Good Grief – Part Nine

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.

June. Named for the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and the well-being of women. Also from the Latin word juvenis, “young people.”  The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

24 May

Peter is still in pain. I have encouraged him to do some writing today. I suggested he write down the many things he loved about Elle. I am hoping it could be a positive exercise for him.

There are three families in Pasadena Glen we hold dear to our hearts. One of the families is very musical, and they recorded three songs for Elle’s birthday celebration last month. While driving to Santa Gertrudis this morning, up popped one of them on my iPod, ‘You Are My Sunshine’. We sang our hearts out!

I am back writing in my studio at Greg’s. One of these days I hope to get back to painting—I have always found it a comforting meditation. It feels good to be here.

25–27 May

There is a story I would like to have included but it is not only my story to tell, and it feels right to leave it out, but it was helpful to write it up.

28 May

Earlier I had a lovely chat with a young neighbour who works as a healer on the island, Faye. She knew Elle through working alongside her in recent years, and also through doing some one-to-one work with her. She sent us a beautiful email after Elle died. She also reiterated the point made by so many who knew and worked with Elle—that she never, or at least very rarely, said a word in judgement of others. This is her email:

Dear Jennie

There are no words…

No words. But I wanted to send some anyway (! words are all we have… stupid seemingly meaningless words, but…) to try to convey how desperately sorry I am that we have lost such a special soul from our physical lives… I say physical because I feel her energy around me and see her smile in my mind’s eye and her love lives on in all of us. She is gone but yet still remains.

Everyone I speak to says they see her face everywhere… I also know from my own personal experiences that souls live on, that we are always connected and death is a door we pass through into another space, an ending and a beginning… and so on. I trust you have eternity with this beautiful and special soul. I trust that with all my heart. I believe I am always with my mum, no matter what—bonds that can never be broken. 

The mystery of life—why are such incredible and talented people taken from us too young? Why does their soul walk that particular path? Why why why… and as much as we try to find reason in all this, in suffering and destruction, we may never find reason, because how can we ever know the path of another? All we can do is trust that it is somehow part of a picture that belongs for now with the creator. What else is there to do but find some small grain of trust and build from there? There are no good reasons—not good enough—for our loss. The only one I can come up with Jennie is that her power as an angel (and oh she really is one, always was) is called for in another dimension, very very close still, perhaps influencing us from there stronger than here… watching over you, with you, spreading her magic, her light, her love to a greater degree for the good of all…

Jennie, I worked with her in a workshop, maybe she told you, we did a healing workshop—and she is sooooo gifted. Her hands are healing ones. I told her she could do this for work if that was what she wanted because she is a natural. Honestly. Her face lit up. She was so pleased… An angel indeed. I also know what a great artist she is and was becoming. Gosh so many talents. Nothing is wasted, her touch, her art, her kindness, her everything—was so far reaching… and continues to touch lives. I don’t think we really understand (how can we?) how much we can touch people’s lives and the knock-on effect. Elle was loved by everyone. Is loved by everyone. And will continue to be.

She loves you very much. It was clear in speaking to her what a bond the two of you have. Trust that and know she is with you always. Beautiful beautiful soul that she is. Time is an illusion—in another space, you are already reunited. That will come to be.

But for now, to live with questions unanswered…? For now Jennie this is the challenge, the seemingly awful cruelty of life. To stand in the place of not knowing… and yet somehow when we do, we KNOW. We do know. The heart speaks… whispers. It will keep trying to get through and overrule the mind. Find her there.

I send you love, comfort and peace. You are in my thoughts all the time, you and your family. Pull together now and take one day, one hour, one minute, one second, one millisecond as it comes. 

Bless you and bless her soul. Thank you for bringing this wonderful spirit into the world. Am so glad to have known her.

My daily entries may become sparse because I intend to start preparing for my final entries around Elle’s last five days, and the days following on. Even just putting these words on paper turns my stomach over, which is why I think it will be good to start writing them now.

29 May

It is not in my nature to leave my dreams unexplored. I dreamt last night that I had slipped into the cone-shaped entrance of an ominous black hole. Luckily, I came to a stop at the bottom of the cone just before disappearing into the nothingness beyond. I was aware that if I moved an inch I would fall down it, and that would be the end of me. There was no doubt in my mind that this hole descended deep into the bowels of the earth. I looked up and saw a man and asked him to help me. He needed to reach down to give me a hand up. Oddly, I waited calmly until he was ready to help me, but before that could happen, Kito (my black pug) slid past me and down into the hole, and I thought I heard him fall a long way down. I knew then—there was no question about it—that I had to go down and save him. As I gingerly lowered myself into the darkness, I realised that there was no never-ending hole into the bowels of the earth, and I was able to see into the semi-darkness. There was Kito, sitting contentedly on a shelf of earth just below ground level—his black body surrounded by grey earth with tufts of green on top of the ledge he was sat upon. There was nothing to worry about—we were both safe!

