyone has. xxxx


    1. Thanks Ann – and yes, we all moved from A to B – ha ha. I appreciate your comments as always. It is an odd thing to feel urged to turn yourself inside out and then open the curtains for all to see, but it was cathartic in more ways than one, and not done without a lot of consideration.


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