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.
May (in Latin, Maius) was named for the Greek Goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May.
Since arriving back on the island a new blue flower has appeared in my weed garden—the car parks where we walk our dogs. My nephew Alex tells me it is Cichorium intybus, or chicory, a member of the dandelion family. Apparently, from the seventeenth century until the arrival of coffee from the Caribbean, a hot beverage was made from its roasted root. The plant and its flower are not exactly the belle of the ball, though—a bit lacking in the vital statistics department!
I was feeling normal and capable all morning, and then bang—a flashback to the phone call. The whole horrible moment plays back in my mind’s eye, and I watch myself experiencing every second of that fateful moment.
It takes me to such a deep, dark place. Then my thoughts turn to ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’. It’s disconcerting because it doesn’t translate as I want to die. I don’t feel as if I’m in a prolonged depression, but I have a sense that one is lurking under a stone or behind a curtain. I know this because I catch sight of those familiar little gremlins from time to time. There it is, familiar, noted, but I reject depression as useless. I see no purpose in giving myself over to that destructive, life-sucking state of mind. But of course, it isn’t that. It offers me the opportunity to enter the next stage of my inner development. At some point, though perhaps just not now, I will engage with those greedy little gremlins. I also believe that what most people call depression should really be seen as disappointment (in oneself or in life), sorrow or self-imposed barriers. A true clinical depression doesn’t lift for weeks or months, and there are no reprieves from it once you are in its grip, and it is relatively rare. There are definitely also rare forms of depression that can be linked to chemical imbalances, but they are hard to get diagnosed. Triggers like extreme stress to the psyche or body could play a role. I believe that we fall into the clutches of depression when we refuse to engage with the voices in our heads telling us that all is not well. The depth of it is representative of the times we have swept it under the carpet through drugs and other forms of self-medication and resistance. Many aspects of modern life increase the likelihood of experiencing lows or depressions, but I wonder whether cutting back on the arts and sports in our education system today has something to do with the massive rise in mental health issues amongst the youth. Children are often also missing out on the opportunity to learn the centuries-old mythologies, the very origins of modern religions, and rarely learn the philosophies of the ancient civilisations from all over the world. It seems to me that children are not encouraged to ask the important questions concerning the bigger issues of life, for example, why does my presence on earth matter, where do I come from, where will I go when I die. And nor are adults asking themselves why there is such an increase in mental illness, why we are seeing a rise in autism across the spectrum, or why the great increase in allergies. The questions are ignored as more and more medications are prescribed, and in time we forget there are even questions we should ask. It strikes me that there are corporations, hence individuals, that this suits well.
I accept that there are times a patient needs a little extra help to surface from the depths of depression, especially when they have been heavily self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, but it should be accompanied by therapy, and the best therapists, in my view, are those who have been through Jungian psychoanalysis as part of their training. Anti-depressants are not a substitute for the inner work a person needs to do. As long as the mind is seen as purely a brain, dependant on its neurones’ choices of firing, it can be hard to tell yourself that you matter. Without recognising the presence of the soul with its multitude of layers, both within consciousness and its greater and unfamiliar unconscious, the future, and not for just the depressed individuals, could look bleak and pointless.
It matters to me that I haven’t sunk into a deep clinical depression in response to my grief. It should be possible to see past sadness, or at least find a way to live with it. Depression, on the other hand, is unrelenting, numbing and life draining, and that, I would say, is a clue that work needs to be done.
I don’t recognise that Elle suffered from long and deep bouts of depression. There were definitely moments of dissatisfaction with the status quo, self-disappointment and of mental and emotional disturbances but not of prolonged periods of depression as I have experienced them or seen in others.
I am fully aware that I am not medically qualified to speak up about depression, but I do have my own experiences of it and a lifetime of observing them in others, and these are only my personal thoughts on the subject.
Since I have lived in the northern half of this planet, May has always been my favourite month. Even its name is full of hope and expectation. May this day be full of joy and love!
I woke this morning to the most exquisite bright blue day—those special days devoid of any haze. Because there is so little industry on Ibiza, the light here is extraordinary and a big part of why I have stayed. And however often the sky is blue, I never take it for granted. The day was lifted higher when I climbed into my beloved Toyota Hilux truck, and the first track my iPod played was the Beach Boys’ Surfer Girl. ‘Yes,’ I shouted. ‘Yes, Elle, you are my surfer girl, and I want to ride that cosmic wave with you,’ but then added, ‘I know, I need to wait.’ It reminded me of one of the earliest emails we received from a friend of hers, whose name I have heard over the years, but we are yet to meet. These are his words directed to his friend of many years:
You were a fantastic light. Though why use the past tense? From our deep intense discussions over the years, you would probably argue—in this instant—that you still ARE and indeed I would bloody well agree! So you are currently surfing an intergalactic wave through the cosmos smiling down on us, humming something along the lines of Bobby McFerrin’s; ‘Don’t worry be happy’ and I am looking back up at you, bobbing to your hum, telling you to ROCK ON CHICK!! YOU LOOK GODDAMN GOOD ON THAT WAVE!! Obviously, intergalactic cosmic wave surfing is quite natural for the Buckle!
Oh Elle… every time that we spoke you had an enchanting, down to earth way of creating the most thought-provoking discourse while at the same time… you were just the easiest person to have a chin-wag with. You also had a talent for making a cool joke out of anything :):). You cared so much about people and how best to deal with them. Over the years I found great comfort and intrigue in the way you shared your maturing perceptions of the world and ideas on humanism. What are and aren’t we allowed to feel? ;):) On your courageous path of self-discovery, which you communicated so passionately, you had found a peace of mind in Ibiza—away from the intensities of London—I was so happy for you, you were on such a good path!
Elle, you are one of the most powerful and adorable souls to have touched all of us. You are everyone’s home, place of comfort, and peace. So, Peace to you, babe, I won’t say ‘rest in peace’ because your energy and soul is most definitely living in all of us, and it will continue to. Thank you, Elle, I love you <3<3.
To the Buckle family who are celebrating her today, I light my candles with you, and I say thank you for bringing up such an amazing person, we are all so grateful to you!