After mulling over the dream a few things came to mind. I hadn’t woken with a sense of having had a disturbing dream, nor did I remember it straightaway. Usually, if I don’t recall it straightaway, it is quickly lost. But it came to me in all its fullness quite a few hours later. My interpretation is that Kito (who may represent unconditional love for me, as Oscar, my first blond pug did) had to drop into the hole, because that forced me to take action myself, and thus discover that there was nothing to be afraid of—I was perfectly capable of doing this on my own. It was the juxtaposition of ‘waiting for someone’ other than myself to assist me, against having to go down the hole so as not to lose ‘my love’ that brought forth the deeper meaning. I shouldn’t be afraid ‘to enter’ my despair—love will guide the way. I know this didn’t come from the machinations inside my own mind but was rather an aid given to me, either by my more intelligent self or the greater universe.

A few days ago, I described to Peter my lifelong journey of interrogation into what love is. I have seen ‘love’ used and abused, conditional and unconditional, but I would not be able to describe how it feels to me. What is its identifier? Is it something you just know because you feel its physical presence in your heart? It can’t be that you say the word, and voila, you love! I realised quite young that I found love hard to distinguish from a state of liking or caring. Slowly but surely my interrogation of the emotion led me to understand that I did love, but in my own way. It wasn’t associated with great longings and ‘missings’ by which I assumed others recognised it, but I could feel an inherent kindness towards my fellow humankind and the world, and I had a strong sense of care, not only for those close to me, but for all people around me. I actually experienced love in all its true glory with the tree and the mountain when I was twenty years old—my unitary experiences—and truly felt their love flow back and engulf me. But being unable to recreate that feeling in my day-to-day life seemed to indicate that the ability to love was missing from my nature. When my girls came into my life, I certainly felt the unmistakable power of a mother’s love and grew to understand the notion of unconditional love. I have long stopped doubting that I experience love. Whether or not I am on the right track with the dream, I think that is where Kito comes into it. Perhaps it is also telling me that fear can lead to the perception of insurmountable crossroads and crippling crises in life, but when you take on your fears, there is always a comfortable way through.

It feels like a good dream on so many levels. The previous evening, Kate, Alex, Peter and I had a comprehensive discussion about how we are all feeling, how we see the role of writing in our lives, and also how we see our futures playing out, mainly as a result of the loss of Elle. Kate told us, as she tried hard to hold back her tears, that she has great difficulty engaging with the fact that Elle has died and prefers to think of her as having ‘gone away’. Before going to bed, Kate confided that she was afraid she might be on the verge of an emotional breakdown. What she didn’t say, but I knew she was thinking it, was ‘like Elle’s’. While I have always been aware that Kate hides her fragility well, I found it frightening to hear her put it into words. I know that what also makes her afraid is that something could happen to Isaac just as it did to Elle. She knows that her fears come into her relationships. I shared that information with Peter the next day as we drank our morning tea in bed. I hope that seeing a therapist will help to keep her safe. It is also important that we, and I, don’t apply pressure on her in the wrong places, especially at this time. I definitely need to stop relaying my distrust of the medical, political, economic and educational aspects of society today, something I find hard to do. I am after all supposed to ‘trust’ that all is as it is meant to be!

30 May

I am feeling weighed down by emotions that can never expect a cure. I have just written the entry for 25 August. Today it is nine months, and it is also exactly a year since Elle and I spent a magical couple of nights in Barcelona. She invited me to accompany her to write her end-of-module philosophy examination, and the Open University had an examination room set up there. We spent the evening, after completing her exam, at a restaurant attached to the Mercat Santa Caterina. I could feel the momentousness of the experience on the night, and now it feels somewhat cruel. Nevertheless, I am happy to have such a clear memory of that weekend that I know will never fade.

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 I must find a route out of this black hole!

31 May

Greg and I were talking over a cup of tea in his kitchen on the magic roundabout this morning. He has told me a few times that he feels something changed for him in the days immediately after Elle’s death. Peter and I can never forget that he had to undergo multiple pains—the loss of his deeply cherished niece, being at the accident site, plus the anguish of having to tell us the news. He felt utter devastation at not being able to keep her safe. Nobody could have foreseen what came to pass.

I have always thought of Greg as Peter Pan. He is both a man and a boy in his demeanour and the way he dresses. There is an air of the poetic troubadour and the court jester about him too as he wanders his world with the jangling of bells and keys accompanying him wherever he goes. Very rarely does he say anything trite, and his dry sense of humour draws in many to his kitchen. One sees this in his musings and poetry often dropped onto his Facebook page. I told him today that perhaps Angel Elle sewed his shadow back on as a parting gift to someone she loved deeply. She only ever saw him for the good man he is, even during the period of his great inner turmoil and upheaval a few years back.

1 June

Yet another attempt to stop smoking! What I will miss most are those thoughtful moments that seem to accompany each cigarette. My first-of-the-day smoke feels like Holy Smoke and that is the one I shall miss the most. Only Kate can make me do this.

