From Frustration to Anger

For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not always that we give proper attention to the emotions that we feel. We just assume that they are a result of who we are. Sometimes we are happy or content, other times we feel sad, and then there are those moments of frustration which can easily spill over into rage or anger. It has not been possible for me to live a life without noticing and interrogating all emotions. These are my personal thoughts only, as I have fiercely guarded my right to have them since a child. But to give myself a little boost of confidence in order to write about them, I have looked outwards towards other cited individuals for this purpose.

As I approached my early thirties, I started to question why I would still cry in certain situations, and by this stage I really thought I should be over this behaviour. I had begun to recognise this as a pattern borne from frustration many years before but had arrived at no resolution, and really, by thirty, tears of frustration should not be an issue in any adult’s life. In later years it only cropped up as an issue in my relationship with my husband, Peter, who is really a very good man, but at that age neither of us were living life consciously. I remember the last time it happened in our relationship as clearly as if it was last year. He had a few archaic issues around jealousy, and it would raise its ugly head after a beautiful day out spent with good friends. Soon as we set off in the car it would start – attempts to pick a fight. Finally, on arriving home, having spent an hour trying to fend off the attempts to get a rise from me, I burst into tears, and as soon as I did, he wanted to put his arms around me and tell me all was good. But on this last occasion I questioned him. I said, “Why do you want to attack me until I start to cry, and then want to comfort me?” It was in acknowledging the pattern that both of us recognised together that Peter never again expressed jealousy, and I never again felt those same tears of frustration. I only cry very occasionally at remembering loved ones no longer with us, or moments when I get an overwhelming sense of love for whatever it is that has moved me.

Getting to understand the pattern on an even deeper level involved going back over memories as a child and a teenager. Memories serve us so much more than just markers in our past, as I found after my daughter died. Particularly the ones that are reactivated by something that crops up in our daily life and at random moments. They can be quite revelatory. It was my dad who would bring on my tears of frustration because my mom always left him to deliver all decisions which included the ones that thwarted my desires. And always I would revert to tears, much like the little child that has been told that she cannot have the doll of her dreams on any Saturday morning’s passing of the toy shop. In other words, those times when one can’t have one’s way—the answer is ‘no’ to whatever you want or want to do. In my case, in my teens, it would be a ‘no’ to going to a party, or going on a date with someone my parents didn’t like the sound of. In other words, control was withheld from me. These feelings don’t necessarily go away of their own accord just because you have entered the adult arena but will just be for different reasons.

Personally I struggle to use my second hand for the times of anger that I can attest to experiencing; an anger or rage that goes past frustration. But I do know what this feels like because my anger manifested as a shaking that took over my whole body. As I have gotten older, I see anger as being those moments when outrage often accompanies something someone does or says. How dare they! Outrage implies that someone has done something to you or someone else you deeply care about that you find totally unacceptable. A useful tool would be to look at who exactly within you is objecting. Usually it is the ego or one’s persona – the mask that year upon year we have been shaping and building and that now is who we believe ourselves to be. The other main reason though for anger is fear. Fear that if interrogated would tell you that your very foundations are being rocked, or equally, that you are being nudged into unknown territory, and away from a terrain that you understand as keeping you safe from harm. I would even go as far as to say that the reason for anger or rage is precipitated because it highlights something within our ‘self’ that is spreading trying to speak up; to say that our perception of safety is not safe ground for us. And it is this nudge from our inner being, our subconscious, that our ego or persona is trying to reject. It is our subconscious that is trying to help us find our way back to our souls, or if you prefer, something more akin to our authentic being. We are fortunate to have this help always at hand because there is no other way to peace than via an inner truthfulness.

Two indisputable voices on the issue of anger. First, Freud:

‘Anger as Freud’s Forgotten Defense’

“If to Freud all defence mechanisms exist to protect the personality from an intolerable attack of anxiety when the ego is under siege, it’s strange that he never considered anger as serving this pivotal psychological function. But to regard an essential human emotion as mainly designed to safeguard an individual from another, much more distressful emotion, is hardly a line of reasoning Freud might have been expected to follow. Still, in my own clinical experience, anger is almost never a primary emotion in that even when anger seems like an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction to provocation, there’s always some other feeling that gave rise to it. And this particular feeling is precisely what the anger has contrived to camouflage or control.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/200807/what-your-anger-may-be-hiding

And my favourite, Jung, as explained in an article by Sharon Martin in an article called The Alchemy of Anger:

“Dr Jung wrote these words two years before he died: “God” is the name by which I designate all things which cross my wilful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or for worse.” The Greek gods Dionysus and Ares are associated with anger and can be very dangerous and destructive… This rage is almost always relegated to the unconscious in childhood, so as not to displease the person who has evoked it by their failure to meet our needs, and thereby to lose what little we may have. If it is not brought to consciousness, experienced and resolved, it cannot do its work, which is usually to separate one from the parents. And by separate I do not mean to move out of the parent’s house. I mean to grow up and live one’s own life, not controlled by the parental complex…”

http://www.jungatlanta.com/articles/spring12-alchemy-of-anger.pdf

I don’t feel I need to look further than the two fathers of psychology who together gave us all we ever need to know about the subject. The rest is up for interpretation and development. Personally, I have long since given up all sense of resentment towards any conditionings my parents placed on me, inadvertently or not. They are heavily outweighed by the good things my parents made possible instead. My parents left me largely free to develop my own views on life and relationships by never imposing a system of discrimination on how I view the world and people. There must still be some of that particular form of conditioning left in me but it came as a result of what society projected onto me rather than them. Whatever party I couldn’t attend, or sleepover that I was refused, has long since faded into obscurity. And I face the world full face on with whatever knowledge and surprises it will bring my way until death does its business. Then I shall look for the nearest cosmic wave and ride off to my place in the great firmament—a life fully lived in my book.

The Rights and Wrongs are Ever Less Clear

milky-way

“Frequently consider the connection of all things in the Universe. … Reflect upon
the multitude of bodily and mental events taking place in the same brief time,
simultaneously in every one of us and so you will not be surprised that many
more events, or rather all things that come to pass, exist simultaneously in the
one and entire unity, which we call the Universe. … We should not say ‘I am an
Athenian’ or ‘I am a Roman’ but ‘I am a Citizen of the Universe’.”

Marcus Aurelius

 

I realised some months ago that the conversation that has been the ‘anti-vaxxers vs vaxxers’ has shifted to ‘anti-maskers vs maskers’ domain of interaction. Both contain all the same elements of judgement and attempts at shaming that have become our standard go-to level of debate. Sadly it is becoming representative of the ever new ways of finding ourselves divided. I have attempted to look at what is underlying this phenomenon and what makes them similar, and this is my theory. I am not clearly right or clearly wrong, but it feels likely possible. Firstly, I recognise that in both cases it is not possible to enter into an open debate about the facts, whether it concerns what vaccines are doing to our more than adequate and strikingly beautiful immune system, or equally, that we all know that the masks we put on only serve a purpose if we are coughing and sneezing due to being ill ourselves. No-one can honestly believe that a pretty cloth mask or the most basic of masks used by us all is capable of doing anything other than cosmetic. And this is besides all the harms done psychologically: children who will not see a smile on a stranger’s face, hear communication happening around them, who will believe that the air is something to be afraid of and that living is a dangerous thing, and for all of the population living in fear of their own mortality and everywhere they look reminds them of this. And in most cases what may result is that someone, in return for lockdown, lives another year or two. It doesn’t feel like a fair exchange that the poor bear the brunt of this, as they do of everything we claim. It seems the most sensible thing for us all to do is a face-off with this new virus and allow those of us willing to do so to get on with it. We too matter in this equation and should have the right to do so. But sadly this probably won’t happen because governments are leaving us out of the business of governing the people, and they don’t intend to let us know what is going on, and what they are up to. They have decided it is their God–given right to make with us what they will, only it is because they are totally enamoured with Man’s godly likeness that they can achieve this.

I have no problem with those who feel that they have a higher risk of serious complications from Covid-19 and who choose to wear a mask. In fact, I encourage it. And if someone’s fear reaches an even higher level they can choose to stay within the home and be supported to do so. We cannot deny this virus its place in our current paradigm, and ultimately it is not an option to live out our lives in isolation—that is not living. We need to familiarise ourselves with the behaviour of bacteria and viruses and what our governments are doing with and to them without our knowledge and our consent. If the average child through to adulthood has 60 plus vaccinations, not counting the annual flu vaccines and more that keep being added to the schedule, it is going to become a necessity to be better informed because there are more viruses on the planet than there are stars in the universe. Viruses normally live in a balanced harmony with us because our immune system acts as a gatekeeper, a highly developed army making sure they remain behind their lines. Yes, there are always going to be environmental (most of our own making) or individual (often of our own making) events causing us to suffer serious illnesses and even death, including an epidemic, just like an insect or a forest can suffer or worse.

Many people think that childhood diseases are/were dangerous, when all children got them generation after generation. And yes, occasionally, a heart defect, a lack of proper nursing, famine or malnutrition, or some compromised immune system issue could well cause serious illness and death. But the undermining of the human immune systems for the sake of a few, with extreme repercussions for the future of the human body and its health, is wrong. There will always be early and tragic deaths for some of us through illness or accidents. When you look at the schedule of vaccines in the US as of 2017, it sounds perfectly normal for one of the leading lights, an anthropologist, Dr Heidi Larson, in the UN vaccination programme to ask the question, ‘as we have now moved humanity to a vaccine-induced dependency for immunity to diseases….’ Surely it raises questions, and certainly I, for one, am not happy about them ‘playing God’ with our bodies.

The first link is to Dr Heidi Larson speaking at the UN, and the second gives you an idea of the multitude of vaccinations children and adults are already receiving. A drop in the ocean when it compares to the number of viruses our immune systems need to be taught how to deal with when they enter the domain of our bodies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp-kw9s8CTU

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11288-childhood-immunization-schedule

My theory is that the same two ‘niggles’ apply to both conversations, that of the ‘vaxxers’ and the ‘maskers’, and they are to do with a heightened fear of death, often because of a materialist and a non-spiritual view of the world, and therefore a sense that as people they do not matter. In both cases, these are self-generated states of being. I am always amazed at the assistance the universe offers to each of us with a road sign pointing in the right direction. One of the regular posts of recent times has been all lives matter in the context of the BLM movement coming from some quarters of the population, projecting this back out onto the population to still their own subconscious belief that the implication of black lives matter is that they don’t matter. And I am not saying that the BLM movement are without their own dogmatic issues. It is a state of mind to know that you matter, and can take years of soul searching to know this, and finally it is one that I now understand in the context of the bigger picture: everyone and everything matters as we are all one with the total consciousness of the universe, a theory that is fast becoming a fact as scientists gain a greater understanding of the physics of everything, although not really a new idea but one that has been promoted by mystics, shamans and philosophers since ancient times. Nothing happens without involving and impacting everything and everyone that exists in the world, and all actions serve a purpose individually and collectively, and therefore come with consequences that are unavoidable, even when those consequences go unattended for lifetimes and generations. The universe is a finite system and there is no opportunity for losses of matter or energy. This means that our consciousness lives on in one way or another after death. If that isn’t a good reason to know how much we and everything matters, I don’t know what is!

iTupa tells the gathered children a story.

river source

“Each person lapses back as a drop of water does returning to the ocean, unchanged and unchangeable from the sojourn in the body.

Rudolf Steiner

An excerpt from my new book.

A river’s beginnings are imagined in the twinkle of a drop of water be it up high in the heavens or released from a glacier near the summit of the highest mountains on Earth. I met just such a drop once as a young boy back in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas. It was a long time ago. She was mesmerising and I will never forget her. But I diverge. For the purposes of this story, let’s observe the drops as they are attracted to one another in the earth’s atmosphere, and when they get too heavy for the cloud to support them, they are released and rain down on the windward side of a mountain. There will always be that first drop that searches to find a groove between the stones and rocks, or through the sand, looking for the companionship of others. Eventually they unite again into one body and form a puddle. The puddle overflows becoming a trickle seeking that groove again, and the trickle becomes a stream. Soon the stream is flowing with an intentional momentum, a growing understanding that it has presence and somewhere to go. That groove has now become a fully-fledged riverbed that has nursed many a stream on to greatness. Subtly the stream and its wandering flow has morphed into a river that has changed lanes over centuries and millennia, but it never forgets its mission: to keep flowing ever on. The data contained within each molecule is constantly being updated but equally there is an innocence of what lies ahead. Every grain of sand, ribbon of algae, fish, rapids or rock it makes contact with, increases its knowledge of its environment. The further it travels the more confident and powerful it becomes as other streams and rivers merge with it, bringing with them ever more new and exciting experiences. What lies ahead is always a mystery but our river never chooses to turn back against the flow that impels it on and down to the sea. The river’s bed tells it so. There may even be a time when a number of drops will get caught up in a pool, cut off from their beloved river, and for those few drops their journey will come to an end too soon and they are returned to source in an unexpected way, or perhaps the holdup may be short lived, and with the following rains the drops finds a route back into the flow.  No two molecules of water experience the river of life in the same way; no journey can ever be quite the same as another’s. As a drop we can choose to flow keeping one foot on the right bank, that of the Land of the Senses, and maybe even become overly obsessed with its form and beauty, its highs and its lows. We would then miss altogether what is happening over on the left bank. Equally we may find ourselves becoming too airy-fairy over on the other bank, the Land of Spirit, wondering what it would be like if only we could fly. I prefer to stay in the free flow with an eye on both banks. That way I  remain aware of all that is happening around me, and I call that the peaceful or middle way. One-day, after many years, the river broadens, the flow grows a little tired and lingers longer in the area. It spies for the first time what it has been inexorably flowing towards, the great oceans of the world who appear dauntingly infinite. Will it get swallowed up by the Big Blue? Will the river find its place in it? But still it does not falter; the sea salt cannot hurt it because the river finally smells its role in the creation of life on Earth, and remembers water’s destiny to provide the great and small cycles of life that bring the bounty of sustenance to all of nature. Finally the river spreads it arms wide and rejoices at finding its way home. And maybe soon, maybe later, or one day far into the future a drop of that same river may rise once again from the deep blue sea up into the heavens and embark on a new journey to a different corner of the world, and its adventures will start all over again. Perhaps as rainfall on the Masai Mara plains of Africa, or maybe as snow on top of the Andes Mountains. And so it goes, my hearties. Each molecule of water drops back seamlessly into the ocean, unchanged and unchangeable, after a long journey down the river of life. Did you know that you can never step into the same river twice? Well, the water may look little different but the molecules that tickle your feet will never again be the same ones. They travelled on by in the blink of an eye.