Love and Peace to you xxx
I remember reading it for the first time in our ‘villa sanctuary’, already in my ‘higher state’, and I think I did for a moment take off with them for a wonderous, colourful, light-filled trip out of our world and into yonder galaxies. When I am honest and selfless, I can say I am glad she is not here today. She would not have liked this new universe of alt-politics, alt-facts, alt-behaviour, unkindness and fake news. Along with her disinterest in consumerism and conventional attitudes, Elle was never interested in politics, and she probably didn’t even know of the existence of JFK or Thatcher, nor what they stood for. Mandela is probably one of the few politicians she knew anything about. Her interest was only ever in what was here and now and what she valued: love, harmony, the state of the human soul and its place in this world, and in the universe. She was on her way to becoming the healer she wanted to be, having practised on us and her friends for many years. I know she would have shown impatience with my concerns about the Trump in the White House, my distrust for Theresa May, and my anger over Brexit. She would have said to me, ‘Why worry about things you have no control over? Just trust, mom.’ I can see her, preparing her lunch with such reverent attention, dressed in clothes that never overwhelmed her presence and most likely barefoot. But what I wouldn’t give to hear her say one more time as she silently materialised in the kitchen at Can Tanques, ‘Hey, pretty lady, what ya doing?’ So often I would be doing one or other time-wasting exercise.
Mark Rautenbach has come over from South Africa to visit Greg and us. He came round this morning so we could talk about his work and some ideas for Angels&Elephants. We also want to discuss a new commission.
And six months later this arrived on the island, made up from all the photos and writings that we had given Mark to incorporate into a beautiful dedication to our girl.
Mark is an extraordinary artist and his pieces are complex, labour intensive and often involve needlework, knitting and weaving in unusual ways. He uses whatever media he considers appropriate to the work. A few years back we commissioned him to create a piece for us, using all sorts of memorabilia and random objects we had retrieved from my mother’s bedside drawers after her death. We gave him her passport, family letters, a bunch of photos that kept us close to her, a prayer book she used daily, cotton dishcloths and a woollen sock she had knitted, and many other odds and ends. We told him the overall theme should be roses. The completed work was monumental. He used nail scissors to cut silhouettes of roses into the photos, which were then delicately strung in three layers, using only cotton threads in front of the background that was collaged using the supplied bits and pieces. The whole piece was encased in Perspex. I could not have imagined that a few years later we would be discussing a piece to commemorate Elle. His recent massive installation for a restaurant, The Shortmarket Club in Cape Town, gave us the idea. The installation references museum cases of rare butterflies. When you look closer the ‘butterflies’ are torn pieces of paper creatively dyed and painted in iridescent colours. Beneath the colours is writing relevant to the history of The Shortmarket Club. Mark will take home copies of Elle’s notes and other memorabilia, and construct a piece in a similar way to the butterflies that have come to mean so much to us. He has also offered us a limited edition of prints of his butterfly work that we will incorporate into an art exhibition when we launch our charity, and whatever we raise will go directly to the charity. I have always been aware of the special nature of butterflies and Graeme will remember that I once advised him that ‘you cannot cage a butterfly’. So this gave the proposed piece a deeper meaning for me.
I am having my tea in bed, cuddled up close with the lads, Zac and Kito. Sadly I can hear that my wildflower borders around the carparks are being strimmed, but I relax in the knowledge that they will be back next year.
Today, a year ago, was Tinker’s memorial. All the grandchildren spoke loving words and conveyed beautiful memories to those of us gathered at the church next door to her home in Chesterton, Oxfordshire. Tinker’s children, Peter and Lindsay, also shared some of their thoughts and memories, many of which were new to some of us. I am including Elle’s words, as again they add to an understanding of who she was and her connection always to those she loved back.
The girls sometimes called Tinker Gran, but mostly it was Tigger, Tig or Tink. Her real name was Lesley Odette, and Caz is Caroline, James’ older sister.
Elle’s words at Tinker’s memorial, May 2016
When I reflect on Tinker, there are many things that stand out. I was always touched by her grace, eloquence, and child-like charm, and her own amusement that she utilized to carry herself through situations and life. I’d like to talk about some early memories, as well as an impression that she left with me from our last time together.
Growing up, Kate, Caz, James and I spent a lot of time at Tig’s house—fighting over toys, play-fighting… like wild animals! There was a cupboard at Gran’s house that was full of games, and I had so much fun playing with these that I often thought about this cupboard! And had an anticipated excitement at the thought of getting to play with them on our next visit. When I look back on our childhood visits to Tinks’ house, I just have all of these memories of playing; whether it was ‘hot and cold’ to find the sweeties, trips to the local playground, or imaginary games in the garden and the fields around her house. She always made sure that we were entertained and having fun. In the evening she would read to us from her Beatrix Potter collection before tucking us into the twin beds, which sat parallel to each other, and always had the same, but clean, bedding. There was something so comforting and nurturing about staying with her and being around her made me feel safe and loved. This is one example of the many ways in which she showed her love for others, and how she gave her time and energy to creating an atmosphere of love and joy.
But I think that one of the strongest impressions she has left on me is from the last time that we were together. As Kate mentioned before, Tinker was always so involved and supportive of all of our interests and passions. Over this last Christmas, Lindsey had bought her a beautiful book which had a collection of drawings, and we sat and discussed which were our favourites, and why. She got me excited to go and visit the exhibition to see these, and then pulled out her diary to pencil in a trip for us to go together, which I like to think of as one of her more sneaky ways of busting out of the nursing home… This was a woman who you couldn’t keep down!
I also remember that she asked me about this nutritionist that I had told her about. I had mentioned that his advice and insights had made a huge difference to my life, health, and the way that I felt. So she asked me if maybe she could see him too, if maybe there was some advice that he had for her to get better. When I reflected on this, I realised just how amazing it was; her love for life meant that even with the pain and discomfort that she had towards the end that she still had so much to live for. She obviously had so many reasons to want to be here with us all that they outweighed the incredible physical discomfort she must have felt.
For her love of life, she is my own personal rock star, because now I recognize how precious every moment is, the importance of appreciating all our many blessings, and to take the opportunity to live all my moments to the best of my ability.