Kate, Alex and Isaac arrived today. No time for writing, just lots of loving and playtimes.

2 June

Kate and Alex had an all-day meeting with their builder and architect, and I had Isaac all to myself.

3 June

We spent the morning at the beach, and Isaac had his first paddle, and then promptly fell asleep. The fresh sea air can have that effect. Later it was off to Mimi and Martijn for a wonderful late Swedish-inspired lunch. Kate and Alex went out in the evening to Heart, a rather special dinner and show venue, and Pops and I babysat Isaac. He didn’t stir.

4 June

It is time for the young family to go home, and for me to get back to my writing after taking a break.

5 June

I love to hear from people I haven’t seen for a while how Elle continues to work in their lives. Today I bumped into Bas, a friend of Greg’s. He told me he was incredibly moved by the number of people at Elle’s Atzaro life celebration. He remarked that Elle rarely, if ever, had a bad word to say about anyone, nor said anything hurtful to others. He told me that he now tries to be like this in his daily life. He said that things are going better, and he is feeling calmer and more peaceful lately. A few years back, probably through their individual problems, Bas and Greg were drawn to each other. They looked after each other in their own ways but also hurt each other. How life has changed for the better for both of them! I also admire how they both worked hard to find a new way to be friends.

6 June

Last night, while taking the dogs out for their final ‘lavatory’ stroll, I bumped into Elle’s close friend Charlie. She was sitting outside our favourite pizza takeaway that is almost below our apartment. A ‘by the way’—on the day we viewed this apartment and decided to buy it, Elle later sat on the second step leading to our front door while she was waiting for a pizza. While she never saw inside it, she said she was happy about our decision. I often look for her on that step. Charlie and I are always happy to see each other. She said she was busy and that all was good in her life but she struggled for a long time to come to terms with Elle’s death. I have now seen three people in the past twenty-four hours who all say Elle gave them something that has made their lives better.

Pete and I had a lovely lunch next to the sea today. He told me he is still struggling with the way in which Elle died. It has to be good that he’s finally engaging with that.

Something strange also happened last night. I finished my bedtime read and rolled onto my back, hands clasped, to say my nightly prayer. I have wondered whether I am supposed to be on my knees for this but at least I am praying again. Afterwards I found myself recalling a beautiful memory told to me by my mother of them both on their knees saying their bedtime prayers. She said that when she completed hers she climbed into bed but my father was still praying. When he eventually climbed into bed, she said, ‘Goodness, Stan, you were a long time on your knees. What were you talking to God about?’ He told her very seriously that he had been sharing with God how much she meant to him, and how he knew he could not live without her, and therefore he didn’t want her to have to suffer that fate. He requested that God take her before him. My mom was a little taken a back—at sixty-five she didn’t think she was ready to go. A few months later he died of a heart attack in the shower. He had been working with my brother that fateful morning and decided to shower before tea. I believe his transistor radio was playing, and that he lay peacefully slumped in the shower. My brother came over to support my mom, and remarked to her that he had gone out of the world naked as the day he was born. There was one mystery though—he had left the hot tap running in the bath when actually he was taking a shower. Perhaps he was already experiencing some confusion.

But I digress. I usually start my prayer with Dear God and Dear Darling Elle, and then start apologising about not being very good at praying and add my hope of improving in this endeavour. Then I say a few personal things, and last night I thanked them for giving me what I identify as strong intuitive and empathetic moments when conversing with the people that come into my life so regularly. I added that I really am open to learning and taking on more of any role they have for me. Usually I find myself falling into a comfortable quiet place soon into my prayer and following a big emotional yawn. Then I almost drop off to sleep before I get to add the ‘amen’. I yank myself back just in time to blurt it out, turn over sure that I will drop off to sleep very quickly, but as much as I was on the verge of sleep a moment earlier, I now find myself wide awake. I may lie awake for another two hours trying to still the chatty voices in my head, often amused by their inanities. Thank goodness this doesn’t happen every night. Well, last night, as I drifted away, somewhere halfway through my prayer, I was quickly brought back by a silent but loud ‘you hated her’. I was surprised not only at hearing a phrase rouse me from near slumber, but shocked at the content of the phrase. I tried to work out what it could possibly mean for a while, and then thought: I am not going to forget this, so I shall park it for the moment, and try to get back to the business of a good night’s sleep. I talked to Peter over lunch about what had happened and his first words to me were, ‘In all the years I’ve known you, I cannot remember you ever saying you hated anyone.’ I haven’t met many people I distinctly dislike either. Not sure what that was about. Could it just be a random phrase passing my antenna that dropped by accident into my consciousness, or is there something more to it? I know for sure that it didn’t concern Elle. I couldn’t have loved her more.

7 June

I called my sister Heather this morning for a chat. She asked how I am, and I shocked myself by answering that I felt pretty good. I think it is the first time I have answered that.