 

Gravedigger
When you dig my grave
Could you make it shallow
So that I can feel the rain

Written by Dave Matthews, album Some Devil

Love in the Time of Long Shadows

shadows

This is how my life plays out many times a day – events, words and meetings collide, constantly revealing deeper meanings to me. Another name for these deeper meanings, or synchronicities, are my beloved dots that I keep adding to my map of life. The map has been taking on some strange anomalies lately. Mmmm…  And I can never in this life time know whether I am holding it the right way up or not. The risk of free will.

My pug has colitis, and it is my fault, a mistake I could feel myself making at the time because I gave him the tip of the chicken wing when I knew it nearly killed my Oscar pug many years ago. I look always at why I walk myself into difficult situations knowingly, and sometimes I come up with answer. He is slowly healing, and I have to live with his pain – a good lesson for me in so many ways. Our other dog Zac, the island special, has mostly been patient with Kito’s unwillingness to join his games, but recently he has been attempting to herd him, and growling at him. This morning, when I had finished explaining my current shadow sense on life, and why he shouldn’t worry because the green trees and blue sky still look beautiful to me, I told Peter that in nature animals and particularly wolves and their wild descendants will hide their injuries and illnesses as long as they can from the pack, because if discovered the pack will attack them and possibly even kill them. This is because the pack’s welfare, (interesting – the good of all) depends on the health of all its members (or would this have more to do with getting herd immunity).

So, imagine my surprise (not) when I open an article, as always reached by diving into a wormhole, on reading the following:

“…This is intensified within the prison, where, if you get a death notice like one of the characters Kiki did, that his sister died, you cannot show any emotion that will invite people to take advantage of you. That emotion, for Kiki, was sadness. If you show sadness, you start crying, people will see that you’re vulnerable and will try to take advantage of you.”

I chose to find out more about James McCleary and his documentary, The Work, made by his son, because I happened to open a short video put up by Russell Brand on what he had learnt this week. And the reason for my interest was remembering my time of working in the education department of a high security men’s prison in the UK. I have never enjoyed work more than I did this, although working in a children’s home as a twenty-year-old comes close. At the time that I worked in the prison Elle, my daughter who died in 2016, was about 12 months old and her sister was seven. I was a young woman with no skills or tertiary education in any subject, never mind psychology, and not in a position to know how to help them. (The lady in charge of the education department saw something in my application that made her override the need for further qualifications.) I started by teaching cooking (not my greatest talent), then went on to art and literacy, and finally I developed my own life skills course which seemed to achieve results on the ‘opening up to discuss issues’ front. I look back and know that while I was well meaning and with good instincts, I was never the less out of my depth.  But the compassion I felt for the men, as opposed to pity and hence judgment, has been where I felt any success in supporting them lay. I have never forgotten one of their life stories. I am considered by some as illusional, delusional even, for my unusual take on people, life, spirit and the universe, and at times I have had to work hard to see my own relevance, but I have always had my main champions, my daughters and my husband, who I trust when they tell me that I am sane.

I look forward to watching this documentary. I hope that I can find it. I have always felt that there are ways to heal and help damaged and traumatised children and people but not the way we have been going about it in the past and in the main.

“…At first, it was a writing program. Patrick didn’t know anything about modern psychology at that point, but he knew that men had been sitting in circles for the last hundred thousand years around a fire talking. He said that he could at least do that. That’s what he did. He invited men to start talking. That’s what they did.”

What comes out of this article for me is the need, for those of us who are injured, to meet with a supporter on equal ground, as opposed to doctor/patient, psychologist/victim, psychiatrist/perpetrator or any hierarchical or judgmental paradigm because it will be met with resistance, and resistance prevents change. What Jung calls the ‘warrior archetype’ perhaps in action? ‘Who do you think you are to try to cross my boundaries, Mr Therapist?’ It is acknowledgement that is the key to open anyone up to a difficult conversation, and that can begin the act of self-healing.

“…It’s a general blanket term for all of the messy stuff that happens in a person’s life that they try to reframe so that they can behave differently. To put it in a box of group therapy sells it short. It really is empathy and compassion. It’s an impromptu session based off the strength of the truth that you tell. That connects with the person sitting next to you and the people in the circle. They’re throwing out whatever works, whatever they’ve experienced in the moment to try and help the individual that seems to be in the center, that is feeling whatever they’re feeling.”

While this article is about specifically helping men to find a way back into their hearts (also known as their anima), and learning to be kind and gentle with themselves and all that that entails, I don’t see that it precludes women from finding positive results in their relationships and lives through a similar construct, although there might well be some smaller variables. The following quote could easily be said for a woman or a mother who opens herself up to the scrutiny of others, and especially to her children or partner. And I disagree with anyone who says that he/she opens themselves at their own peril, but obviously there is one necessary precondition, the authenticity of the intent for opening oneself up.

“…My dad really opened himself up to scrutiny. That’s why he’s the biggest hero I have, because in that moment, his identity as a stern father figure crumbled and he invited us to criticize him. He said, “Are there things that I’m doing that are hurting our relationship? There are so many mistakes I have made. What are the mistakes that you think I’ve made? How can I be better?” He started doing that.”

I would love to have known as a young mother what life has finally taught me, but perhaps that is as is meant to be, but are the young willing to learn from our otherwise lost wisdom, as they used to in times past, sitting around in the shade of the great mother trees, with their children playing at their feet, while men sat around the fires at night having kept alert all day to keep their families and tribe safe from all dangers.

Jairus McCleary on ‘The Work,’ His Father, and the Hard Truth That Pain is Pain

PS. Carl Jung, the father of Synchronicity, again plays a role in this particular process of healing, and almost personally turns up inside this particular collision of events for me today.

PPS. The following are the four main archetypes that are deeply imbedded in all mythologies, and have been present through to the present – they are the king/queen, the warrior, the lover and the magician – but it is Jung who is considered to have developed them into identifiable and useable types into determining how all behave, and who is responsible for assigning emotions he describes as gateways into their psyches. They are as identifiable in communities and nations as in the individual, and probably equally in many of our systems, although I may have taken some liberties here.

Anger, and its opposite serenity, is the gateway into the warrior, and is about holding boundaries

Joy or despair is the gateway into the sovereign, the king/queen

Fear or calmness, serenity, is the gateway into the magician

Compassion and love and their opposites is the gateway into the lover

I can’t help noting how fear and the magician who, in his mischief and magic, turns things upside down, and fear ensues. Sounds familiar to me in this crisis of a virus.

Good Grief: Take Me By The Hand – Final Part, Thirteen

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.

For those born in September, the birth flowers are the forget-me-not, morning glory and aster. The birthstone for September is the sapphire which symbolises clear thinking.

I have a short story for the start of the final part of my book. It may be short but it reaches back more than thirty years into my past. Peter, Kate and I were living in Walton-on-Thames in the UK. We had bought the bottom half of a Victorian villa and above us lived a lady on her own. Her name was Yvonne, and I think she may have been in her early sixties. Unusually, she had worked in London for many years as a receptionist for a famous dominatrix but was now retired, and living a very ordinary life. The stories she told of the men arriving, barristers, judges, politicians and top bankers etc, and how she used to have different rooms for them to wait in so that they never saw each other, were eye-watering to someone who at the time was rather innocent with regard to the red light industry. It may even have been the first time I had knowledge that dominatrices even existed. Yvonne was quick to point out that her boss never had sex ever with any of her clients. Her duties would sometimes include checking up on a client in nothing but a French maid’s outfit as he vacuumed or dusted the waiting room. Arrival times also had to be carefully juggled and promptness was strictly monitored.

But the reason I have brought this up is because I started thinking more often about Yvonne and my memories of her as a person, and also of a particular thought I had had at the time. I would mull over this observation not really knowing why, but in the last few months it has been made clear to me. She was a simple soul, asked very little of life and seemed to have little experience of the world and its history. She had a man friend but had never been married. I can clearly recall being amazed all those years ago that someone who appeared to know so little of the world could be so spiritually intelligent. When Greg was going through his crisis last summer I would often find myself thinking about her again. While working on the final edit of my book I had a growing acceptance that I too was naive in ways I hadn’t realised. The more I engaged with this notion, and all its corollaries, the more liberated I felt. It was not what I was expecting. Spiritual intelligence is something altogether separate from any other innate intelligence. I don’t think I need to explain further.

Part Thirteen

30 August 2016

There’s a tree where the doves go to die
There’s a piece that was torn from the morning
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost

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

Friends of Elle have been arriving over the past few days from the UK, and just before dawn this morning, we all got together with local friends, old and new, at Cala Llenya beach. We were not expecting to see the sun rise as the weather report predicted a full day of cloud, but the storm forecast for today quietly slipped through last night instead. A good rain, but none of the predicted wind thank goodness! We got to the beach just as the light was appearing on the horizon, and behind us was our friend from Meke Coffee, Sam, with supplies of tea, coffee and croissants. A few Buddhist friends were already at the water’s edge chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for Elle. Perhaps Elle was right there with them. Not long after that, our houseguests Leah, Rachel and Freddie and her boyfriend Dan arrived too. Greg and Zoe brought flowers and breakfast bread rolls, while Mal and his musician friends quietly practised their song a little way up the beach. Later they performed the beautiful song Mal had written for Elle, inspired by the emails we received from many of Elle’s friends. We called Kate so that she could listen to it too. Peter and I welcomed and thanked everyone for making the effort to join us at dawn to mark this first anniversary of a day that changed our lives forever. The sun’s rays broke through holes in the clouds and heralded the sunrise. It fitted with my mood but I can’t help feeling that sunrises will always be bittersweet now. The afternoon boat trip on a traditional Ibizan fishing boat was cancelled because of rough seas and wind, so we have postponed it until Kate’s visit at the end of September but they have just contacted me to say all is clear to go to sea. But we’ve now been invited to supper at Greg’s, so are sticking with the change of plan.

Mary-Ann, my cousin whose daughter died earlier in the same year as Elle, called from South Africa just as the moment was coming to an end. We are so ready to be with each other in November. It is what we need—to be able to open our hearts to each other and let our pain flow freely.

It was important for me to tell all present that I now agree with Peter and Kate that Elle died as a result of a tragic accident. It felt good to say this. It saddened us when we heard that there were a few people saying that Elle’s breakdown and death were caused by drugs and/or a breakup with her boyfriend. I stand by this statement that it is not true.

I am aware that attempting to put the circumstances leading up to Elle’s death down on paper is unlikely to provide the full authentic version. Most of what happened is mysterious and deeply complex, and because we were away, we have had to rely on what people have told us. I am trying hard to bring together all the disparate descriptions and recollections into a cohesive understanding of the sequence of events, and what may have brought about the breakdown of her mental resolve to stay in the real world. We, and this was the view of some of her closest friends too, knew Elle to have deep reserves of inner strength of mind, as was recently evident from her accomplishment of a complete ten-day Vipassana without much ‘training’. Many have attempted it and needed to pull out after two or three days. Her strength in never giving up on herself as she worked hard to overcome deep-rooted emotional and mental obstacles was equally obvious. As we have managed to locate and speak to people who saw her during the last weeks, we have gained small insights into what may have happened, through a conversation with someone, an action or a question, but I also accept that we will never have a complete picture of what happened. I have read her notebooks, and while they taught me so much about her moments alone with her thoughts, they give no clues as to what specifically led to her emotional breakdown. As virtually nothing was dated, I believe a few entries may have been written in the last week of her life. I could see how her handwriting was faltering. One of the entries was a dream concerning her and Swo Boda. She wrote that ‘Swo Boda had the key as he was to be trusted’, and that he had difficulties accepting all of her, and it was clear to me that she was referring to her dark side, not that we were ever given more than a glimpse of this perceived side of herself. This dream seemed to disturb her trust in their future. But it is only a dream and I should not read too much into it. It is equally likely that her own fears were fuelling the dream.