This wonderful woman inspired me every day with the impressions she has left on me, and I’d like us all to take a moment to reflect on how she has inspired you, or made you see the world in a better way.
If you would like to honour her memory, then honour these impressions that she has left you with, by being true to the ways in which she inspired you to see the world in a lighter, brighter way. These are her legacies.
Elle once said to me, ‘I know what you are to me, ma. You are a facilitator in my life.’ There was a time when she felt almost resentful that many of her island friends and all her work contacts seemed to come to her through me. It made her feel she hadn’t outgrown her childhood dependency on her mother. I couldn’t help it that people I knew would come my way offering her the perfect opportunities to develop her interests and work possibilities. It didn’t feel like I was meddling in her life, but I can see how it looked that way. I always handed over the opportunity, and what came of it was up to Elle. So I loved it when she said she had found an honourable role for me in her adult life. When I told Kate the other day that I felt I wasn’t needed anymore, I said I was okay with it as it meant I had completed my work in raising her, and I was glad her life was running smoothly. I acknowledged that there were still times of need, but the needs were different now. She came over to me a little later, put her arms around me, and said, ‘Is it because Elle isn’t here anymore?’ I realised then that this was a large part of what I was feeling. It is an irrational feeling, and Kate needs me more than ever. I believe with time I shall make the transition through and out of my grief, and step up to being fully present for her and our grandchildren. I suppose this is where I look to Father Time and his promise of friendship.
There were times when I felt such a weight on my heart because Elle was going through an internal turmoil, but there were other times when I looked forward to her reaching the goals she had set herself. More than anything, I loved to see her and hear her—those were the moments when I felt my heart beat down the lifeline which connected the two of us.
Never has so much been asked of me. But I will not let her down. I will find a space to live somewhere between the earthly and the heavenly Elle along with all the others that feel her departure on such a primordial level. I just have yet to find it.
Today is Mother’s Day in Spain, and I am thinking about Tinker, Peter’s mother, and Kate and Elle’s gran. She was certainly a one-off! I am also thinking of my own mom. I know she has my back.
I have an urge to question Stephen Fry on his thinking following a headline today in one of the UK newspapers. After a viewer complained, Ireland is opening an investigation to determine whether Stephen Fry broke the rules of blasphemy under the Defamation Act after comments he made on a show on Southern Ireland’s national broadcast station RTE in 2015. The last time anyone was accused of blasphemy was apparently in 1855, and it is unlikely he will actually be prosecuted. His response, following the interview, was that he had not directed his comments against any particular religion.
And we laugh like soft, mad children
Smug in the woolly cotton brains of infancy
The music and voices are all around us
The Ghost Song, Jim Morrison
I am surprised that someone with Fry’s vast brain doesn’t realise how free will functions, which is the premise of at least Judaism and Christianity. If there is a God, it is even more important that this paradigm we call ‘life on Earth’ functions on this system of free will, and it is my belief that it has a dual nature, destiny. It is something that takes the shape of a feeling inside me rather than something I can easily convey in words. We need the duality of darkness and light to give us a structure that supports learning so that we can find the sweet spot of a good life. There is another way to understand darkness and light, and that is as good and evil. This is why I don’t see individual or universal suffering as proof that God doesn’t exist. I can see the benefits people experience when they engage with their life experiences and work on the deeper levels of their psyche and make changes according to what they have learnt, in other words, living life consciously. I often hear that there is either free will or all is down to fate, but for me they are perfect partners. There is a map of all possibilities but which paths we choose is our choice. Each path we choose has consequences. I may be a happy but delusional fool for daring to believe that the world behaves logically, but I prefer this to viewing us as accidental ghosts of the exceptional beings who first appeared on our planet as a result of a never-to-be-found ‘missing link’.
I am finding the teachings of Kabbalah so inspiring, and even exciting. It reaches back to the ancient Hebrew mystical interpretation of the Zohar that underpins the Torah, and therefore the Bible too. It attempts to explain the essence of God through words given a numerical value and gender, and goes into great detail on Creation. I have only just scratched the surface so it is presumptive of me, and hopefully not disrespectful in my playfulness, to comment at all.
Lurianic Kabbalah dwells on the role of prayer and ritual in tikkun olam. According to this vision of the world, God contracted part of God’s self into vessels of light—partly limiting him—to create the world. These vessels shattered and their shards became sparks of light trapped within the material of creation. Prayer, especially the contemplation of various aspects of the divinity (sephirot), releases these sparks of God’s self and allows them to reunite with God’s essence, bringing them closer to a fixed world.
I like to think of ‘sparks of light trapped within the material of creation’ as diamonds, which are one form of carbon, coal being another. They couldn’t be more yin and yang if they tried. To give diamonds greater meaning too is to consider our conflicted attraction and lifelong affinity to their beauty and sparkle.
I am sure I am not the first person to find that these writings of the sixteenth century conjure visions of the Big Bang theory. They are a reinterpretation by Isaac Luria of the Zohar, which was written around the thirteenth century, although its roots go back to a time before Christ. It goes on to say that within the shards were both light and dark, i.e. good and evil (some sort of contamination?), but with every ounce of good that is created through prayer, selfless deeds, and study, that light energy (which is God’s) is released onto a path back into the Godhead, again perhaps reminiscent of the concept of the expanding and contracting cosmos. It counts for nothing if it is not enacted through free will, and it would never work to have some outcomes on earth operating under free will while others are ordered or dealt with by God. What I don’t know or cannot imagine doesn’t worry me. I do know what feels true to me. And it will always be of paramount importance that all and any knowledge that directs my life now remains plastic. What I have found is that truths can grow, sometimes beyond anything one could ever have imagined. There are no conclusions because there is always the chance of a deeper understanding waiting to be realised.