Peter and I were talking, as we are often reminded to, about the special moment that took place between Zac and Elle. You have probably picked up on the fact that Peter and I adore our boys, Zac and Kito. Zac was born four months before Kito, and Zac came to us when he was about twelve weeks old, and Kito wasn’t allowed to leave Germany until he was sixteen weeks old. Rachel’s much-loved Gabbana gave birth to Zac about three weeks after Oscar died. Gabbana had two litters close together but only one puppy born both times, so our Zac was an only child. Rachel immediately thought of us, but I told her that I wasn’t ready to think about a new love yet. I also knew that I harboured a desire to bring another pug into my life. The connection I feel with this breed is difficult to explain or justify. Rachel invited us a few weeks later to join her for a Sunday lunch, and I am sure there was a plan germinating in her head, and sure enough as soon as Peter held the minute Zac in the palm of one hand we knew that our fate was sealed—we were going to have two dogs. Neither of us remember who named Zac—Peter thinks he did, and I think Elle stated his name, knocking into touch the one we thought we had chosen. Kito arrived with us mid-December 2015 and arrived with his name. Although we would have preferred to rename him, we felt that he had had it for sixteen weeks and therefore we should respect it. While out walking in our forest one day with the lads I passed a young girl walking her dog and Kito hung back with him. I called out to him and the girl shot a look of confusion in my direction. She then said her dog was also called Kito. We both acknowledged that it was a highly unusual name and I asked her if she knew where it came from. She told me it is Swahili for precious. Among the many nations in Africa where it is spoken South Africa is one of them. The other amusing angle is that I often called him My Precious and with the voice, straight out of Lord of the Rings.

One Sunday afternoon I was returning home from somewhere and carefully negotiating our car parking area because I saw that Zac had come out to welcome me home. He had been with us a couple of months by now and this was before Kito had arrived to stay. I knew him to be very intelligent and I wanted him to learn, like Oscar and Betty had, how to keep himself safely out of the way of cars. I was purposely driving slowly, and I checked where he was as I prepared to back into the carport, but he suddenly changed direction and decided to run around the back of the car.  There is a place inside you that knows before you do that something has gone horribly wrong, and then in the next instant I heard an ear-piercing yelp.  As soon as I saw him, I knew that the injuries were very serious. I started to scream and cry out for help, and the commotion brought Elle out of her casita.  She sent a look my way and I knew that she was telling me to get a grip, and very tenderly she picked Zac up off the ground.  I am not sure anyone else would have achieved this without him screaming out in pain. She carried him a short distance over to a bed of lavender bushes in the shade of a few olive trees.  She put him down carefully amongst them and slowly lowered herself down beside him. It felt almost magical the way she seemed to still his fear and pain. I then managed to calm myself sufficiently to be able to use my phone and set about getting hold of the emergency vet.  It seemed to take forever to reach the vet and explain what had happened, but eventually we were on our way.  It was only this morning that I wondered if Elle knew exactly what she was doing by placing Zac amongst the lavender—it is an accepted fact that breathing in the aroma given off by lavender flowers can calm your nerves and help you sleep.  We took him to the vet’s surgery, and while we waited to be seen, he lay calmly across her knees.  After taking some x-rays the vet told us that one hip was broken in two places and the other was out of its socket. I don’t like to think about how this had come about. Two vets operated on him for a few hours and we were all so relieved to hear that things were looking good for him.

I am happy that there was the best possible outcome for Zac, who now has some permanent metal in one hip.  The big problem after the initial convalescence was trying to make sure for several months that he didn’t run at speed.  He is now back to being as fast as lightening, but we do see the odd hop mid-air, perhaps caused by a little ache in his hips now and again.  There are two reasons for our happiness.  We still have a loving, intelligent, mostly brave and cutely self-conscious little boy, and a good friend to Kito, and the other reason being that Peter and I can return to the vision of our beautiful gentle Elle sitting in amongst the lavender bushes, keeping puppy Zac calm and confident through the time of his terrible ordeal. It is not the only reason that we are so deeply connected with our boys, but it is a comforting thought knowing that Elle knew and liked them both, although probably always a tad more for Zac.

8 June

I should never think I am finding my way into peace. Today feels like a tough one. Our lawyer let us know that the Judge finally interviewed the driver yesterday completing the inquest requirements. But one question has not been adequately answered. It may be an answer we never get.

9 June

It has been a while since I experienced a meaningful playback, but last night was a big one. I wrote earlier about us supporting Sapphy to continue working towards becoming a therapist for a treatment that is centred around breath work. I didn’t know her well except as the niece of a friend, and in whose family home Elle was sharing with her and two other girls.

Sapphy invited me to an open evening led by her trainers in Bali who were on the island to showcase various levels of the courses they offer. This was going to give me an opportunity to experience the therapy for myself. It took place in a beautiful Ibizan-style building designed for events like this, and peacefully situated in the woods. About thirty people were there already when I arrived.