We will probably never stop trying to understand what led her into such troubled waters when all other signs suggested she was enjoying her life more than at any other time in recent years. This is only natural as we try to process our new and grim reality. For my part, I have also turned my investigations outwards to improve my understanding of the workings of this world that is for now my home.

The first person we spoke to after the initial deafening call was Greg. He was deeply traumatised and struggling to remember some things, while other moments were burnt into his mind’s eye. The sun had not yet risen when Greg got up around six that morning to make a cup of coffee. He noticed that the front door was slightly ajar. His first thought was for Elle, but the bedroom door was closed. The last person entering the house the previous night may not have closed it properly, and it tends to spring open in a breeze if it hasn’t been fully clicked shut. At about 7.30 am, Swo Boda came out of the bedroom in a state and asked where Elle was. ‘I thought she was in bed with you,’ Greg said. Then he and Swo Boda ran out onto the roundabout to try to find Elle. Someone from the garage opposite said there had been an accident up the road. They both raced in the direction he pointed—as I write I feel their fear as if it was me in that moment. I have never spoken to Greg about the details of what they saw, but I know it fell to one of them to identify Elle—I believe it was Swo Boda. The accident happened only two hundred metres from Greg’s home.

I struggle on as my heart longs to find a new reality for me.

We now know that on the morning of Tuesday 30 August, after another sleepless night, Elle left Greg’s house at around 6 am. Swo Boda told me in a number of conversations over the following couple of days, and in emails we exchanged over the next few months, that she had tried to sleep, but regularly left the room. When he enquired what she was doing or where she was going, she said she was going to the toilet. After a while she said that if he loved her then he would trust her. Wanting her to feel safe and loved, he turned over and just listened for her movements, but eventually, during the early morning hours, he fell asleep.

We can only guess what happened between her leaving the house and the accident. Later we heard that a taxi driver had been concerned about a young girl walking on the side of the road, and we were told that he is troubled that he didn’t stop to see if he could help her. He is one of a number of us who feel that, had we acted differently, there could have been an alternative outcome.

The driver of the car involved in the accident was a woman, a mother of a young child. I read that she was thirty years old and on her way to work. We know nothing more about her except that she returned to the mainland soon after the accident. We can imagine that the pain would be almost as strong for her as for us, although for different reasons. Her original statement said she glimpsed Elle in her headlights on the side of the road, and the next moment she was right in front of the car. She said there was nothing she could do to avoid her. When she spoke to the judge in June, she said that there had been a misunderstanding and that she didn’t see Elle at all until she was right in front of her. When asked why she didn’t attempt to brake at all, her response was that there was no time, and that she was confused about what had actually happened. I am not sure what to make of this change to her statement, as I see the need to brake not as a rational decision, but rather an automatic reflex, even if only in response to hitting something. I can’t help feeling, as there were no natural obstructions to impede one’s vision of the road, and to both sides, that if she had been looking ahead through her windscreen, driving at the correct speed and paying attention to the road, she could not have missed seeing Elle. Concern at Elle’s partially clad body should have made her slow down even further, and perhaps even stop. She pulled up slowly 250m down the road. Why did she take so long? I do not accept certain elements of the autopsy, but it changes nothing. It does no good to dwell on it, and can only increase our suffering if we allow anger to hijack our emotions. There are no lessons we need society to learn from the accident itself, but an important reason for wanting to publish my writing is whether there is anything to learn from the preceding events.

Throughout this first year following Elle’s death, I was haunted by the notion that perhaps Elle had jumped in front of the car. But this fear was made unlikely as we learnt that she had been out walking on the previous two nights. Being in a fugue state, very tired and undernourished, she was not able to keep herself safe. Neither Kate nor Peter, in fact no one else, thought this may have happened, but it kept playing at the back of my mind. Within hours of getting the phone call, I had a vision of Elle ascending from the accident, and it persisted for months, but I could not understand why it was joyful. I am now as sure as anyone can be that Elle’s death was not intentional on her part, but rather a tragic accident. I was saddened when I heard that some locals had seen Elle out walking on the previous nights but had assumed she was on drugs. This upset me deeply as it is the village that we now live in and I felt that I had to address it. I distributed four letters to key places in our village where I knew locals regularly came together and talked. I wanted the village to know that Elle was suffering a breakdown, that she loved the island and its people, and was a hardworking contributor to the local economy. The response to my carefully worded letter was kind and positive. The judge, having considered all options, came to the same conclusion as the police—that Elle had been crossing the road, and it was a tragic accident. What I do not accept is that the police could be sure she was crossing the road. Elle would not have crossed in front of the only lights in the darkness.

Greg, paralysed by shock, didn’t know what to do. He had to contact us but he couldn’t summon the strength to do it. With the support of some friends who rallied around him, he managed to make the call to my brother-in-law Dave, Marion’s husband. Dave then called Peter.

Peter, Claudia and I were about to have a late breakfast, around 9.30 am I think. Our plan was to do some packing in preparation for our journey home, and then have lunch at a mountain top restaurant in Cantabria near Bilbao. The idea was to set off very early the next morning for Denia to pick up the last ferry back to Ibiza. We missed the first phone call, and then Peter’s phone rang again. I answered it while he was waiting for the boiled eggs to be ready. It was Dave, who asked to speak to Peter. As soon as I heard his voice, although he tried to sound normal, I knew something terrible had happened. I could feel my knees weakening as I held the phone out to Peter, and wanted to run away as I heard him repeat Dave’s words. I believe I knew instantly that it was Elle and that she was dead from the first word I heard Dave say. After ringing off, Peter, Claudia and I sank to the floor in a close huddle and wailed, our hearts almost audibly shattering as though they had always been made of glass.

I often remember the little red glass vase that belonged to Tinker, and how Elle and I put it back together in the May before she died. When I last spoke of it, I said I believed she was showing me—showing us—that as impossible as it may seem, we would be able to put our lives back together again. I also see now that it could not reference the heart more perfectly.

Back in Cantabria, once Peter, Claudia and I had helped each other to our feet, we all knew the most important thing now was to pack the car and leave straightaway for the island. It was important that I summon up strength from somewhere deep inside my being—I needed to get reality working for me again. The car ferry tickets booked for the next day from Denia needed to be exchanged for new tickets so that we could leave from Barcelona that evening. It wasn’t going to be easy to make the Barcelona ferry, but we were determined to arrive in time. I held on tight and managed to call the ferry office and explained that I needed to speak to someone in English. I told them about our emergency, and asked the young man to be patient with me as I attempted to answer all his questions correctly. There was no time for mistakes. He was a compassionate young man. It definitely qualified as one of the most difficult tasks I have ever had to perform, but there were more to follow.

Before we could leave there was a phone call we needed to make. We had to tell Kate. Peter called Alex and told him that he needed to return home to be with Kate before we made our call. I can’t remember exactly how it worked, but he was with her when we told her the news. Recalling that moment brings on an involuntary tightening of my chest, almost no easier to do than hearing the news ourselves. We also let Greg know that we were on our way and would be back with him early the next morning. It was so comforting to hear that good friends, Matt and Lulu, Saffy’s aunt, were with Greg. Elle had also shared our first house on the island with them for about a month when she moved to the island at the beginning of 2011 while we were on an extended visit to Cape Town.

We mechanically went about our business of packing the carn in a stunned silence. The dogs took their place on the back seat, and we said our sad farewells to the young man who had been our host. I drove first, followed by Peter, but as the drive progressed it became clear that neither Peter nor I were fit to drive, so Claudia took over, and somehow we kept moving in the direction of Barcelona. We had little time for stops—a quick refuel and grab a ‘bocadillo’, let the dogs have a pee and some water. No time to waste.

Throughout the journey there were calls to be made, messages to send out, messages coming in, each one a painful reminder of the future that now lay ahead of us. The bush telegraph, Facebook, ensured that the news spread fast. But it was hard to understand and bear when later in the day we got a phone call from Kate telling us that the press and photographers were outside her door. With the help of colleagues, a lawyer who specialised in dealing with the press and invasion-of-privacy issues stepped in to help deflect the press interest that had taken us all by surprise. We couldn’t understand where the public interest came in, but all I could think was that it was because a young girl from the UK had died on the ‘party island’. Reporters even tried Elle’s friends and reached out to us to ‘tell our story’! Peter and I managed to stay completely out of the press loop, but Kate was in the thick of it as the tabloids told their version of Elle’s ‘tragic death after leaving a party venue in a state of disarray and intoxication’. They even managed to infiltrate Facebook and extract a photo of Elle. Very little in the article was based on fact, other than that she had been killed in a car accident early in the morning near a club called Las Dalias. The least I could do was let her close friends know that only her family knew what had happened. The articles persisted for a few days, but once it was no longer fresh news the interest disappeared.

We arrived at the ferry port in Barcelona just in time to check in and give the dogs a little walk. They seemed to be fully vested in our grief. It wasn’t long before we were driving into the ferry. We put the dogs in their overnight kennel and made our way to the restaurant—it seemed a good idea to try and eat something. Conversation was limited to plans for the next day, tears and more tears. After dinner we went straight to our cabin. Every moment my stomach told me something was horribly wrong, reality was upside down, we were in a dream, no, a nightmare. We silently prepared for bed, too drained and tired to say another word—Claudia in a top bunk, and Peter and I below. I felt something stir deep inside, and it started building until my chest started rhythmically heaving faster and faster, and then I was gulping for air as the tears flowed into my pillow. I was alone with my sorrow, as were we all. Eventually, with the help of exhaustion, we all fell into a deep sleep and thankfully didn’t awaken until the early morning siren went off, and then the nightmare started all over again.

31 August

Today Peter and I are still feeling loved and supported, but very bruised. I have been contemplating an interesting pattern I observed earlier that played out again on the beach yesterday morning—Elle’s way of introducing the names of the people she knew along with a seemingly insignificant little fact about each of them. She never discussed her friends with us in much detail—what they were doing, hadn’t done, or any judgement on them—and I rarely questioned what I was not offered. I find it quite extraordinary that when I met them for the first time I had some comment to make that showed I knew who they were. It was as if this showed that they mattered to Elle. It is how it seems to me.

A good example of this was when a lovely family of mom, dad and baby girl arrived at the beach yesterday and came over to introduce themselves to Peter and me. It took me a while to understand who they were, but suddenly I recognised their names, Nicolai and Maria. I then knew exactly who they were, and that we’d once met when I dropped off something for Elle. I was able to say to them, ‘You shared a house with Elle for a year, and your family has a toldo company (toldos are awnings for terraces here).’ Greg told me that about two months ago he’d bumped into a couple with a baby at Las Dalias market who knew Elle well. They asked after Elle and were so shocked at the news of her death that they quickly left the market. I couldn’t think who they were at the time, but now I had the answer. I still don’t know how they found out about the picnic, but it felt so good to share big hugs with them and meet their beautiful baby. They want me to keep in touch about the charity we have set up.

On this day a year ago we arrived in the port of Ibiza, collected the dogs, and set off for Greg’s house. My heart was thumping in my chest as we drove past where the accident had happened. It looked as though the spot had already forgotten the tragedy it had witnessed just twenty-four hours earlier. Claudia later reported that she hadn’t seen any skid marks.

My fingers freeze as I recall how it felt arriving at Greg’s house. Peter, Claudia and I had discussed some of our feelings on the drive to Barcelona, which prepared us for how Greg would be feeling. He stumbled out to greet us, and his first words were, ‘She died on my watch.’ Peter hugged him and told him that wasn’t how we saw it. We have not for one moment changed our view on this, yet he still suffers whenever he’s faced with her name or our sadness. A hard fact of grief is that it’s not only your own grief you’re dealing with, but the grief everyone else is feeling too. Sometimes I hold back on my sadness around Greg because I know how deeply it affects him. He dwells on it so often without me initiating any further reminders.

We had arranged for our close friend, Martijn, to join us at Greg’s. He had offered to help where he could, and had made enquiries about which funeral home was taking care of her body. He offered to take us there and support us through the process. It was my first funeral home experience. We found out some basic facts about the police process so far and where Elle was, and made a decision that Elle would be cremated. The island had only had an operational crematorium for about a year, and this seemed like a blessing. The thought of having to send her body to Majorca would have been awful. We arranged to return to the funeral home the following day with a dress and a white rose to put in the coffin with her.

We now needed to start organising accommodation for family and friends who wanted to come over to be with us and to remember Elle. Friends rallied around in the most incredible way, including the family of the Atzaro Hotel, and we had no trouble finding a bed for everyone. The rest of the day proceeded in a blur. That afternoon we visited Elle’s home of her last few months and talked through our tears to her housemates. As soon as I saw the little red vase standing on her bookshelf, I reached for it. I quickly decided that it must also go in the coffin with her.