It is duality that creates the finite 3D system on earth—good and evil, sickness and health, joy and pain, hot and cold, justice and injustice, sense and non-sense—the only workable system, based around six directions: four on one plane, north, south, east and west, plus height and depth being the other two. It appears that there is a finite amount of everything on earth, and all we can ever do is turn one thing into another. I remember the ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ law. It makes perfect sense that this is how the ‘system’ maintains its equilibrium. I am not sure whether this law has been kicked into touch by quantum physics, but I don’t think so. We all have experienced the fact that if we force something down here, it will pop up over there. Nothing we do is without consequences, even when not instantly obvious, and that doesn’t apply only to what is physical. I am also told that something can never be created out of absolutely nothing. In my crazy world it is only when we bring in the fourth dimension, space-time, that we begin to encounter the infinite which must surely be the greatest definer of our world—the wondrous point at which mystery enters the picture and the world of reductionist materialism begins to break down. So, as far back as we go in explaining the creation of the world in scientific terms, it still cannot convincingly answer the question—but what came before that?
I find it odd that there doesn’t appear to be anything similar to Kabbalah in the Christian faith, unless it is kept hidden because it is thought to undermine the general teachings. I don’t know of Christian teachings that tell of the creation of the world from God’s point of view. According to the Christian Bible God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and that Eve was created out of Adam’s rib, or both were created in God’s image from dust. My preferred example of the mythology or metaphor of Adam and Eve is found in Wikipedia under ‘Lilith’:
In Jewish folklore, from the satirical book Alphabet of Sirach (ca 700–1000 CE) onwards, Lilith appears as Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time (Rosh Hashanah) and from the same clay as Adam—compare Genesis 1:27. (This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam’s ribs: Genesis 2:22) The legend developed extensively during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadah, the Zohar, and Jewish mysticism. For example, in the thirteenth century writings of Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she had coupled with the archangel Samael.
When I first heard the story of Lilith, about twenty years ago while studying at Winchester Art School, I experienced an epiphany moment—it felt like an existential release, even relief. I made an art piece around 1999 that featured Elle on two small canvasses. I used two photos of her around the age of five: one is her as the innocent child, while in the second photo, and later on the same day, she added to her outfit a rather seductive wig of long red hair with a fringe from the girls’ dress up box. I printed these two photos onto linen, mounted the linen on wood, applied a thick layer of paint around the images of Elle, and then scratched into the paint on the ‘innocent’ canvas, ‘There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead,’ and on the ‘seductress’ canvas, I scratched ‘when she was good she was Eve, and when she was bad she was Lilith.’ In other words, when a girl fits with society’s norms and expectations she is an ‘Eve’, and when she turns her back on being a subservient second-class human, or confronts men’s demands of her, she is a ‘Lilith’—in other words, she becomes a corruptor of men, and to blame for any mistakes they are perceived to have made.
While Lilith is mainly left in the realm of legend she is mentioned in the Torah and the Talmud, and it is possible that reference to her may have been left out of the first description of Creation in Genesis, where it says that Adam and Eve were created at the same time by God. Why are there two versions in the Bible with one big difference? There is a pictorial Terra-cotta relief Sumerian version of Lilith, dating from 1950 BC, in the British Museum.
On discovering the story of Lilith I felt a massive release from my own deeply imbedded religious mythology that had informed my psyche that all was not well in the state of womanhood. I finally felt released from a patriarchal view of women, and it permeated through my whole being. I don’t believe our daughters felt themselves particularly bound up in the Eve mythology because they didn’t receive the same Christian upbringing I did. I regret this now though, as I feel young people today are missing a background of mythologies and a knowledge of history that all previous generations and cultures were brought up with, whether aural in distant past times, or more recently, through a broad education. It is this that gives us a central reference point as a repository for our ethical core—something that invites us to question who we are, how we measure up and what we believe in. I can’t help wondering, were we to ask many of the young people we know what they believe in, if they would even have an answer to give us.
Recently, when my friend Rodrigo put together Elle’s astrological chart without knowing what Lilith meant to me, he told me of the importance of Lilith’s position in Elle’s chart. In my world Lilith is the more complete feminine with a strong grip on her shadow side. I can’t help but see synchronicity, or seamlessness, at work, which is why I described my art piece.
It has been good to let my thoughts wander deep into my mind over the past few days. Oddly, I feel rested.
Our house sitters have arrived to take care of Kito and Zac so we can go to Italy for a week. Lots to organise.
We arrived in Rome after an early start, a little too confident that we knew where we were going. A journey that should have taken just over two hours took five hours after three wrong turnings, but we say this was due to illogical signposting!
The view from our roof terrace – beautiful Umbria
After waking today I decided to telephone my long-time friend, Barbara. When I checked my mobile, I saw a missed call from her. That is how it goes with people who are part of my soul family.
Peter and I were sitting a few rows apart on our flight to Rome yesterday. Ryanair does this when you choose not to pay for a seat allocation. I have been reading a book by a therapist Julia Samuel called Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving. It uses various cases she has worked on, where grief is at the heart of the therapy. I have found it very helpful, not only in understanding and processing my own grief, but also in how it explains that grief can be different depending on the relationship to the deceased, and also factors like the age of the deceased. It seems to me that everyone would benefit from some form of therapy, preferably early in our lives, to ascertain whether we have any faults in the foundations on which we base our understanding of who we are. Good therapy enables you to identify your own beliefs for yourself, and thus investigate and contemplate them, and develop an understanding of their consequences. No therapist should put ideas into your head. I feel that with the help I have received from many directions, including some thoughtful and well-observed books, I am slowly gaining insights, at least at an earthly level, into what may have happened to our Elle. And I must say that finally some real anger has been emerging. Perhaps the reason I am writing (therapy aside) is that if my own experiences can be helpful to others, it will give some purpose to our suffering. For days I have been struggling to emerge from the pain of recognising that what I have learnt over the past months would have enabled me to be a better mom, and to give Elle more of the support she needed. Why did I wait for a natural disaster before showing more interest in learning about life and its difficulties, and building on my spirituality?
I have talked about this before, but I need to include this to better understand what follows. As a little girl, following issues with her ears and dyslexia, Elle was still happy, inquisitive, outgoing, attractive to both adults and children, and enjoyed taking on whatever life threw at her. She was engaging in her mischievousness and her love of dramatic moments. I believe we didn’t overtly indulge or spoil our girls, and certainly listened attentively to them both. I was aware from an early age of Elle’s sensuousness, and even though I was alert as to how this could express itself in her teens, she wasn’t inclined to share, so a lot happened that we all missed. Elle didn’t like to be directed, so we had to concentrate on the important issues, and let the little battles go. That said, I also need to consider that perhaps there was always a different plan evolving for her in this lifetime. I like to keep aware of the earthly and heavenly intents in all our lives.