We went through a round of introductions, and then some free-style dancing to loosen us up, and this was followed by a meditation session to the accompaniment of enchanting live music. The co-leaders then briefly explained the next part of the evening ahead of a short break. The venue was well stocked with mats, cushions, blankets and sheepskins, and we all chose our preferred spot. A late arrival looked like she may have been one of Elle’s friends, and this was confirmed when we introduced ourselves. I knew Elle adored her and they regularly got together over a couple of years, but I only met her briefly once or twice. At some point they were not seeing each other anymore, and without knowing the circumstances I had the impression that Elle was disappointed in her. I was surprised at how her presence affected me, to the point that I felt anxious. There was something beyond coincidence going on, particularly as after the break it became apparent that our mats were lying alongside each other, but we still did not acknowledge each other’s presence. I questioned the strength of my reaction on seeing her. I then turned my attention to the breathing programme.

It is an open-mouthed, relaxed-jaw, continuous circular movement of breathing in and out without emphasis on either direction. To begin with, we were encouraged to pick up the pace a bit while the assistants helped us to correct our technique. I worked hard initially to stay present and keep myself open to any experience that came my way, while holding back on expectations as to the outcome—something I always practise. After about ten minutes I found myself powerfully recalling the time Elle spent hours stroking and comforting me during my THC oil experience. I allowed myself to go with the sensations I was experiencing, to reach out to her, to see and feel her, and then the experience took a complete hold of me. For the most part I stayed in my own bubble, but I noticed a lot going on around me, involving what seemed like everyone in the room. None of it felt intrusive though. At this point Sapphy came and sat alongside me much as Elle had that afternoon. But it felt to me like Elle was with me now, and I told her how sorry I was that I hadn’t been with her through her painful last days. I softly told her what I needed to tell her. My hands became as important to me as when I was in my higher state. It was as if I was reminded that they were for elevating communication with all around me. Tears were flowing down my face, and I started shivering, then started to convulse with twitches. I had never experienced anything like this before. I got the urge to place my hands facing upwards alongside my face, and almost instantly I could ‘feel’ hands or something weighing down on them. I stayed like that for about half an hour, and the weight on the palms of my hands never lightened. I had no doubt that Elle was close and remembered what the medium had said to me. What came through loud and clear was my resistance, or stubbornness, to do what could help me to find a place beyond grief. I told Elle that Peter and Kate needed a healing, and that I am particularly worried about Kate. At that point my body started convulsing all over. I felt something reach deep inside me. It is hard to convey in words how I was feeling. Many will think I was experiencing group hysteria borne out of a deep longing, but anyone who knows me will believe me when I say I have never before given in to hysteria. I may not be conventional in my thinking, but I am a pragmatist. I don’t seek out mediums, shamans or healers, although they sometimes find me, and when they do, especially these days, I take note of what they have to say. I also know that I have a good internal antenna for recognising authenticity. If anything, it is in my nature to sometimes apply too much analysis to experiences that come my way. I also think of myself mostly resistant to being taught by others, and fiercely independent in my thinking. I am trying to keep myself more in the moment these days, and show a little more trust, but not forgetting the need for scrutiny.

A little while later, I knew I was ready to surface from the experience, and after about five minutes we were advised to turn onto our sides and gently return to the room. I decided to turn and face Elle’s friend, and silently make my peace with her. I was a little disappointed that she turned the other way, but when we sat up she immediately turned to face me, and our eyes said it all, while our smiles hugged one another. I had no doubt she knew who I was. Once we were all sitting up again the leaders asked whether anyone wanted to say something, and the first person to speak was my neighbour. As I listened to her observations I understood what Elle saw in her—she has a creative intelligence and a poetic way of expressing herself.

10 June

I don’t have much to say today, except that I have been thinking about others who have lost a child, or worse still, children. I am very aware that our loss is no more or less profound than anybody else’s. I wonder sometimes why it is I feel compelled to write about Elle, her life and her death. It is perfectly natural to feel that there is something special about your child but Elle was really just another human being who died young and unexpectedly. I remember having a sense straight away that her death felt complex, and as complex as her life, and it has certainly been a helpful process for me to write down my thoughts. And beyond this, I also wanted to share my experience of the grieving process in the hope that it might resonate with others, and give someone the courage to work at their own grief in their own time and in their own individual way. I can see how it is possible to drown in one’s grief, and perhaps even take others down with you.

Sorrow is constant and the joys are brief
The seasons come and bring no sweet relief
Time is a brutal but a careless thief
Who takes our lot but leaves behind the grief

The Pearl, sung and written by Emmylou Harris

11 June

I have exhausted myself today sewing curtains for a setup that Greg has designed for the Namaste party nights at our local Las Dalias venue. He is doing what he is best at—being creative—and as a result he is content and fulfilled. His flowers are a marvel, and he is hoping to create flower mandalas as a performance element on other event nights and at other venues.

I have spent some time thinking about how Elle’s friend and I accidently ended up next to each other a few nights ago. It adds meaning to the experience. It is the physical manifestation of the importance of synchronistic experiences that bolsters me to keep writing.