1 September

It is wonderful to have Peter’s oldest friend Pete (PC) and his wife Cressida here with us in Ibiza. They moved to Australia about eighteen years ago and we have seen little of them over recent years.

Final arrangements had to be made at the funeral parlour—what a strange word, while another would be ‘home’. I suppose it harks back to the days when coffins were set up in the front room of the home. We took along the little red vase, the long-stemmed white rose and a beautiful white broderie anglaise dress to go in with her. We needed to decide whether we wanted to view her body at the morgue. The morticians were not keen that we should, and indicated why. I longed to look on her one more time, but Peter, Kate and I decided to rather hold onto a living image of Elle, and said no. I have never regretted this decision although I can quite understand that others may feel differently.

Marion, Dave and their two younger children arrived later on this day. Marion was pale with shock, and I shall never forget the fear on her face as we moved towards one another. Dave and I shared a long hug as I silently acknowledged the weight of the burden of being the messenger for Peter and me. More and more people were being ferried from the airport, and I struggle to remember how it all worked. Soon Kate arrived with Alex and baby, and she sank into my and Peter’s arms, her first words, ‘I am alone now’, disintegrating as they were uttered. We knew exactly what she meant. These words (and those of Elle’s phone call to us) are engraved on my brain.

Swo Boda had been in touch with me a few times via Greg since our return, but we didn’t feel ready to meet him. A little later Greg took me aside and told me that Swo Boda felt a deep need to see Elle—he needed to be sure there was no mistake. I got Peter’s permission, and Claudia and I arranged to meet him at the morgue. He needed a next-of-kin’s consent. I know he knew in his heart that there was no mistake, but it didn’t feel right to refuse his request after what he’d been through.

Kate, Alex and baby moved into a recently completed apartment loaned to us by our Atzaro friends. We felt that they needed to be somewhere quiet with little Isaac. It was one of a series of four units with its own swimming pool, terrace and lovely views, which suited our moods perfectly. Everything about it was bright white, and almost blinding, but rather than being uncomfortable it seemed appropriate, and we all walked around behind our sunglasses, one step outside of reality. My memory of what happened next is vague. Greg put together a sustaining meal for us all at his home—a home that already carries so many memories for me—and Elle’s mentor Roseline joined us. I had a sense that she and I shared Elle, almost like two mothers, me being the older model and Roseline providing more of what Elle needed going into her new future. Elle’s death was particularly painful for Roseline because she had just completed five years of study, and like Peter and I, she had been just a day away from returning to the island. Her training meant she was uniquely qualified to help someone in Elle’s state of mind. I believe she too has come to a place of accepting that things are as they are meant to be, or at least that this is how it is.

2 September

The conversations today have been flowing well, and yes, about Elle and the circumstances of her death too. It was also good to hear about Pete and Cress’s lives over the years on the other side of the world. We shared lunch at one of our favourite places, Babylon Beach Restaurant, perched just above the translucent turquoise sea. The day has certainly delivered on sunshine but thank goodness the heat is a little less intense. Justin, a good friend of Elle’s who introduced her to Wing Chun, and hence to Swo Boda, was there to give us both a hug. We continue to meet up with him from time to time—it is always comforting to see friends of Elle.

Today is the day of Elle’s cremation, one year ago now. On the day it was very important to Peter, Kate and me that we spent time with her before the cremation, as hard as that was going to be. Apparently, this was not a common request, and in the end they agreed to give us the afternoon until 5 pm, the time of the cremation. We arranged for tea and snacks to be provided, but they mostly went untouched. Marion, Dave and family spent the first hour of our watch with Elle, while we completed a few final tasks. By an interesting twist of fate, a large villa near Cala Nova beach had become available to us, where it was possible to house the rest of the family and some of Elle’s friends. A friend of Greg’s had also offered her home for Marion and family to stay in, close to us all. The villa, which came to be called our sanctuary, had just the right atmosphere, a comfortable outside bar and a large swimming pool. It offered the privacy we all desperately needed. After a summer of rentals some things weren’t working properly, but all in all, it was perfect. Nothing was going to stop us from being in the moment.

The crematorium is a beautiful, modest building set in a forest near the top of a hill and run by special people who handled everything so sensitively. I used to think that people whose careers operate around the requirements of death seem to exist outside of regular society. I don’t know where that idea came from, because I’d never had to deal with them before. It seems to me that it is often the case that generations have continued to follow their parents into this line of work. On that afternoon the crematorium felt like an extension of our home where we could spend our last moments with Elle. We all went into an area behind glass to spend joint and individual moments with her. Graeme needed time alone with her and their memories. It felt to me like he needed to release his anger and resentment at how things had turned out. He will always be special to me—it is how I felt about him even before Elle died. You could call it soul memory of past lives shared.

Time for a moment stopped dead at 5pm. The memory will always raise a momentary anger in me. How could her soul have deserted her body like that? Where was the universe’s compassion that dawn? I find it hard to allow that memory to even show its face. I don’t suppose this will ever change until I myself fade from this world.

3 September

While sitting out on the balcony early this morning I felt Elle tell me what I needed for the first blank pages of this book. I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but it feels like it might be. While reading ‘The Sum of our Days’ last night by Isabel (who is now my compatriot so no need for surnames), I read that a friend who was struggling to get over the loss of her father asked her, ‘Why don’t I see him like you do Paula?’ Isabel answered, ‘I don’t see her, I feel her inside me.’ That’s how it is and has been for me since Elle died. The conversations happen in my head and not through my ears. When something like a phrase, a vision or a sentence pops into my mind, it more like an unexpected whisper from her, and often because it brings out an involuntary chuckle from me. Another means of communication takes place, again accompanied by humorous banter, when I look into the mirror some nights and I sense her looking back at me, as though she’s looking through the image of my own eyes in the mirror. It’s like she catches me as I enter the bathroom with the mirror straight ahead. Some people will read this as wishful thinking, but I’m not one to hang onto illusions. More often than not a strong sense of her, or something she wants me to know, is accompanied by the unexpected shadowing of the hairs on my body somewhere, and early morning or late at night are the times I feel the strongest communications.

It was about this time last year that I could feel a fundamental and most unexpected change taking place within me, as if someone was lovingly lifting me up and pulling me towards their heart. This was the start of the period of finding myself floating above everything, but with a rope attached to the earth so I didn’t float off into the ether. Initially it felt like Elle had given me a safe cloud that swept me away from all the pain. Now I could operate freely and capably to keep all running comfortably, better than I could ever have believed possible. It didn’t take long before I was aware that something was different about me, and initially I wasn’t without concern for myself, but I adapted to my changed state quite quickly.

This day last year was about making sure I had let all Elle’s friends on the island know about our special celebration on 4 September at the Atzaro Hotel. Family and friends staying with us in the villa helped fill scrapbooks with emails we had received from all over the world, and photos of Elle from a baby to the present. The importance of commending and commemorating Elle’s life is what made this task possible to complete.

More family and friends arrived, but I struggle to remember in what order. It felt like their outpourings of love for Elle and support for us was keeping us all afloat in a gentle ocean of a trillion tears. We could not have wished for more. The villa seemed to hold us all in her arms, things were running smoothly, people were getting fed and watered, and the all-important loads of laundry were on permanent rotation. And most importantly, by now I had also identified my personal ‘phone box’ to the stars for those early morning moments I liked to spend with Elle and my music.

4 September

I woke up this morning feeling pissed off. I don’t like feeling this way. It is disrespectful to the universe whose support I need more than ever.

Today is my last official day of writing. I say official because I don’t know yet whether I will be able to stop. Eventually I came to recognise that the balcony of our apartment has been my ‘phone box’ all through the year, and now I sit here and contemplate what may lie ahead. So where do I start—so much has already happened today!

I woke following a ‘shitty’ dream. Sorry, I try to be more careful with the words that come out of my mouth but today feels like a ‘sweary’ day. I wanted to discard this dream, but I am trying to return the favour with everything that takes the trouble to touch me, so here goes… It opens with a vision of someone trying to deal with a toilet where everyone’s poo has created a blockage. I am hoping this person manages to shift it, otherwise I’m going to have to get my hands dirty and do it myself. Not difficult to interpret and I leave it to your imagination.

I seem to have a little to-and-fro thing going with Elle this morning. The shape this takes is that a thought, totally unconnected to where my mind is travelling, will infiltrate my mind and stake a claim. I have come to recognise this intrusion as a conversation. I was suddenly reminded of something the medium at Greg’s told me. She said Elle wanted me to know she was ‘extremely busy’. I wondered if this was her letting me know that I may not hear from her in future. Another rather strange thought popped into my mind. ‘We are all aliens here.’ Earlier today I read that astronomers have recently picked up fifteen strong radio signals from a galaxy twenty billion light years away. Many cults and religious groups believe that at least some of us are aliens. Well, I suppose if we come here with soul contracts to work through then, in effect, we really are all temporary residents or aliens. But our physical bodies can only belong to this earthly plane. Again, an interesting thought is that our physicality, our DNA history contained in our bodies, maintains the link with the earthly plane, making it easy for our souls to slip in and out of. I went through to tell Peter of my thoughts and as I was walking towards him I started to get goose bumps, or shadowing in my language, travelling up my legs and swiftly followed by my arms too. With a slight smile I said to him, “Please don’t think I’m finally going mad”. Sometimes he may struggle to follow the workings of my mind but always he will give me his attention. I think we were meant to be each other’s companions and supports in our journeys. A few days later than this but last year, probably following some other heavenly connection, I asked Kate if she thought my feet were on the ground, and she said, ‘Ma, you’re the sanest person I know.’ I was deeply grateful for her words at a time when I wasn’t too sure where my feet were half the time!

While Greg and I were driving home earlier today, he told me that he’s been learning about what love truly is and what it means to him as a result of reading Scott M Peck’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’ again. I tried to get him to read it a few years back when he first started on his disjointed journey, but then it only made him angrier. Now he is getting so much from reading it. It just goes to show that how we feel, think and behave is never fixed. Oddly perhaps, it had never crossed my mind that he too was on a life quest to understand this thing everyone calls ‘love’. He said he now understands the true meaning of unconditional love, where nothing the person does is personal to you, good or bad, and what you most want for that person is self-fulfilment as they journey to greater personal contentment and happiness, even if it brings you disappointment and sadness—you do not attach a contract to your love. My day has certainly picked up, and I am feeling a blessed contentment again, if only for a pleasurable moment.

Today a year ago was yet another big day for us. It was a natural decision to come to, for Peter, Kate and me, and that was that we didn’t want a funeral, nor a church memorial later. I knew very early on that I wanted to catch the moment quickly with a special get-together of as many friends and family as possible. If there was any chance Elle was still close by, I wanted her to be able to join us. It was decided to have a celebration of Elle’s life on Sunday 4 September. Peter called our friends at Atzaro and asked if this could happen in their olive grove where Kate and Alex’s pre-wedding drinks were held. Initially they said yes, but the day before they called us to say that it was a little too public, both for us and for their guests, and they wanted to make their chill area and bar available to us instead. Peter and I also realised that the numbers were growing daily, and we needed to offer the gathering guests a drink. When Peter proposed an open bar for the guests, our friends told him it was already organised, and they would take around trays of snacks—a generosity we shall never forget.

In the meantime, family and friends kept arriving through the day. The love I saw in their eyes and their hugs and kisses were keeping Peter, Kate, Greg and me off the floor. By this time I was well and truly ‘vibrating’, and I seemed to have the strength to hold everyone’s sorrow. My clothes were laid out and the dominant colour was obvious. Within hours of Elle’s death I only saw and wanted the colour white, so the choice was easy. I shall never again wear black or a dark colour to a funeral—it will always be white.

We collected together items to take to the venue—lots of candles, scrap books with art supplies for people to write and draw in, and a beautiful framed photo of Elle taken by our friend Paul at Kate and Alex’s wedding barbecue, and given to us before Elle died. Roseline brought even more art supplies and a beautiful book of Elle’s artwork created on one of Roseline’s art retreats. A PA system was prepared in case we wanted to say something, and Greg’s friend Dan appeared spontaneously with his guitar to create a beautiful background sound throughout the event. We received a big bouquet from our friends in Pasadena Glen which we decided to scatter in an ornamental pool. The flowers looked perfect! In front of the pool we laid out our ‘Elle’ memories, and this became the focus for all the flowers, personal notes and candles that her friends and colleagues brought. As wondrous and magical as it looked, especially as darkness fell and the candles were lit, it was nevertheless very hard for me to look on this unwanted vision of beauty. Many tears were shed at that spot.