The evening before we set off for Rome, I showed Elle’s astrological chart to our friend Mark. For the most part he read it much as Rodrigo had explained it to us. But, being English speaking, he was able to help me, Peter and Greg understand it better. One thing he emphasised was the powerful conjunction of the planets and stars at the moment of her birth, and that she was unusually private, highly sensitive, very sensual, and definitely fiery, and it would take many years to bring all these elements into some sort of harmony. I must stress that he didn’t know Elle. I couldn’t help thinking that what Elle needed most was a break from herself and more years to settle into who she was always meant to be. With what I now know, I also wonder if I might have been able to persuade her to allow the doctor to give her a rest had I got home in time.
Around the age of twelve Elle met someone in her class who became her boyfriend. Elle told me something of his difficult childhood. I saw him as a little man before his years. They were not only drawn to each other as boy to girl, but also spent long periods talking to each other. While I tried to keep an eye on them, I also liked this ‘little man’ who was struggling to make sense of his world. I didn’t notice anything particularly worrying at this point, and she then moved on to high school.
When Elle was fourteen years old something happened—something big. Nearly ten years later, on the way back from painting with Martijn one evening, she told me of the event that came close to breaking her. It is not necessary to go into detail especially as it took her ten years to feel like she could talk to me about it but suffice to say that she still exhibited signs of being traumatised, and I believe she was psychologically wounded by the action. She turned to her close girlfriends for support rather than to us. Had she spoken to her dad, her sister and I, we could have helped her to put that damaging experience into a very different box than the one that seemed right to her at that age. I can never be sure of this, but it certainly seems likely as a cause for the self-harming, and the timing seems to fit.
As a result of the incidents of self-harming, Elle agreed to talk to a doctor, who recommended she see a psychiatrist. I took her for the interview, and on the way home she told me the psychiatrist had started to ask about her mother and father, and that she didn’t like the questions. She told me she didn’t want to see him again. Anger is fuelling my writing today, and I lay it at the feet of psychiatry. Why wasn’t his first question to her, ‘Has something happened in your recent past that may have been very upsetting to you?’ Why always assume that the most likely place of corruption lies with the parents first? If he had asked the right question, at the very least he would have seen something cross her face to tell him he was onto something. I can just imagine how Elle, who had been through a difficult time with her schoolwork, been called stupid by some classmates and the odd teacher, suffered jealousy from others, and had now internalised a damaging experience was not in a good place. For my part, I assumed that her increasing difficulties had more to do with her early arrested development, the youthful bullying by some children, and a few wrong words from some teachers. So much goes wrong as a result of a break-down in communication.
I recently came across a psychotherapist with a Taoist background, who practices in the United States, and a key point he brought up is how the profession kicks you when you are down. A patient may arrive with depression, or worse, and they are hit with questions that immediately drag up many of the uncomfortable or painful feelings that have brought them to seek out therapy. His method is to first strengthen your spirit so that you can enter the healing process with energy and personal power—a method he has developed of integrating the ancient roots of the traditional healing, spirituality and the martial arts. Out of this he developed a practice he calls the Core System. What a pity more therapists aren’t as aware as him, and less guided by the received conditionings of their training. As it turns out, I now also understand something more of the Gestalt method of psychotherapy which has a lot in common with this system. I recommend looking into it.
When Elle was around the age twenty-one, after twelve months of therapy (interesting in the light of what I have just written) I realised that her state of mind was a lot more fragile than it appeared. I was also aware that she had been pushing the boat out a bit with alcohol and drugs, but at the time I didn’t see it as more than that of most young people her age. It is clearer to me today that those times I spent with Elle during her meltdowns over the last years, I only encountered what she was ‘attempting to throw out’, and not what she was holding ‘in’. In my loving and concerned way I thought I was helping her. As time went on, I got the message from her that I wasn’t saying anything that she was finding useful, and now this makes perfect sense to me. Over the last eight months of her life, I admitted to her that I felt she had evolved beyond my ability to help her. But I thought that she was making progress—she seemed so happy with the direction her life was taking and the opportunities opening up to her. Did I get it so wrong? I wish I knew then what I know now. I hold onto the hope that my experience with Elle can be of benefit to the family of another ‘Elle’.
I spoke to Peter, my best friend and husband, about my feelings last night. I told him of my sadness and regrets, and that I want to visit a church while we are in Italy. I feel I need Elle’s forgiveness. I will grow to accept what happened. There was little that mattered more to me than her and Kate’s happiness, but why didn’t I research and consult more? I was only as happy as my children were. Oh, how I would love a second chance.
We set off today for lunch at our favourite local restaurant, Da Alighiero in Anghiari. We were pensive on the drive while listening to our music. Throughout the meal we talked about Kate’s progress in re-evaluating what is important to her now, and what she wants to do over the next few years. We feel therapy has helped her to recognise the parts of herself she has not been nourishing, and also evaluate what she has been striving to achieve over the past fifteen or so years. She seems more self-assured and peaceful now, and we are happy about the decisions she has taken. I told Peter how proud I felt of her, a word I seldom use but apt in the moment. She has worked hard, under difficult circumstances, to face herself head on, and she has made a decision that would have rocked her world a few months back: to take a career break and concentrate on her family and her writing. I only recently realised that she has a talent for writing from the heart. Through her great networking skills she found a writing group made up of published authors with a workshop leader who believes in her.
This drew tears of happiness from us both, which quickly turned to tears of sadness for our Elle who didn’t get the opportunity to overcome her inner turmoil and find peace as she drew on her true essence. This is our dual nature, now and forever more.
I cannot forget what the medium told me—that Kate is an artist and would achieve success. I wasn’t sure what this meant at the time as Kate is a barrister of law, which doesn’t strictly fall under the heading of the arts.
Today we visited our favourite Umbrian town, Todi. Ostensibly looking to enjoy lunch on a terrace, but it was ice cream I had on my mind—my favourite flavour, Straciatella, from my favourite gelati shop. Another big day for favourites!