21:26

I try not to miss any interesting pointers or road signs, and although I haven’t had time to think this through yet, I want to get it down. We were expected to join friends for a night of cards but we didn’t feel in the right frame of mind for socialising. When no-one answered our phone call we decided to pop over and share a drink before leaving the others to play cards. We sat out in the garden under a lush fig tree, and our friend Mercedes introduced us to another English couple who were keen to learn the game of Burraco. For some odd reason Peter started sharing an experience of a trip to Sorento in Italy, and the wife said she wanted to tell us about something that had just happened to them. About six weeks ago they were at a beach having lunch, and afterwards the lady noticed that she had lost the pearl from her ring. A few days ago they visited the same beach for lunch with their daughter who was visiting from the UK, and while sitting on a different part of the beach, their daughter leant over, picked up a pearl and handed it to her mom. ‘Is this yours, mom?’ she asked. It was! I am not sure yet what to make of this, but in so many of the books I have been reading on grief, pearls regularly come up. I will definitely give this some more thought and come back to it. Coincidence just doesn’t cover this for me in any way, shape or form!

12 June

The Bible, Revelation 21:21: ‘The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl.’

Perhaps the gates are not gates as we imagine them, but are round openings, each opening indiscriminate in size, i.e. miniscule or massive. Just thinking…the other end of worm holes?

One of the first books I read after Elle died had actually been recommended to me by my friend Rachel before Elle died, and is called ‘The Afterlife of Billy Fingers’ by Annie Kagan. The book manages to give shape and definitely a lot of colour to some complex and abstract ideas. I certainly got the impression that what was being described to the author didn’t easily translate into words, but she still managed to conjure up lasting visions in my mind. It gave me a different view on grief—that it could be something one can even benefit from, and I needed to hear this. I can never know how I might have responded to it if I had read it before Elle died, as Rachel had suggested. I remembered there was a pearl reference in it that had made an impression on me.

Kagan tells that oysters, safe in their shells, can’t help but introduce grit in the process of feeding. They manage to discharge most of it as a waste product but serendipitously, a piece of grit will sometimes remain and become a source of irritation. The oyster deals with this by coating the grain of sand with a substance called nacre that is the same as the inside of the oyster shell creating a smooth pearl, thus the irritation becomes a thing of comfort for the oyster and its own personal treasure until we prise it open, to make it one of ours. I can quite see how the metaphor was born out of this natural process.

I wanted to know more so I asked Google ‘Why is a pearl often linked to grief?’ and up popped an essay from The New Yorker magazine about a poem called ‘Pearl’ by an unknown medieval poet. I couldn’t believe my luck. What a gem this poem turned out to be. It is about a father grieving over the death of his daughter. It describes the man searching in the same garden where he lost his daughter, then swooning into unconsciousness and entering a dream and finding himself on a riverbank, where he spies a girl across the river in a translucent white dress made of pearls. I have ordered the translation of this poem by Simon Armitage, and I am excited to get my hands on it. It sounds wonderful, and I am sure I will have more to say about it once I have read it.

I love these moments that give me the courage to continue with heartfelt purpose, on what feels like both an imposed journey and a divine invitation to trip the light fantastic. How wonderful it would be to take this story with all its complexities and divine inspiration and bring it to a novel written for modern times, or even made into a film in full animation.

13 June

I am still lingering over the pearl story.

Like falling stars from the universe we are hurled
Down through the long loneliness of the world
Until we behold the pain become the pearl.

The Pearl, sung by Emmylou Harris

I have been busy preparing for our trip to the UK today, and getting ready to receive our house sitters who are really here for our boys.

14 June

The day was taken up with travelling to the UK, and then some fun-filled time with Kate and Isaac. He is growing up so quickly, and I can see the character of the little boy emerging. He is a mini Alex—a little shy yet confident, a little mischievous, and also quite the charmer.

I have been in contact with the lawyer dealing with Elle’s estate, not that there has been much to deal with except a few legal requirements. The main reason for the contact is concerning the inquest. Only recently was I able to look at extracts of the written version. It has deflated my cushion of comfort and support for today.

15 June

I feel like I can cope again until the next tunnel comes into sight. I am trying to keep focused on our Pearl, wherever she has settled.

16 June

We are in the UK because Kate and Alex bought tickets to a Guns N’ Roses concert tonight as a surprise for Peter and me. It will be the original line up, and I am imagining a group of ageing, overweight rockers desperate to refill their depleted coffers. The real reason for our excitement, though, is that the group has been a feature in our lives going back to when Peter worked in Los Angeles. As mentioned earlier, our guest loo has always had a framed platinum disc of Guns N’ Roses album, Appetite for Destruction, and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was our family’s go-to dance number, and the band’s last song at Kate and Alex’s Ibizan wedding. It will take a miracle to get us dancing to it again.