As people were arriving, somebody brought me a gin and tonic, and from that moment I was rooted to the spot almost to the end, the same glass virtually as full as when I was handed it. One after another, people waited to talk to me, to share personal memories, and some even recalling moments that had taken place over Elle’s last few weeks. No doubt similar conversations were going on all around that beautiful pool. It was uplifting to hear their stories and feel their love for her, but it also felt like I was in the wrong shoes. In that moment it was as if time had stopped as I collected these memories, as if I was now the repository for all their memories. The opportunity for me to say a few words at the start had by now rolled away. Peter felt he was unable to address all these people, but that someone should, ideally me, say a few words. Finally, towards the end, somebody led me to the microphone and I cannot remember exactly what I said. I was followed by Roseline, then Elle’s cousin James, and finally Greg, who had been trying to show me the words he wanted to say but I hadn’t been able to leave my spot to hear him out. Greg’s whole being was still in deep shock. Not only from his own sadness, but also from being at the heart of the aftermath. He had a need to say that individuals could come and talk to him if they wanted to know what had really happened, and I have come to understand that this may have been because he was much closer to the core of what some people of the island were saying than we ever were. The evening was exactly the occasion we wished for. Now it was time to pack up and go home. Somehow, we were going to have to find a way to live on without our girl.

IMG_2138

We had pre-ordered boxes of pizzas from Enfarinate which is below our apartment in San Carlos, and a few of the menfolk collected to feed our houseful of guests. The next days were spent wandering between groups of family and friends sitting around the swimming pool at our ‘sanctuary’ as we all looked for ways to comfort and encourage each other. We needed to be gentle with ourselves, and music seemed to provide us all with a small anchor. As some friends and family members left, others arrived. Kate and Isaac moved into the villa with us from their retreat in the white apartment, and it felt good.

One hot, balmy evening a few days later, Claudia, Peter and I sat out listening to some of our favourite songs, each of us taking turns to put in requests as Peter played DJ. Around 11ish Graeme and Leah invited us to go to the beach to take a swim, and contrary to how I may have responded in the past, Claudia and I jumped at the idea. For me it was an opportunity to do something I had never done before—to swim in the sea in the dark— and do it for my girl. Peter stayed home with the music. As we walked down to the beach in the pitch dark, I noticed that Graeme was carrying a litre bottle of water. We dashed into the water to our waists and formed a circle in the calm sea, and up popped a bottle of vodka and lemonade. Perfection. We gazed up at the stars and shouted out to Elle—she must surely have heard and laughed at our antics! Claudia and I left the young ones and their bottle and stumbled a little less steadily home in the darkness of the new moon. Next morning we found the two young people nursing very sore heads!

All too soon it was time for Claudia to go home—a terrible wrench. We had travelled so deep, literally and figuratively, into our personal grief. We are now closer than ever.

A few days later Kate’s sister-in-law Evie arrived with her little baby Harry (about eleven days younger than Isaac) to spend a week giving love and support to Kate. Our loss notwithstanding, we managed to have a special time together, with babies sharing a blanket on the floor and keeping us all focussed on the new life that had arrived in our lives. The next day my friend and fellow traveller in spirit Christina arrived. I was meant to be joining her for a few days in Amsterdam, (the trip I finally happened the following year and written about on July 19) but under the circumstances she didn’t hesitate to join us instead for a few days. I needed to see her.

The villa provided us with a sense of being protected from the outside world. But eventually everyone went home, and it was finally time for us to move over to the apartment we had bought in San Carlos. When we viewed the apartment, after selling our house and just before we set off for Galicia, Elle told us she had sat on the second of the outside steps while waiting for a pizza, the same pizzeria that had supplied our guests after Elle’s memorial. There have been so many moments like this that seem to indicate forces at work in all our lives, and ‘crumbs’ dropped along the way to help us understand that there is a bigger picture available to us is we know how to look for it. The ‘crumbs’ have been so plentiful, both before and since Elle’s death, that I can’t help but wonder was this Elle’s marked moment, and that she is still with us every step we take towards our own marked moments, and for me, while I live with love, joy, pain and good intentions, that moment, when it comes, will be cherished. No fear or strangeness exist for me around death anymore.

I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

Chandelier, Sia

21:17

I don’t know how to bring this writing process to a close. Perhaps I will simply never stop.

A couple of things that have rolled into one just came up. While packing things away in our third bedroom, I found a book under a rug titled The Plague, by Camus, which Freddi and her boyfriend Dan must have forgotten. At first I thought it was modern fiction about zombies, and then looked more closely. I put it on a bookshelf, and the beaten up old paperback I moved to make space for The Plague looked unfamiliar, so I took it out. I have no idea who placed it on our bookshelf, but the title brought a rush of excitement—‘Five People You Meet in Heaven’ by Mitch Albom. On the back cover my eyes fell upon the words, ‘he feels two small hands in his—and then nothing.’ It connected immediately with the words I had already chosen for the subtitle of Good Grief—‘Take me by the hand’, with an old banknote I found folded inside Elle’s purse, featuring the hands of an adult and a child coming together. I had envisaged my little girl taking big me by the hand and leading me on a journey. I am more inclined now to see myself as the little girl.

I have been looking up into the face of the full moon. Since the first full moon after Elle died, I have managed to impose her face on it without any trouble. This is something I now do every full moon, and I tell her always how much I love her. I think it is possible to impose the face of any girl or woman onto the moon’s face, as it worked tonight for my mom’s face too. Most people see the moon as feminine and the sun as masculine—the sun, the giver of life and energy, good and bad, harsh or warming, and the moon in her gentility softens all, bathed in the reflected light of the sun and reminds us of rhythm, ritual and routine as she plays her maternal role in providing and then caring for the children who arrive to play their part in our rich tapestry, the evolution of humanity.

My writing closes on the thirteenth full moon—quite a journey from 1 January.

5 September

Surprise, surprise. I had to include this morning’s email exchange.

Dear Mrs Buckle,

I am just saying hello. I was aware that it was a year ago, last Wednesday, since Elle died. I thought about her so much last week. Actually something slightly coincidental happened. I was remembering when I went to Ibiza in early 2012. I met up and went out with Elle a couple of evenings. I remember telling her she maybe would like the music of Finley Quaye. I told her to listen to his ‘Maverick A Strike’ album. I said I liked the song ‘Even After All’.

I did not see Elle again for the next few years until May 2016, but we messaged and emailed occasionally. Elle messaged me after a long time and out of the blue and told me she still listened to a bit of ‘Finley Quaye’. I laughed! I thought it funny that she remembered! It had been at least a year.

Anyway, last Wednesday I thought about Elle and I was very sad. Many thoughts and feelings came flooding back. I listened to Finley Quaye again while I was on my laptop, remembering Elle. Later that day I helped a friend have a tidy-up at his flat. He asked me to get a plastic carrier bag filled with old stuff from under the sofa. I put my arm behind the sofa and reached to the bag. It was too bulky to bring up so I reached into the bag and could feel CDs. I pulled one out and it was the Finley Quaye album ’Maverick A Strike’. I was stunned! (Thing is, Finley Quaye is a long-forgotten artist from the nineties who only had one successful album, so it was a huge coincidence.)

I remember you said you all are writing your life stories around Elle’s. I hope I get to read some of it if I ever get the chance.

I wish you well, and also to all other family members.

Regards

Sam

My response:

Hi Sam, and please call me Jennie,

It is always lovely to hear from you. Elle, with one little aside of a comment, made sure I knew something about all the friends who were important to her. You are all important to us now, and I do hope that one of these days you will come and stay with us in Ibiza.

There is so much more to your moment of remembrance. We only have one song on our iPod by Finlay Quaye, and it is ‘Even After All’. It has gone onto my special Elle playlist now. Furthermore, he was on the island recently (about two weeks ago), and stayed in my brother Greg’s home. He slept in the house where Elle spent her last few nights. He seems a rather lost character now. Greg found him both kind and deeply troubled.

These moments are not so much coincidences but more that of synchronicity, and Carl Jung has a lot to say about this. My feeling is that Elle is communicating with so many of us, as she shows us the direction in which we should be moving forward. My year of writing has been an extraordinary journey of discovery, a million moments of coincidence, many moments of extraordinary synchronicity, and plenty of time spent remembering the past and looking into the future. If I have the good fortune to get my book published, I will let you know. Be prepared for a pretty crazy read. I finished laying it down yesterday on the 13th full moon.

Bests
Jennie

It is the heart that kills us in the end
Just one more old broken bone that cannot mend
As it was now and ever shall be amen

The Pearl, written and sung by Emmylou Harris

 

CONCLUSIONS

Including Swo Boda’s story

Synchronicity and Consequences show the Way

I have been wondering for a while what to write in conclusion to my book. It had the potential to be, for me, the most important part of it because there has been a further passing of time between bringing my journal to an end and going over my draft endlessly. Naturally this has given me time for further contemplation and continued learning, and most importantly allowed for more revelations and processing of my thoughts as I travel on down this path through grief. I have written about my memories of a lifetime travelling toward the door that opened on this new journey—a journey I would never have chosen for myself and my family, but it chose us.

I wrote to find a way to understand what happened that caused the light in our lives to all but disappear, and I wrote to see if I could find a way back for Kate, her children, Peter, and all my family and friends. Over the past few months, and taking in the Christmas season, my travelling companion Peter and I have been feeling very low. We have struggled to follow our own constant advice and encouragement, and to keep faith in the signs showing us the way to keep moving forward. It is always the looking behind and down at our footsteps as we walk through the sands of time, that takes us to a dark and sorrowful place. There we see the Elle we love so much, whose footprints were cruelly wiped away forever. There we see our girl who will never age or have a chance to overcome the obstacles that caused her to hesitate, or to grow and to blossom. She will never have the family she dreamt of. If she were still with us today, I may have had the chance to say the following words to her:

It’s dark because you are trying too hard.

Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.

Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.

Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humourless little prig.

Lightly, lightly—it’s the best advice ever given me.

When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.

No rhetoric, no tremolos,

no self-conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.

And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.

Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.

So throw away your baggage and go forward.

There are quick sands all about you, sucking at your feet,

trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.

That’s why you must walk so lightly.

Lightly my darling,

on tiptoes and no luggage,

not even a sponge bag,

completely unencumbered.

Aldous Huxley, Island

As we edged closer to Christmas once again, I was troubled by a sense of anxiety deep within my soul and if I was not careful I recognised that it could settle into a deep depression—not a place I was in any hurry to visit again. Together with our extended family we had rented a lovely house outside Bath that could accommodate us all. They were all keen to be with us over Christmas, just as occasionally happened when Elle was still alive. Following these five days, I was again left deeply disappointed in myself because I let my own needs get the better of me. I crumbled and ducked away from family because it felt that no one was mentioning or remembering Elle, even though I knew they all loved and missed her terribly. We did eventually talk about her, and what I got out of the experience was an understanding that instead of fleeing from my emotions and disappointments, I could have gently let the family know what I needed from them in that moment which was to hear Elle’s name mentioned now and then. I would probably have led them into a place they longed to enter by giving them permission to talk about her, something they were unsure of doing because perhaps we didn’t want to be reminded of our pain and missing. We are not diminished by suffering and I think it helps to lead others towards where we feel more comfortable.

Synchronicity continues to bring forth opportunities for learning, and a few weeks after returning home, I discovered something interesting about my need to mention or talk regularly about Elle and hear her name spoken. Peter and I caught an interesting programme on TV, ‘The Story of God’ with Morgan Freeman. At one stage he converses with an Egyptologist which brought to mind the day Elle asked to stay home from school. I suggested we visit a museum, and she chose the Egyptian rooms at the British Museum. Years later, after leaving school, she said she would like to visit Egypt with me and walk around the marketplaces. I regret to say I let life get in the way, and we never did travel to Egypt. What a missed opportunity that was!

But more importantly, I was struck by something the Egyptologist said while Morgan Freeman was touching and repeating the name Ramses II aloud. She said the ancient Egyptians believed that saying the name of a dead person added energy to the deceased’s Ka, or soul, and if you added enough energy, the person could return to earth. I couldn’t help considering if this was why it mattered so much to me to hear Elle’s name spoken often—perhaps an echo from a past Egyptian life? Is she already back in someone’s arms somewhere on the planet as I complete my writings? But don’t worry, I won’t be looking for her because her earthly future is no longer part of mine.

Today I am not satisfied to live out my days sliding deeper and deeper into a black hole. I intend to stop making excuses for not starting my spiritual meditation practice, using my time more efficiently, becoming more self-disciplined and finally giving up smoking. I want to get busy on other projects and new creative outlets. Maybe I do have another book in me. Today we received the final certificate for our foundation Angels&Elephants (written as we have registered it—all joined up) and on Friday we will sign the bank account papers. The time has come to put our ideas into action. There are times when I am full of ideas and feel competent to get the foundation up and running, and there are those days when nagging doubts and fear sneak back in and whispers to me that I am not competent to carry through this task. But I have arrived at an important realisation—just start, and you may be amazed at what you didn’t know you could do.

All my disappointments are connected to looking back to the past, for that is where the earthly Elle resides. The longer I spend with her, the more likely my disappointments will engulf me and lead me into that dreaded depression. The heavenly Elle is happy, present, transformed into her higher self, at peace, and from what I have been told by the two mediums who found me, she is also working very hard! I assume that she works on behalf of what is best for us all. Not an easy job when we continue to make such a pig’s ear of life on this magnificent earth, the earth we are put here to learn from and take care of, including of all the animals and plant life. There really does seem to be a big attempt to shift our consciousness to a higher level. Many believers feel that ‘facilitators’ are constantly entering and leaving our world in order to pave the way for this to happen. When I spend time with the heavenly Elle, I feel lighter and a lot more hopeful, therefore more joyous. I have something to aim for, and everything around me seems relevant and alive.