On our way home I noted that the day had been peaceful—no painful thoughts about Elle. For a time I forgot about our loss. That is what peaceful moments are now—a time away from remembering.
Peter is reading the same book as me, and he has just read the section about Julia Samuel’s therapy sessions with parents who have lost a child—I am not there yet. He described a diagram of a black hole representing the loss, and like a Black Hole it will swallow up all that enters its Event Horizon. Over time, the space around the hole is increasingly populated with new memories and life experiences. In that way the hole becomes less significant, even though it never disappears. Yes, I thought, I can see that that might be possible, but it feels more like those memories are built of longer periods of forgetfulness.
On our way home we were listening to one of our favourites on our Elle playlist, ‘If It Be Your Will’ by Leonard Cohen. In this version he starts by reciting the first verse, and then hands over to the ‘sublime Webb Sisters’ to sing it. I love that Leonard Cohen is only ‘two steps’ away from me—my good friend Zoe, who has Elle’s car which she calls Betty (also her mother’s name) knows one of the Webb sisters through a dance school she ran in Canada.
If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well
And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will
And end this night
If it be your will
If it be your will
Leonard Cohen’s poetry, songs, words, or prayers—whatever you want to call his artistic life’s work—move me in a way I can only describe as inspirational, informative and a belief that they put me in contact with the sublime. He says he is not looking to provide answers, nor will he ever discuss his spiritual beliefs, but in the silences amongst his words, it is clear he was a deeply spiritual person. Apparently, he wrote this song he calls ‘more of a prayer’ after ‘being faced with some obstacles’. I imagine it was to do with his friend and manager stealing from his bank account while he was in a Buddhist mountain retreat for many years. That was a time of silence and distance from his fame and his fans. This is one of the songs I now love to sing since Elle died, and I was overcome with the urge to use my rusty voice again. Sometimes I really let it rip as I sing along with him.
Yesterday Peter’s back wasn’t feeling good, and this morning it has seized completely. I imagine this is a consequence of driving in a compact car coupled with all the emotions we carry around with us these days. Our dear neighbour here in Solfagnano, Maria, seems to be carrying some of the burden of grief for us too. She is such a delicate, pure and sensitive soul. She just came to the door with a little china heart with Elle’s name printed on it, and under that an angelic little baby girl. There is a little shrine downstairs in the courtyard of our hamlet, and I will slip out there later tonight for a special moment with Mother Mary.
I have waited to write about my six weeks in a supported state that arrived about three days after Elle died. Now feels like the right moment. Bear with me on this because some of it is quite strange, and you may decide I am more than a bit nuts.
A Glimpse of my Higher Self
(3 September for approximately 6 weeks)
- I was more psychic and felt very connected to those around me, and especially to Elle.
Our temporary haven, a large villa near the beach in Cala Llenya, had a covered bar with high stools looking out over the pool. Every morning around 6am, I would go and sit there listening to my music, always conscious of Elle. At times there was a conversation with her going on in my head. These were not always sad moments but also times of joy, as if I felt her hand take mine and show me the way. After about five weeks, there came a moment when I thanked her for all she was giving me and said I didn’t expect this state to be sustainable. The next day, on my stool at the bar, I said I accepted that it could not continue, and a message came straight back that I was doing it for myself. I was stunned and unsure what to make of this. It certainly wasn’t how it felt to me!
I also felt such a connection to all those around me, and knew what they needed at all times. Kate and her seven-week-old baby had joined us the day after Elle died. I seemed to slot in behind her, making sure that the practicalities of breastfeeding her baby, doing the washing, making meals, etcetera, all fell into place. I wasn’t alone in this, of course. Peter, Claudia and others all helped to make this time proceed smoothly. Thank goodness Kate’s nursery nurse was able to join us for a while too. She was the only one downstairs with me first thing in the morning, and it was as if we could communicate telepathically. She would prepare for Isaac’s needs while I made porridge for Kate. When Kate first engaged a nursery nurse I didn’t really understand it, but now it made sense to me. After the news of Elle’s death, Kate struggled to engage with Isaac and his needs for a while, and this amazing person stepped in and made sure he was comforted and well looked after, giving Kate time to be with her grief.
After the main group of family and friends left, a few of Elle’s friends stayed on, and later some of Kate’s friends came to give her support. They all came to spend time with their sorrow and ease our breaking hearts. I found it so easy to talk to them and return the comfort their presence gave to us.
- It felt like I was receiving important messages, for example, that all is written, and that there was ‘a kindness’ coming, and that we were getting closer to something important.
Important messages seemed to be dumped regularly in my head. I was constantly checking that my feet were on the ground, and while I accept they were not firmly planted, I don’t feel I was suffering from delusions.
One powerful message came through: that all is written. I view this to mean that there is an overall script or algorithm of how things will enfold for us individually, and it is our free will as to how we react to this script and what we learn from it.
Another persistent message was that of a kindness coming. As I observe the state of our environment, literally and politically, it doesn’t feel at all ‘kind’. But maybe out of this mayhem something new is on its way!
I also sensed that Elle would ‘bestow’ a kindness on the island. We have been through a five-year drought and our underground water had dropped to the twentieth percentile. It was becoming extremely worrying. Around 24 September the rain started, and boy, did it come down! The winter rains brought our aquifers back to the 70% mark. I know I am pushing the bounds of belief, but I want to mention it anyway.
There are times when my mind is left in peace for no clear reason, and the grief doesn’t weigh heavily on it. I am the same person I was a few days ago, and I know Elle is not here, but for some reason the pain is missing. The last three days have been like this, and it has happened before. Is it simply the power of forgetting, or do we sometimes get a helping hand? Either way it is a welcome respite.
Peter is in a different sort of pain. His back remains in spasm. We are doing the ‘hot water bottle and cold peas’ thing and hoping our trip back to Rome and Ibiza on Wednesday won’t be too awful for him.
- I needed less sleep and woke early with incredible energy.
I found it quite extraordinary that I woke so early every morning. I have always liked to stay up late, and find it hard to get up in the morning. Yet during this period I would wake fully and want to get up straightaway, whether it was 5 or 6am. During the whole six weeks I don’t think I slept till 8 am more than twice. Yet I was completely energised from the moment my eyes opened, and I didn’t flag all day.