17 June

An amazing concert—they weren’t overweight and didn’t disappoint as performers! A few years back I had seen photos of Axl Rose looking a bit plump and like he’d had pretty drastic cosmetic surgery. He is certainly not the stick-thin, bohemian vision of sexual energy of thirty odd years ago, but he was still able to trip across the stage and occasionally even reference his snake-like sway from the ground up, and soon the trademark bandana appeared along with a variety of splendid hats. The sound was a bit muddy to begin with, and I wasn’t sure we would get to hear his distinctive voice, but the sound engineers soon put that right too.

While we enjoyed every minute, a level of expectancy was rising in Kate, Peter and me as we waited to hear the opening chords of our favourite track. In the end we were taken completely by surprise. Slash played a classic rock opener for a few moments (the theme song from the Godfather) and then did a clever harmonic slip into the first chord of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’—a smart moment of mischief. The crowd went wild, and none of us stayed seated. Kate brought up a photo of Elle on her phone, and we all kissed her and danced to forget our longings.

Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws

Take This Waltz, A tribute translation by Leonard Cohen of Lorca’s poem ‘A Little Viennese Waltz’

I also met Barbara for lunch in Covent Garden yesterday. Our children grew up together because we were always going to get together regularly. But for a few years we were estranged—one of those things that can happen even between good friends. A few days after Elle died, Barbara made contact with us again. We spoke to each other from our broken hearts and a healing took place. Our relationship was always one I didn’t want to give up on, and it felt like a sacred gift even in the moment. Over a long lunch, of which I remember only the large glass of tasty white wine, we were able to go over what I knew of the circumstances surrounding Elle’s death.

18 June

Yesterday was a wondrous day. I will leave it at that.

19 June

Today Kate, Peter and I met up with our therapists.

20 June

A day of mixed feelings as we travel homeward. It is lovely to be back with our boys, Zac and Kito, although I find it harder and harder to say goodbye to Kate. She and I had a tough moment when something I said came out wrong and was hurtful. I think it is my stubborn side rearing its head again. But we talked it through, and as usual, these tough moments more often than not can lead one to an even deeper understanding, if one is prepared to discuss thoughtfully and respectfully.

21 June

I am excited that today Margie’s brother, Tony, is coming to visit us with his wife, Camila. They have been on a combined business and holiday trip around a few European countries. We haven’t seen each other since Margie died last year. I shall be seeing his mom, Mary-Ann, in November. We have all needed to be together again.

22 June

Although the age gap from Camila through Tony and on to Peter and me is wide, there is no problem in bridging it because we all interpret our experiences with a familiar outlook on life. He has also spoken of the gifts that have come his way through his own grief.

June 23

It is amazing how hard it is to get to the beach when it is almost on your doorstep. But today I made it—hopefully the first of many visits this summer. My favourite beach experience is to get a sun lounger and an umbrella, to smell the sea air and enjoy whatever book I am currently reading, with an occasional dip thrown in, followed by a tasty lunch and then home. On the beach this morning, and in a good headspace, I finished reading the medieval poem ‘Pearl’. (It is written by an unknown poet around 1390 AD, who also wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Giant which may be more familiar.) I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this book—a book that speaks of a father’s unabashed and all-embracing love for his daughter. Before leaving home this morning, I told Tony that I was disappointed at my lack of spiritual practice. It is knowing what I need to do to help myself but consistently finding reasons to avoid it. Is it laziness or is there something more to my resistance? I know believing is not enough. I need to do something that brings in ritual and practice. It is easy to give a thought or an idea a tick in the box and then park it. But belief requires not just interrogation but also application. He gave me a link to a guided meditation that I shall try out later. Something else he said resonated with me. He sees meditation as not just emptying the mind, but as invoking stillness so you can hear the whispers. I have a suspicion that if we don’t listen to the whispers, they will try shouting, and if we are still deaf to the shouts, we may receive something worse. While I do hear some whispers, it could only be beneficial to hear more.

Yay, I may just have heard a whisper today! I have often talked about the earthly and the heavenly Elle. It might seem obvious to you, but I ‘learnt’ today that they are not separate entities—they are both two and one—everything she was down here has everything to do with who she is out there, and vice versa. The two have always existed as one. In bringing them together, where does this place me? Duality is how we build our reality—if something is hot it is not cold, etcetera. Am I both one and the same? I told Elle this morning that I have more work to do, and that I value the help I am getting in joining up some of the dots, especially as I uncover more about her last few days on earth.

Now I see time as a singularly earthly construct. Scientists keep telling us that it doesn’t exist or work in the same way in space. I need to stop seeing Time as my enemy—it doesn’t take Elle away from me. My sensory memory of her physical presence is what grows fainter. Time melts away as our days become yesterdays, and we are only left with the marks of our memories. From now on I shall try not to see time as my enemy taking her further into the past with every day that passes. I won’t let it keep me from being with her, but rather see time as something that gives me opportunities to experience and learn more about this fascinating place we call Earth. But does that mean that I accept the well-intentioned rebuke that time heals? No, I heal myself with help from my people and faiths of my choosing, as is eternally the way. All time is capable of doing is fading and hiding events. Time is something we can rely on like a grid or graph—it enables us to live consciously. It holds within it our experiences of everything past, giving us markers such that we can give context to our physical position at any given moment in the now, and provide us with landing points so we can find our memories, and thereby remember who we are.