I continue to look for interesting road signs and to listen to the voices in my head that regularly open conversations, often leading to amazing realisations. I also pay attention to my dreams, both while asleep and semi-lucid, and maybe one day I will understand more of what it means to be alive and present in this world. I have made many new friends, both through Elle in one way or another, and through Angels&Elephants. Our first fundraiser exceeded all our hopes, and we now have a few events planned for this summer. It feels like the first small steps have been taken.

I have learnt, especially through rereading my manuscript many times, that I was not as aware as I believed myself to be, and that my lack of solid knowledge meant I was quite naïve. I also understand why I wasn’t able to help Elle during her meltdowns. I acknowledged this during her last year. Now I know that what would have been more helpful to her was to hold her in my arms and let my mother’s love flow into her, rather than trying to always ‘fix’ her——the inability to do so leaving me feeling inadequate and frustrated. While this knowledge comes too late for Elle and me, I have another daughter, and I am grateful for any understanding that has grown with me over the last few years. And one final biggie: we are all inclined to get caught up in the dramas around us, and Elle was good at identifying these moments to me. ‘Don’t fuss, ma’, she would say. I have learnt that every word we utter is important and must be truthful, at least to us, the words we choose to use matter greatly, and that when we engage in gossip or other people’s dramas, we do harm to them and ourselves. It is better always to be invited to give a view or advice. This takes a lot of perseverance and practice, but I feel I am making gradual progress.

For many years Elle worked deeply on herself. From time to time she found herself in some level of distress. In the last years of her life she filled her notebooks with her concerns about her ‘shadow selves’. She appeared to be regularly disappointed in herself, and searched for ways to overcome her fears and reach for her higher self. There were references to a number of archangels and to vibrating into the fifth dimension. I was surprised that she had never discussed any of this with me. She knows I would have been a willing and interested listener, but I can accept that she had her reasons—maybe she tried and saw in my eyes that I was not getting it, but I do know she had conversations with a few close friends about how she was interpreting the world around her. This inner turmoil, as it seemed to me, was perfectly juxtaposed with what she showed outwardly to us all, which was equally her true self. She was highly intelligent and attractive, with natural charm and a beautiful smile. Her eyes drew you in while holding you at arm’s length. For my part, I found her eyes constantly challenging my authenticity. She listened easily and rarely became assertive or interrupted while others were talking. There was always a space for silence in her relationships with those she was close to. People were attracted to her, but sometimes it was a struggle to find the door’s handle. Very few of her friends were allowed into her inner sanctum. She did not judge people according to their academic qualifications, status, wealth or manner, and was not particularly interested in the status quo of the world, but rather had a close personal relationship with all people, animals and nature, while keeping sentimentality at bay. It was remarked to me that when observing her create, no matter what materials she was using, she seemed to have an innate understanding of the process and a relationship with the materials that was quite sublime. She showed no interest in ownership or accumulating personal things or property. She gave love but seemed never to own it. It was almost as if she didn’t feel worthy of love, or perhaps more correctly, didn’t have the correct vessel to keep it in for herself, but I accept that I may be totally wrong on this point. She talked about needing to open her heart to love, but found it hard to do. Probably the most important thing I can say about her is that she had a way of making people feel better about who they were, and to think bigger about what they were capable of achieving. Maybe it is not possible to instil self-belief in others unless you yourself have a good understanding of all suffering.

Something I keep coming back to is that through it all, she was also one of the strongest people I know. She completed the full ten-day Vipassana at SamyeLing, a Buddhist centre in Scotland, without much ‘training’, when more experienced meditators often have great difficulty getting past day three. Every morning during that retreat, Peter and I would look at each other and say, phew, she got through another day. I think I am correct in saying that she began the retreat on 1 January 2015.

On this journey through my grief there have been many moments over the last few years that have caused a tightening around my heart, including the gluing back together of the red vase, the photo left in the back of her car, strange remarks made to people in the months and days before her death, and the notes and papers she left behind. These and so many more memories have led me to think that she may possibly have had a premonition of her own death. This is hard to come to terms with. I hope that it may only have occurred at a subconscious level but I am not sure.

A while back I met up with Swo Boda, the man Elle allowed to get closer to her in the last months of her life. He was visiting the island at the invitation of their Wing Chun master, and contacted me before arriving. It is always good for me to talk to him, and we write to each other at every full moon. I believe Swo Boda when he says that they seemed to be one and the same. He also told me that he couldn’t help noticing that Elle had the same birthday as his first and young love which oddly aligns with Elle having had no significant romantic love that came between her first young love and him.

As we sat across the table from one another I could see his authenticity shining through his eyes, which brought on a need for me to be fully present in my response, much like with Elle. He also says nothing for effect. There are no superfluous words, and he makes no attempt to protect himself from the world. He has a manner that moves around gently and doesn’t push in without being invited—another trait I recognise. Oh, and his beautiful smile. When we are together I feel it would be far better to talk through my eyes, not my mouth. He, like many of us, continues to struggle in accepting finally what happened, but I am pleased to be able to say he has found a way forward for himself by returning to a calling he had followed before, the UN Peace Corps.

He and Elle met at a Wing Chun studio in February 2016. I know virtually nothing of this period of time, and I don’t think anyone else does either, except perhaps some witnesses in the studio. I remember Elle saying to me a few months later, ‘Mom, when you do Wing Chun with someone and touch hands, you know everything about that person.’ I couldn’t stop my heart from hoping while I played nonchalant with Elle. I thought that perhaps she had finally found someone she would allow into her heart. Another time she said ‘Mom, I have some news…’, then added, ‘no, I don’t want to jinx it…’. Much later I put these two moments together, and they seemed to say that she had indeed met someone, but wasn’t ready to commit to it being a relationship.

If Swo Boda is right to say that they were one and the same, then perhaps their meeting was always meant to be. Perhaps she was both delighted and baffled by what stood before her. On the one hand here was a future, with the opportunity to have a family of her own, which she had been waiting and preparing for, but on the other hand, it also felt unsafe. Swo Boda presented me with many insights and remarks, sentences and questions they both had for each other, and while very illuminating on this point, I choose not to reveal them all. For him there was no question that he had been waiting for her all his life. He was quite a few years older than her, and although she considered him out of her ‘preferred age range’, she appeared to forego this concern. Why had he entered her life at this point? The night before she died Elle told him, ‘It feels as if all that has gone before has led me to this moment in my life.’ At the time he heard these words as referring to them and their future together, but since the accident, he said, they have taken on a different meaning. Another question she asked that last day was, ‘How much ego does one need in order to live?’ Taken by surprise, fearful and concerned about Elle’s state of mind, and finding himself in strange surroundings, he answered that a Japanese Zen Buddhist, in answer to this question, had replied, ‘As much ego as one needs not to get run over by a car.’ He said he changed ‘bus’ to ‘car’ from the original quote because it felt more relevant to where they were. Later, he needed to call this out to her again when she carelessly crossed the road in front of Greg’s home to get to the pond on the roundabout.

Courage

In harmony with something other than your ego

Courage by Villagers

He was thrown into a state of confusion from the moment he found Elle after their Wing Chun master alerted him that something was amiss with her. The confusion continued when eventually he found himself walking into the home of someone Elle described as her uncle. He knew very little of her family except that we were living on the island, and that one day she would introduce him to us. He felt uncomfortable in Greg’s house because there was nothing familiar about it, and strange people were always coming and going. Elle loved Greg’s home, so I have no doubt it was a good place for her to be. I think back to Greg’s description of walking into the kitchen to find Elle gazing out of his little window with a faraway look, before turning to him with a beatific smile, and saying, ‘I love you, Greg.’ They hugged and she cried. Had she just returned from a moment spent elsewhere, somewhere where she felt surrounded by love—a place of oneness? Was this what initiated that beautiful smile? For me, it appears as if in that moment Elle was in her heart space, a moment of touching the Divine, of pure perfection, and when she turned around, there was Greg, and he received the full power of her love. I am so grateful that he shared that moment with me, and although I am a few steps away from it, I have been able to manifest something of that love she was experiencing in that moment. Perhaps she regularly visited an otherworldly place during moments that those around her described as her going ‘missing’. I can see how this could work to alleviate fear.

Swo Boda tried with all his might to stay awake that last night with Elle. He was anxious every time she got up and would ask where she was going. Finally Elle asked him, ‘Don’t you trust me?’ To which he replied, ‘I love you and so must trust you.’ To prove his trust he turned to face the wall, and sometime later he fell asleep. Was she waiting for this to happen so she could leave the house without worrying him? She had been for walks in the forest on previous nights. Just following the accident, and out of earthly time sequence, did her spirit return to stand by the bed where Swo Boda was still asleep, and gently stroke his cheek before disappearing in a bright flash of light through the window, as had been reported to Greg by a guest some months before she died? Greg and I talked over this possibility a few months after Elle died.

Elle had bought supplies the previous day, Monday, for a children’s art workshop, to be held at Pikes on the Wednesday. Swo Boda told me that they had decided to do the workshop together. Her last meaningful words to him were, ‘Tomorrow is another day.’ She died before the dawn of that tomorrow. I am grateful that he allowed me so much access into their relationship. It has helped me to have a fuller and more comforting picture of her last days, weeks and months. My wish for him, although I don’t know what form it should take, is that joy finds a way to weave herself back into his life. I couldn’t bear it if he stayed sad forever. I feel as if everything that has happened in my life was in preparation for this moment in time, and I suspect Swo Boda feels the same. Elle had certainly said the same of herself.

I also believe that her last moments with Graeme earlier in the year were a whole-hearted goodbye. He related to me how their hearts beat powerfully together as they hugged for the last time. Graeme told me of many influences that came to bear on this meeting between the two of them. It was not to be that they were to open their hearts to each other again. Elle knew that Peter, Kate and I always hoped that they would find a way back to each other. She had told Kate and me that she would always love Graeme but didn’t see them getting back together. When she said that I gave up my hopes for a reunion, but again understand that I have no way of knowing what lay behind her statement.

As her mother I claim an entitlement to have a view on what may have happened to my child, but I don’t need to be right, and I certainly don’t need others to conform to my view. The Dalai Lama says that people receive a premonition or a dream two years before they die. Experienced and highly qualified scientists in their respective fields, although rejected by many for straying from the materialist view of science, such as Dr Peter Fenwick and Dr Ron Moody, have both come to interesting conclusions around death and the spirit. Between them they have nearly a century of research studying near death experiences (NDEs) and other phenomena that take place around the dying. In the majority of cases, around five days before death, the dying will move between the two states, earthly and heavenly (for want of a better word), along with bedside visits by deceased relatives and spirit entities. It is not only the dying who experience these bedside visits—often it can be the carers and hospice workers, and therefore it cannot be explained away by the usual ‘oxygen deprivation’ explanation. There can’t anyway be many who believe this causes the same ‘hallucinations’ in all who report their experiences. This is thought to be in preparation for the ultimate transition. It is also now known that it is not only the dying who experience NDEs, and the likelihood is overwhelming that people have reported them since the beginning of modern times. Plato’s ‘Republic’ is largely based around an NDE, and a few advanced Buddhist monks have been able to bring on the experience through deep meditation. ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’, a book that was noted on her ‘to do’ list in her bag at the time of her death, is considered to be an illustration of what happens before and during dying, and post death. I feel I owe it to her to read it. The research also shows that an important preparation for death is the process of detachment from all possessions, from your life and from everyone that is ‘earthly’. This ensures an easier passage. I am not saying that this is what took place, but through all I uncovered in my writing, I can see that this may well be what happened. Things could have been different if we had returned before she died, but we didn’t. The Buddhists also say that we come to earth with a finite number of breaths. If so, had she spent her final breath? Were the rest of us players in her destiny?

I have pieced together a theory, and that is all. I will probably never know more than I do now, three years after her death. It is my view that Elle found herself in a form of psychosis or fugue, brought on by both opening her heart to love and the fear that this intensified in her. What I can never know is more of what lay within or behind these two emotions. This makes perfect sense to me because of what I did know about her. Not one person I spoke to could give me Elle’s own thoughts on anything in the days and weeks before she died. The only person who may have been able to has chosen to be still. Elle’s dream, the one in which ‘Jurgen holds the keys’, in her final notes helped inform my view. This feels like the right moment for me to explain something about one of my intentions behind what I have written. I have made a lot of statements and raised many questions throughout my book which some may feel stand on rocky ground, contentious even, but I have never plucked my ideas out of nowhere. What I have been trying to do is illustrate my inner and outer journey to join up the dots as I have read them, in an attempt to reveal a map of meaning that reflects back on me, one that is only personal to me, and contains all who have ever come into my sphere.