Going to bed was an altogether different experience. The first week I had the horrors just contemplating it. I can hardly describe the first night on the ferry from Barcelona to Ibiza. I heaved, sobbed and cried myself to sleep in the dark, as Peter and Claudia did too. For that first twenty-four hours the three of us were as one. The following few nights I lay on my back, confused and unbelieving, staring up into the darkness. My breath was slow and measured, and somehow, eventually, my eyes closed, and sleep miraculously came. Oddly, I slept straight through till morning, something I had not done for many years. After about a week of dreading bedtime, bed became a place of warm darkness, refuge and rest, and even felt sacred. But since that six-week period my nights have been erratic, and I do what I can to prevent bad sleep habits from co-opting my nights.
It is going to be a rough ride to Rome airport later tonight for our early flight to Ibiza.
- I was only interested in food as sustenance and needed less of it. I had no interest in snacking or sugary items, and preferred water to alcohol or sweet drinks.
- My memory was crystal clear and my thinking felt alert.
I really miss this now. I immediately understood what was said or was happening around me. It proved to me that even with an aging brain it is still possible, with the right mindset, to function at a high level. It has not degraded as much as I thought it had, and I should be able to retain it through meditation (still to get going), good nutrition, very little alcohol, and taking life at a walking pace.
- Everything I needed, or was looking for, came straight into my hand.
This amazed me, even at the time. I was never thwarted by not finding what I needed, whether a utensil in a strange kitchen or important papers, or documents somewhere inside my laptop. I seemed to know where to go for whatever was required without a time-wasting search, even my car keys where always where I expected to find them.
- Everything I looked at seemed so beautiful.
It astonished me that while I grieved for the loss of our girl, everything I looked at radiated beauty, including strangers, nature, and even the TV presenters on the few occasions I watched. This beauty was coming from within, as if it had its own consciousness. Even the news sounded a little brighter, although that certainly didn’t last!
- I was able to feel great joy as well as the pain of loss.
I have always felt like I travel through life in the middle reaches of emotion, never too elated or too morose. I think I really only experienced joy at the birth of my two girls, my two unitary experiences, and once I hit a high that shot up through my head while dancing. Maybe a hormonal stimulation as a result of grief did come into it, but it doesn’t fully account for what I experienced, and the moments of joy I still experience now. There are times when music can stimulate a rush of joy for a moment, and in those moments I feel I am soaring with Elle, wherever she now resides. Naturally there were also plenty of moments of deep sorrow and tears during that time but they didn’t overwhelm me.
- Every time I thought about Elle, Mother Mary came to mind.
There is more than one weird statement in this list. But there is no point in my writing about this experience unless I am not honest and include all of what I experienced. In this period following Elle’s death, I kept sensing and seeing a vision of Mother Mary as if I was receiving comfort directly from her. I cannot believe I brought this on, as I haven’t been a church-going Christian since my teen years, nor have I ever received any guidance in Catholic ways, and I am strangely uncomfortable in churches anyway. These days I have a new interest in the scriptures of all religions and their mystics, and I don’t reject the notion that I may have received spiritual sustenance during this period. It is now up to me where I go from here. But perhaps a more obvious observation is simply that the magnitude of emotions I felt over the death of my child brought Mother Mary to mind as the quintessential archetype of a bereft mother.
I haven’t written for a few days, and while I am not comfortable about missing a day, I have decided not to be harsh on myself—everybody keeps giving me the same advice! We were up all night on the 16th to get to Rome in time for our 6.40 am flight to Ibiza. I wasn’t looking forward to this trip, but Ryanair looked after Peter well, and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. No wrong exits on the way, either!
Yesterday it felt good to be at my Pilates lesson again, and I had the instructor all to myself. She did great work correcting the fine details that ensure I am doing the routines correctly. Even after seven years I still learnt some new tricks.
Peter then had a physiotherapy session and it seemed to do him some good. His therapist couldn’t find signs of a physical issue at the root of the pain, and she believes it is more likely the stress he has been internalising over the last eight months, as I suspected all along.
A while ago I booked a session with a visiting shaman from Hawaii, and yesterday we met up. Being ‘held’ by her as I told her my ‘Elle’ story, and then receiving a healing left me feeling lighter and more hopeful. Just before the end she said it might be time I concentrated more on the heavenly Elle. I told her I still had more to do with regard to the earthly Elle, but hoped to transfer over soon. She asked if I had any specific concerns, and I told her about the distressing occasional flashbacks to the phone call. She said she could help with that. Time will tell but, in the meantime, I am trusting in her healing.
This is not a complaint, but obviously I have double duties at the moment, plus taking the lads out for plenty of walks while Peter heals—so no more for now.
I just had a visit from young Sapphy who completed the initial course in ‘breath work’ in Bali. It was encouraging to see the progress of the investment she made in herself, and feel her quiet confidence from knowing she made the right choice for herself and her life. I am going to enjoy being a part of her journey going forward. She again stated that she believes Elle guided her in this direction. It doesn’t surprise me at all.
I continue to feel enlivened by my experience with the shaman from Hawaii, and it’s good to feel I’m back on track, well, at least for now.
- It felt as if I was talking to people with more wisdom and equanimity.
- I enjoyed the sensation of water on my body more than usual.
In recent years I have not enjoyed showering or being in water generally—it became something I put myself through for the sake of cleanliness and good hygiene. I used to love a hot, languorous bath, relaxing and looking at house magazines or just letting creative thoughts flow through my mind, and then I started opting for a quick shower. During my six weeks that all changed. I cherished my time in the shower, and the feel of the water massaging and flowing over my body felt sacred. I haven’t managed to regain that exact feeling but I am working on it by spending the first few minutes enjoying the fall of the water on my head as I try to empty my mind of thoughts. Elle spent a lot of time bathing and especially so in her last five days, either under the shower or in the sea. There could be many heavenly reasons for her need to be in or under water, not least of which is its quenching and healing effect. Our bodies are seventy per cent water, so it must feel very familiar to be immersed in water, and even something primordial about it as well. All my bodily functions felt more important, and I was very aware of my breath.
I still feel lighter.