24 June

I am still writing about the difficult days, and I can only do that in short bursts. I need to stay within range of my various security blankets. I do feel inspired though at the moment, and alert to the whispers.

25 June

Pete and I got up early to take our boys for a walk before the heat of the day ratchets up. We visited a little-known area of the island near Xarraca.

I am writing the hard bits again today.

26 June

Still writing those hard days.

27 June

It is the 3rd anniversary of Kate and Alex’s Ibiza wedding.

View More: http://analuiphotography.pass.us/katherineandalexander

How time flies! It is also my sister Marion’s 70th birthday.

I have been helping Kate with some details for her writing, and got carried away writing about one of three Peters who have individually been important for different reasons at different points my life. It all got rather interesting.

28 June

I did a 10-minute Qi Dong routine of breath and bodywork. I was familiar with the name, but I had no idea what it entailed. I now see what it is about and will try to continue the routine each day. I followed it with my first self-led ten-minute meditation. It felt good to get going with this intent. I remember Elle gently encouraging me to take a white rose, Iceberg to be exact (my mother’s favourite and now mine), and meditate on it.

29 June

I dropped Tony and Camila at the airport this morning. Last night we spent a beautiful evening at Las Dalias. Wednesday nights used to be called Namaste, and this year is their twentieth anniversary season. They have brought in new members and reinvented the evening as Up2Us. It felt quite different but it was good to see it supported by the same crowd, and  to see the corner decorated by Greg. He quietly creates artistry—and mostly a little pat on the back does it for him.

[Added later: they decided to revert to ‘Namaste’ halfway through the season.]

My heart took a little dip as I left the airport this morning after dropping off Tony and Camila. I will miss our far-reaching discussions.

 

30 June

It is ten months today since our lives were turned inside out, and we continue to search for a new way to be. The path up this mountain has so many twists and turns. Sometimes I need to stop and rest. There are times when I’m not sure I want to wake up, but I know Kate and Peter are going through the same and we all need each other if we are going to make it to the summit. I wonder what is waiting for us up there. Maybe just a diving board with nothing beneath it, or perhaps a beautiful garden. I hope so.

Walking through the woods, guided,

following bird song to find my spot.

Thorns along the way.

Until I see a bird taking flight,

leading me

to my final place,

where I take a seat under the birdsong.

It’s not necessary

to go through the woods

and thorns

anymore

to find my spot.

Self Love, found in Elle’s notebooks

A few days ago I followed an interesting lead related to twin flames and split souls. I started with Wikipedia as usual, because it gives a quick overview and often interesting cross-references. It gave the origins of current thinking, and more particularly, the historic or religious writings to provide a historical context. I will come back to this subject later, but through my questioning I came across the word ‘dharma’. While it was a word I was familiar with I didn’t know what it meant. Again I looked to Wikipedia for an overview:

Dharma, Sanskrit, is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and others. There is no single-word translation for dharma in Western languages. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with Rta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘right way of living’. In Buddhism, dharma means ‘cosmic law and order’, and is also applied to the teachings of Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for ‘phenomena’. Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice. The word dharma was already in use in the historical Vedic religion, and its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia… The antonym of dharma is adharma.

From here I moved on to ‘The Law of Dharma’ by Deepak Chopra. Basically, he says that the path to our full potential is available to us all. We need to follow three key components to initiate our journey towards this end.

  1. Each of us is here to discover our higher or our spiritual self.

This made me wonder if my experience of my higher self was more of a gift than I realised, not just given to ease my pain or as a road sign, but as an actual billboard. We must find out for ourselves that inside us is a god or goddess in embryo that wants to be born so we can express this divinity.

  1. We must search for our own unique talent or talents.

We must explore the activities that make us happy and in so doing discover our own unique talents. We must then develop ourselves through practicing this talent, which will ultimately lead us to a timeless awareness.

  1. We should then apply our knowledge and talent in service of others.

In this way you achieve the Law of Dharma and receive true abundance. It may not be the kind of abundance many of us think of first, but if we were to achieve it, we would definitely recognise it as the only abundance we could ever want.

A few weeks ago I bumped into a friend M who I hadn’t seen in many years. Back in 2013 I heard she had been seriously ill and had returned to the UK for treatment. Later I heard that her healing had gone well, and that she had since then recorded an album of songs all written by her. She has experienced a lot of sadness around loss in her lifetime. I almost didn’t recognise her because she looked so much younger and lighter of spirit, and her eyes were sparkling. She told me she had been deeply moved by Elle’s death and that she would like to meet with us, and last night we met for drinks at her beautiful home.

I am tired. More on this tomorrow.

Author: jenniesredbook

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

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