I have witnessed a number of mental breakdowns in my life, and I see that there are many reasons for them. My assessment is that they usually have to do with issues that cause us to stumble and/or fall in our attempt to cope with what life has revealed to us, or is stressing us in order to be seen, and this can take as many different forms as there are people. I do not see them as simply a ‘brain failure’ for no reason. Everything I have learnt from the time of her death about the months, weeks and days leading up to the last five days of Elle’s life, does not fit with a mental breakdown. Even her conversation with me struck me as odd at the time: ‘I am having…’, then a long silence before adding ‘a breakdown’, followed by another silence and then adding, ‘it is serious’…another long pause, ‘and it’s going to take the whole family to work together on it’—with stress on ‘whole’. Her words left me confused, especially as she sounded so deliberate and lucid as she said them. I back up my confusion by recalling that Kate, after speaking to her at 9 pm, just hours before she died, intuited no indication that Elle was suffering a breakdown—her recollection was only that she sounded terribly tired. Kate is as intuitive as Elle was. I also know that Greg was able to get her to take in some nourishment.

If there is one conclusion that fits with all the facts I have brought together, I am drawn back to the bliss I saw shine through her eyes, albeit tinged with sadness. Not only was it something I had not witnessed in others before, but also a word I had never said out loud until that moment. And it was certainly not what I was expecting because all I knew was that Elle had told me she was having a ‘break down’. Jurgen named the photo Papa Smurf and it was taken after Ellen had trimmed her hair on the Thursday before she died. I am prepared to say that just maybe she had reached enlightenment, her ego had become inoperative, and she was struggling to keep her feet on the ground. There are gurus who warn of this, and for good reason. Nothing within our mind or our body is there without good reason. Whatever intelligence we think we have our Ego is more intelligent. While it is something to be wary of, it is also necessary to our survival. The answer, I believe, is to not allow it control of who we are, i.e. to become an ego-driven persona we believe ourselves to be, but that we should become highly tuned to its operating system and observe the signboards it holds up to us, thus lighting the way back to a special path that is true to our authentic self. Without its help we may never know that this path is always there whenever we need it and wherever we are. I cannot help but be reminded of Elle’s question to Swo Boda the day before she died: How much ego does one need in order to survive? A question like that doesn’t come from nowhere and implies that there was forethought. I can therefore say that she may have been aware that she was operating egoless. I cannot say what exactly that might mean, and I cannot say for definite that she thought she may die. And now, for me, it is as it is.

Elle´s pinboard

Elle had this card pinned to her vision board at the time of her death. I like to think her answer would be an emphatic yes. I accept that, driven by my grief, I have morphed Elle into an angel, but what does it matter? Who are you, my darling Elle? Who are any of us really?

If there is one conclusion that fits with all the facts I have brought together, I am drawn back to the bliss I saw shine through her eyes, albeit it tinged with sadness. Not only was it something I had not witnessed in others before, but also a word I had never said out loud ‘til that moment. And it was certainly not what I was expecting because all I knew was that Elle had told me she was having a ‘break down’. Jurgen named the photo Papa Smurf and it was taken after Ellen had trimmed her hair on the Thursday before she died. I would say that just maybe she had reached enlightenment, her ego had become inoperative, and she was struggling to keep her feet on the ground. There are gurus who warn of this, and for good reason. Nothing within our mind or our body is there without good reason. Whatever intelligence we think we have our Ego is more intelligent. While it is something to be wary of, it is necessary to our survival. The answer, I believe, is to not allow it control of who we are, i.e. to become an ego-driven persona we believe ourselves to be, but that we should become highly tuned to its operating system and observe the signboards it holds up to us, thus showing us the path back to our own true authenticity. All that said, it is not for me to judge the whys and the wherefores because those I can never know. It is as it is.

Slowly, I am allowing myself to be led away from the ‘earthly Elle’ and up onto a new viewing platform high in the canopy of the lushest rainforest, free from the pain of losing her, where I can imagine climbing on the back of our own cosmic dragon one day and flying off into the sunset. It is not for me to say whether Elle was, or is, an angel with a particular mission that she had completed, who was enabled to return ‘home’. But there can be nothing to stop me from choosing to consider her in this light. Perhaps she was more of a blue alien, as I found myself recently painting a portrait of her. I cannot function productively as long as I keep looking backwards, stuck in the quick sands of my grief. But I also cannot function in this earthly reality if my feet are not touching the ground, so I cannot live with only the heavenly Elle. Sometimes I will feel a need to access to my sadness—I am here to find a way through suffering, amongst other things, and it is what makes me human. I have learnt that our emotions in their duality are really one, and my joy stands arm in arm with my sadness, equally accessible to me at all times. But by looking forward, singing along to my ‘Elle’ playlist, enjoying the company of family and friends, getting our foundation up and running, and keeping Peter and me fit and healthy, I hope to hold myself somewhere in that fragile space between the earthly and the heavenly Elle.

Heavenly Elle, my Pearl, was called home to the Great Garden in the Sky. She grasped the offer of a helping hand firmly. No angel is asked to suffer in death after a lifetime of confronting herself in order to benefit those around them. No angel can sprinkle light without absorbing some of the darkness. Her soul was gloriously released from her body a moment before the moment, and I knew what that looked like. Without her body her energy level was raised so quickly and so high that she was able to dart back to her lover and ‘co-worker’, her other half, to close her circle of life on earth with the stroke of a hand. For days, maybe even forty-nine, she stayed close and attentive to all her loved ones, supported by a heavenly and earthly choir of angels——the pine trees that fill all available space on our island. Eventually it was time to move on, and as she receded further, over the following earthly months, she dropped notes, dreams, visions and signs into the realms of each of her loved ones. It is up to us whether we recognise from whence they come and what they have to teach us, each accompanied by a barrel of courage to help us stand up, turn ourselves round, and move forward. More time passed, and her presence was passing out of view. We were not all she had to think about. Problems were mounting far and wide throughout the cosmos. All hands were needed on deck. Time was fast approaching when Earth could be lost forever. Light is under siege like seldom before. Never before have the stakes been this high. It is time we discover that our journey has not been one of progress but rather one that is speeding up back to the Beginning, and naturally, the closer one gets to the finish line the more there is to lose. Now is not the time to accept the loss of all the good that has been amassed along The Way.

The most recent and important message I have received from the Heavenly Elle is that actions and words of heartfelt kindness, freely given, is the presence of Love. We just have to learn to live in it.

I have finally discovered the space between the earthly Elle and the heavenly Elle. I can talk and write about her. I can miss her more comfortably. But I cannot move back to where she lived on my timeline. It is facing the wrong way. Keep moving forward.

THIS IS THE END, MY FRIEND

So said Jim Morrison

Good Grief – Part Twelve

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.

I decided to blog my book during this lockdown without giving it too much forethought. It seemed to fit. I have found it interesting to review and recall what I wrote and how some of it resonates with this strange experience of lockdown, a militarised word for a humanitarian crisis.

There will be a final part – 13.

August comes from the Latin word augustus, meaning “consecrated” or “venerable,” which in turn is related to the Latin augur, meaning “consecrated by augury” or “auspicious.” In 8 B.C. the Roman Senate honored Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, by changing the name of their month Sextilis to Augustus.”

14 August

Today I feel a little more comfortable. I told Peter this morning I may be going through some kind of shift, but towards what I have no idea. ‘No expectations’ is something of a personal mantra these days. In ten minutes I could be wondering how on earth did I get here from there!

I have been writing about 30 August for a while now. Today’s focus has been the drive from the Bilbao area to Barcelona, the ferry crossing to Ibiza, and how grateful we are that Claudia decided at the last minute to join us, but really, I do know it wasn’t coincidental. You would have to be pretty determined to hold proof of a supernatural support system away from that one. The gods worked their magic to provide a loving guide to get us home in a hurry, and who knows what else they had up their sleeves. This journey could not have happened as smoothly without her. We would eventually have got home, but it would have us taken longer, I’m sure. Earlier today she called me, and I always feel comforted when I hear her voice. Together we face our joint pain. We definitely got Elle’s godmothers and godfather right. We have all supported each other well.

15 August

Today I have the pleasure of recalling Charlie’s description of Elle at her dinner party where she created quite a stir a year ago today. Charlie had never seen Elle looking healthier or more beautiful, and her brother had playfully chided Charlie for introducing Elle to him just before his wedding. Charlie also told us of the impact Elle had made on the rest of her guests that evening.

Greg and I just spent the morning together. He was keen to repair his faded flower tattoo, which he originally got while working on a coaster, one of the last Thames barges captained by Bob Roberts, for a few months around his twenty-first birthday—three pounds for three minutes, he said. He loved the idea that his home-grown flowers, which provide so many of us with fragrant and colourful pleasure and form the basis of his summer mandala performances, have now been honoured by his tattoo upgrade. Emilija, the tattooist, did not disappoint! Later, on the way to the car, Greg recalled Peter saying a number of times around ten years ago that he felt a foreboding that something terrible was going to happen—life seemed too good. It is interesting that he brought this up so soon after Peter had recalled this. I told Peter of this, and he said he felt even more fearful now. This is not something I know how to fix for him. This journey has definitely taught me that we have to find our own way through our fears.

Elle had concerns because Peter rarely let anyone in on his deeper thoughts. She felt that by being so secretive he was not giving himself a chance to fully engage with life in a sustained way and reap the benefits of shared knowledge. While I feel very connected with him, I would also say there are places in his mind that I have never glimpsed. Elle also worried that I wasn’t doing enough to develop myself and had become spiritually, intellectually and physically lazy—too much scratching around on the surface, I think she thought. And she was right—but hopefully not anymore.

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol

16 August

Peter and I left our house sitters, our dogs and Coco, our partially feathered, under-sized and perhaps a little retarded Yellow Headed Amazon parrot, this morning, and travelled via Bilbao to a place near Biarritz. My stomach turned over as we flew into Bilbao, near to the place where we received the phone call telling us Elle had died. It is two weeks short of a year since that call. I have no doubt it is going to get a lot harder from here on.

We are happy to be here, though. Later we will meet up with Peter’s sister and her husband Rick, Elle’s godfather. We have joined them to watch their son James conduct an orchestra he helped put together. They are in France at the invitation of a music festival, and it is our first time to see him conducting. He is on his path and doing what he is passionate about. James and Elle, his twin cousin, were always so admiring of each other.

I must remember there is much to be thankful for. Kate is doing well, and all seems to be on track with her pregnancy.

17 August

It’s been a while since we last saw Peter’s sister and brother-in-law, so it will be good to spend a few days with them in Guethary, a lovely resort near Biarritz. I feel like I’m on a weird holiday along with the other mostly French visitors. That said, I continue to experience a little stomach churning from time to time. I prefer to avoid being surrounded by lots of people. I am happier to be near those I consider ‘inside my bubble’, but I am not always disappointed when people gate-crash my bubble. Animals, birds and even insects have a calming effect on me.

18 August

Yesterday my ‘stress manager’ made itself apparent—sharp, noisy exhalations of breath. Before Elle died I always knew if I was stressed because on occasions I would find it difficult to get a satisfactory inhalation of air. It was as if the air I was getting did not contain enough oxygen. I was grateful for this physical indicator, as it meant I was aware of it and could work to bring my stress level down. Over the years it troubled me less and less. This deep exhalation seems to be a new version of the same thing, and it is interesting that it’s now on the out breath, almost as if I need to get rid of the carbon dioxide as quickly as possible, or rather, the stress.

I am trying to be present in the moment, and good company, but underneath my shadow side is lurking once more. I have a feeling of anger against the world and with being surrounded by strangers having fun. I can feel my old resentment towards time rearing its prickly head. I am going to give myself a break for now. More difficult days lie ahead and I can’t keep up this bad behaviour forever. Again I notice myself drawn to dogs and other animals. They ground me.

19 August

I dreamt last night about being in a van with a few people. We found ourselves in a situation where the van started freewheeling backwards down a steep hill. I advised the driver how to keep us from going over the edge, and how to stay in control of the vehicle. We were then faced with a further downhill situation. I warned the driver, and somehow we were able to avoid the danger by swerving around it. Then someone I recognised from life, called Maili, approached us and told me that the autopsy report showed that Elle had a huge brain tumour, and even if the accident hadn’t happened she couldn’t have lived. I wondered why Maili had the autopsy report and we didn’t. There was an implication that she was in ‘the know’ and expected to keep the records of the event. I felt affronted, and Peter felt the same. I now understand that it took the knowledge one step away from me and made it less about any thoughts that may have come from me. I had come across this strategy of informing before.

I think I understand the dream.

Last night, while out with Peter, Lindsay and Rick, I felt a need to get away and returned to our hotel. While enjoying a calming cigarette on the balcony, I told Elle I was disappointed in myself again. There is something in my nature, or one of my life forces or voices, that I call ‘Miss Arsy Tarsy’. I haven’t quite isolated yet why she has risen up onto the stage where I’m currently interfacing with the world and present company. If pushed to identify the usual source of this voice, my guess would be that it’s when I’m suppressing my own feelings about something, or not getting enough ‘me time’. In fact, I’m sure that’s it. If others were asked to describe me in this state, I think they would say I was being ‘otherwise’. I think my mother gave me this moniker as a child and a teenager. I asked Elle for some guidance, perhaps even a sign if possible—not something I ever feel comfortable asking for because it feels like a lazy way around my problems, and also somewhat presumptive.