I am really concerned that Peter is still in a lot of pain. There has been hardly any improvement, which is unusual. He had another interesting session with a practitioner of cranial kinesiology (I think that’s what it is called) who has a good reputation on the island. We will have to think about where to go next if there is no improvement in the next couple of days.
Greg recounted an interesting memory to me yesterday, one I hadn’t heard before. I think it was the beginning of 2014 and he was spending a few days at the little home Elle had rented for a couple of years. Greg had just taken on a large house in the countryside as a second attempt at running a B&B, and after paying a large agent’s commission, the deposit and first month’s rent, he suffered a complete loss of confidence and was beside himself with anxiety. He says he put a scarf around his neck and ran outside trying to hurt himself, but fell and hit his nose on something. Next thing Elle arrived and, peering down at him on the ground, asked what he was doing. After listening to his woeful tale, she said, ‘I think that what you should do, Greg, is run a bed and breakfast for ten years.’ It was the last thing he wanted to hear, and he rolled his eyes and limped away. Now he can think of nothing he wants more than to continue with his little house and its future for another ten years.
- Music and lyrics became very important to me, and I found them easier to hear.
I have already mentioned that I had lost all emotional contact with music. This changed instantly for those six weeks and continues. Certain songs became very important to me, and the lyrics were definitely my point of entry. With my clearer head I could not only hear the words but also pick up deeper meanings from them. Whether it was what the writer intended by them, or the channels the words opened up to me, the songs and artists I connected with have stayed very special to me and are all on my ‘Elle’ playlist. Peter and I turn to music regularly, which sometimes lifts us up, and other times takes us to a melancholic space for a while.
- I stopped playing games on my phone, and was more comfortable to sit with my own thoughts.
Since retiring I was spending more and more time playing games on my iPhone and it often left me with feelings of self-disappointment. It seemed like an addiction. I tried to limit myself to playing only when I was in a queue or waiting at an airport, but this never held for long. I probably played these games for at least an hour every day, and often longer periods of time. I would not sit quietly, wait and just contemplate, and I had given up reading books too. Elle saw this and I could always feel her quiet disappointment. She would try to encourage me to spend time meditating on a rose or ask me to come and listen to an interesting talk she had found on YouTube. Sometimes I would, but nothing much was changing. From the moment of that phone call, it was as if I was allergic to them all. I couldn’t play them, and I couldn’t have needed them more. Occasionally I play bridge on the computer, and I justify this as beneficial mental exercise. Interestingly, I have also never missed the phone games. So much for it being an addiction! I am very happy to spend time looking, listening and thinking. Perhaps addictions really have more to do with emotional disconnection from life, others, and ourselves than we realise. During that period, I liked to sit and wait, happily or sadly, and just be with my own thoughts, listening for those whispers that could set me off in a new direction.
Greg is back completing the painting of our roof terrace. He told me another interesting story this morning. Many years ago, following his HIV diagnosis and in a sweat lodge while doing a retreat in Scotland, he told the other retreat members that his intention or wish was to be put into service to mankind for as long as he lived. He said it crossed his mind that there might be some payback for him in this deal—perhaps satisfaction and contentment, or maybe even some favour. It has taken him until the last couple of years to feel that he was heard. We laughed about it, and said perhaps it had come now, not only because of finally doing some self-help, but more because he had dropped the ‘quid pro quo’ expectation. The Hawaiian shaman said that Elle was here in service, and I responded that I had always felt something of that purpose too, and now Greg. Perhaps we are part of a tribe of souls slowly making our way up the service ladder. Ha-ha, I am looking forward to becoming more of a service manager!
- Everything I did was more enjoyable, including chores, and I was more spontaneous than usual.
Chores are the things we normally don’t enjoy doing, but need to get done to keep chaos at bay. Whether emptying the dishwasher or hanging out the washing, I was immediately up for it, and even enjoyed it. Although the joy of doing chores did pass, I still draw on that memory when I need to get on with them now. I also felt capable of greater spontaneity, something I was not known for. When Graeme and Leah asked if we wanted to join them for a swim at 11 pm one night, while I would normally have stayed home with my glass of wine, this time Claudia and I jumped at the idea.
- My life seemed to be regularly in playback mode, with memories flooding through my mind, and I could see how interconnected virtually everything in my life had been.
I have referred to this previously. It was pretty constant, and every memory and moment that came back seemed intricately connected to what we were all going through then and now. It was as if the ‘playbacks’ were trying to light my way through this traumatic event. It came to me that all is written, and that I must follow the path set out before me.
Peter is still suffering. Yesterday we visited a medical doctor to eliminate any medical cause for his pain. He is having tests done and we shall have to wait. In the meantime he is having another trauma treatment this evening.
- I felt more powerful/effective, and willing to take on more challenges in my life.
I believed I could take on whatever needed to be done, and no challenge seemed impossible. I felt empowered. I still get glimpses of this now, sometimes for days at a time, and generally I feel more confident and less afraid, but now and again the old fears and lack of self-belief creep back in for a while, but perhaps that is needed to keep me in check.
- I felt more trusting, patient and non-judgmental.
I also definitely listened and heard more clearly what others had to say. Some of this has stayed with me.
- I was interested to know the names of people I was meeting for the first time.
I cannot imagine why, but when someone’s sister or baby etc was mentioned, I always asked their name and seemed to derive pleasure from hearing it. Could there be more to a given name than meets the eye. I am still interested in knowing names.
- I was more hopeful and less afraid.
I felt no fear, for us or for the world, and even felt more hopeful that we would all find a better way to live with each other. My lowered fear has stayed with me. It definitely helps me to live with more equanimity.
- At special and particular moments I needed to touch hands, as in a slow motion low high-five.
I can only think that it was a way of ‘touching’ and acknowledging the passing between me and another of something truthful or profound.
- And finally, I felt a deep love for everyone, whether I knew them or not.
I would have been surprised if this one was missing. What a wonderful feeling to walk around with love in my heart, whether for a stranger, a friend, family member, the moon, or even a juicy apple.
As I said, it lasted for approximately 42 days, that number again! Coming down was not pleasant. I felt like I would never emerge from the darkness, which was true until a few days into starting to write.