As I wrote down my dream, I felt its meaning come through at a deeper level again. The van represents my bubble, and because the danger is ‘behind’ us and is so difficult to navigate, it illustrates what cannot be changed. It probably also incorporates the unknown because it is what we cannot foresee. It reminds me of Elle’s first sentence on her photo, ‘Fear comes from looking back’. I can take some positives from the dream, in that my advice was helpful, but I must never take for granted that the journey is complete. The second ‘scene’ of the dream seems to ask me to accept that even if Elle hadn’t died in the accident, she was still going to die. The reason it was Maili who passed on the autopsy results is probably because she is someone I trust, who has a sensible and well-grounded spiritual faith, but on being unexpected in the role, it ensured that I gave the dream extra thought. It tells me clearly that it was Elle’s time to go, no matter how unhappy I am with this, or how much I go over the ‘if only’s’. I do know though that many of my meanderings and searching for clues can never can be confirmed, but I also have a gut instinct for what is a feasible theory.

Last night was very special for Peter and me, and the real reason we are here. We finally got to see James conduct the orchestra he works with—I believe the relationships with the musicians go back to his university days. I last saw him conduct as an A-level student when he was music director and conductor for a school production of Kiss Me Kate. I recognised this boy’s talent and passion, and wondered where life would take him.

Ibiza has been the home of my choice since 1975 and since 2001 it has been a big part of my life. It brings me peace through its light, the characters it has drawn to it and its mostly peaceful beauty. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

There once was an island
further than any boat had reached
And she sat there in silence.
Alone, but at ease.

Girl on an Island, written and performed by Alice Phoebe Lou

21 August

Yesterday was not a day for writing. We drove from Biarritz to Bilbao and flew home from there. It was a tough day. I thought my stress monitor was going to launch me into space! My stomach kept flipping and tears kept threatening. We listened to our music all the way to the airport, and Peter and I were mostly deep in our own thoughts. About halfway to Bilbao I grabbed Peter’s leg and nearly caused an accident! It felt like Elle had returned in a rush of energy. I have been feeling a deep need for time alone, and on the plane Peter said I must let him take charge and make sure we get quiet time before Elle’s friends start arriving to stay, and before the picnic for Elle on the beach. I always deeply resist allowing someone else to take charge of things. I need to look at this. Do I really need to be in control, or am I just someone who leads?

I have just been on our balcony, smoking and wondering about how or where to begin what I want to write about today. I’m trying hard to close my ears to the irritating traffic on the busy roundabout below, so I can make out the soothing white noise of the summer cicadas that fills the air although I have yet to see one.

From my late teens, and later with the help of my two ‘universal experiences’ with the tree and the mountain, I set off on my own path of spiritual awakening. Christina has  been a constant fellow traveller. Throughout my life, I have occasionally met other like-minded people and had inspirational conversations. Sometimes with people who were more advanced in their thinking, and they would widen and deepen my understanding of consciousness and what it means, and occasionally I was able to inspire others. On one such occasion, when asked to recommend books that had helped me, I felt embarrassed by the question, and could only say that as I didn’t follow any particular Religion or movement and as I didn’t have a guru, I had simply learnt directly from my own experiences and the inner workings of my mind.

While I saw reincarnation and karma as vital components of my belief structure, the more science I read, the more it sowed seeds of doubt in my mind. It began to feel crazier to believe in a God than to resign myself to being no more than a non-exceptional part of the great freak accident of the emergence of life from the oceans as explained by science. I started to think that what I saw as only explained by reincarnation and karma, may have more to do with ‘memory bubbles’ coming up through the DNA of our ancestors—a footprint on the shore left by our DNA history. It seemed perfectly feasible to me that any extraordinary experiences (good or bad) may have created a ‘notch’ in the DNA we received from our parents, and that some of these extraordinary moments could thus be carried on to following generations, and it was just that we did not always recognise the trauma or memory as coming from an ancestor. Later I learnt that a new avenue in science was developing called epigenetics that was studying something that sounded similar—the heritable changes in gene expressions that do not involve change to the underlying DNA. How closely entwined we all are with the collective consciousness or, as some call it, the Zeitgeist. And the theory coming out of this field states that there are signs of memories, particularly trauma, that appear to be passed between parent and child.

This see-sawing of my faith continued until a couple of years before Elle died. I am  happy that I got to tell her I had finally quashed all my doubts. I told her that I had accepted there were things I couldn’t never know or understand, and that I was fine with that. Her eyes lit up on hearing this. When Elle died, any residual doubts were wiped away in one catastrophic sweep. Sceptics might think my desperate need to hold onto Elle explains this, but I have experienced far too many affirmations to listen to them.

I have written of the time when a spirit of a young girl interacted with a man sleeping where Elle spent her last night alongside Swo Boda. It happened shortly after my THC experience, when Elle came to care for me at Greg’s home as I disappeared down a cosmic rabbit hole and viewed the dual nature of everything, and the inconstancy of time as it passed in a snap of the fingers while at other times stood still. Even though I found the whole experience fascinating and knew what it was about, I had no context for it and struggled to make anything of it. At the time it just felt as though some old rot had shifted, but after Elle died it made a lot more sense to me. And this special experience of Elle will keep me company for the rest of my life.

Greg has obviously been thinking about the experience of the ghostly young girl, and asked me a few days ago if I thought that time, in its linear form, could also be viewed or experienced differently. I said I thought it highly likely that how we experience time is uniquely earthly, and we’d be foolish to believe it is a constant throughout the cosmos. I know I may be taking too great a liberty here, but Greg and I like to believe that Elle rushed back and brushed the face of the sleeping man, out of time (perhaps a glitch), and that, had it been in sequence, it would have been the face of the sleeping Swo Boda.

My new best friend, Synchronicity, makes sure I always have something to think and write about. Today it was reading about a theory that arose from a collaboration of two great minds, Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, both highly respected scientists in their particular fields. And they have managed to stir up controversy as their theory doesn’t sit well with the preferred materialist view of the world and the cosmos by most of today’s scientists.

Penrose, the author of two books, ‘The Emperor’s New Mind’ and ‘Shadows of the Mind’, views the human brain as able to perform functions that are logically impossible for computers, which are purely algorithmic systems. Many feared he had overstepped the mark by suggesting that the brain can somehow use quantum gravity to observe and understand the world, as quantum gravity works on a scale seemingly too small to have any relevance to the brain.

Stuart Hameroff, another eminent scientist, has been collaborating with him over the past twenty years to study consciousness. An anaesthesiologist (among other accreditations), Hameroff became fascinated by something many of us who have undergone anaesthetics have noticed—that when under anaesthetic, consciousness is suspended or even halted in a way that is different from sleep where consciousness still seems to be running in the background. After almost two hundred years, science continues to be ignorant as to how anaesthetics actually work at all, never mind what consciousness is in the first place.

Their theory is called orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR) and they propose, in simple terms, that consciousness originates at the quantum level inside neurons with the help of cellular microtubules, and this is then amplified by the neurons, and that it is not simply a product of neurons connecting with one another. That makes sense to me because we are not simply a thought generator, or computers would be able to simulate us exactly. We have a mind that can observe and come to conclusions about our thoughts as well. Not surprisingly, I understand that the classical Greek philosophers had a word for this—ousia, the action of the mind to turn around and reflect on itself.

While I don’t understand it at the detailed level, I feel as if I have comprehended the bigger picture.

I love Hameroff’s conclusion that the workings of the conscious mind more closely resembles music than logical computation. There is no doubt that the brain operates in much the same manner as a computer, but consciousness can be viewed as separate from brain function. I get that the brain is the organ that houses and facilitates consciousness. But consciousness has also been found to ‘move around’ in the brain. Where people have lost the use of either the left or right hemisphere of the brain, consciousness still manifests in the other half, even though each side is responsible for different functions. It is also considered possible that consciousness is housed throughout the body and its organs, and perhaps the brain is no more than an antenna that keeps us tuned into the collective consciousness of everything. We might do well to consider the insect colonies, where the queen ant, termite or bee does not give direct orders to the rest of the colony she has spawned, but is nevertheless vital to its continued existence. Perhaps, like our brain, she is the antenna that picks up the signal of the consciousness of the universe, or even Mother Earth herself, and through her it passes on to the colony. I know this is all a bit of frivolous conjecture, and sticking with my hypothesising—perhaps the mode of transport or impulsion of the data is the dimension we better understand as time. As long as I know the difference between facts that are hard to upturn and what still has an unknown origin, ideas that have not yet been discredited, or concepts that have only been partially understood, I see no reason to limit my imagination.

An interesting cross-reference here is Proverbs 6:6 in the Bible, which says: Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.

I want to return to the idea of space-time and reincarnation and recall my mention of a spiritual medium some months back who told me that Elle’s first words to her were: ‘I am here with everyone’. Elle apparently repeated these words as if for emphasis. I remember wondering at the time why she gave such importance to these words. After all, I didn’t expect her to be there alone!

I found myself thinking and imagining on that very thought over the following weeks. Perhaps when we are born, only a small proportion of our essence needs to come to earth, maybe only the particular facets that need polishing—and when Elle, during my elevated six weeks, told me she was not the one sustaining my elevation, but that I was ‘doing it for myself’, it crossed my mind that this may be how it works—a little permitted help from the ‘rest of me’. Or perhaps what I am perceiving is that if we are all elements of a ‘whole’ we call one, then this is how that would work out. As I have said before, I think of us individually as diamond crystals. Well, in our heavenly potential at least. What better metaphor for light and dark, good and evil, could there be? While both diamonds and coal are both carbon, coal is a less pure form, totally black with minimal reflective quality, and made up mostly of plant matter, and therefore earthly, you could say, diamonds are far purer and therefore perfectly represent our heavenly essence. The ultimate yin and yang. Duality incarnate! I have also been reading that the most persistent geometric building block of the universe is the tetrahedron, and diamonds in their natural state have a tetrahedral structure. It is rather like heavenly divinity reflected in the dual nature that rules all life on earth. The allure of diamonds for us humans is their unique ability to reflect even small quantities of light, which entrance and beguile us, and of course the white diamond does this best of all. There is one other element, given so little consideration, that can do some awesome light reflections, and that is another vital component in the infrastructure of life on our planet—water, especially when frozen.

I had a realisation earlier that is worth mentioning. When I am with people who either don’t have spiritual beliefs or never even consider the subject, I become defensive and I am not proud to say, even a little confrontational. This is what was underlying my self-disappointment a few days ago. I need to feel comfortable with my beliefs such that I do not fear rejection or judgement. It should never feel like there is a barrier between me and others who hold different beliefs. By entering into conversations openly and without fear, there may be the added benefit of learning something new. I recognise that I erect a wall and then feel impelled to lob stones over the top. I need to change this.

22 August

I don’t know whether this is the calm before the storm, but at the moment all feels quite still. My stress level seems to have dropped considerably. We have some arrangements to firm up for the 30th, and soon some of Elle’s friends will be arriving from the UK. I can’t help fearing that there is a dark storm lurking somewhere over the horizon. I miss her. Nothing will be good in the first few days of September. God help us.

I don’t know when exactly Elle’s inner life started to scramble. While I know only snippets of this time, I am aware that Elle opened her heart to Swo Boda, at least from the time of returning from her visit to Kate and Isaac. I also know she spent a momentous evening with him at the time of her last full moon, which would have been 18 August. I believe it is possible that by this time last year she had probably already begun to disassemble.

Today is Kito’s second birthday.

23 August

I learnt from Larah a while back that Elle had been working with Maili (who turned up in a dream I had while we were in Biarritz) in the last two weeks of her life and so I contacted her to see if she would meet with Peter and me, and we ended up having a coffee together a couple of months back. Maili said Elle worked with her on two consecutive retreats during that period. Her last worked shift was on this day last year. Maili had no difficulty recalling the events of that day, as Elle’s contribution to the retreat had been outstanding. She told Elle that she was now the ‘gold standard of assistants’, and the best she’d ever had. She went on to say that there was an air of magic that followed Elle throughout that day, and it is a comfort to her now that she actually remarked on this to Elle at the end of the shift.

Back to all the thoughts racing around in my mind today. I had another dream in the early hours of this morning but I couldn’t remember what it had been about, but over the next hour it revealed itself to me. I have heard that dreams are active parts of our life but in different dimensions, and that is why it’s so easy to lose a dream to the other side of the ‘veil’. You have to either hang onto it as soon as you wake, or retrieve it as moments in the day reference the dream and bring it back into ‘touch’. I remember many dreams from thirty or more years ago because I managed to pull them across the threshold and plant them firmly in the memory bank of life’s teachings. This makes sense to me. There is nothing quite so elusive, yet so vivid, as dreams. As I sat on the balcony a little later, I reflected on some photos Kate had sent us yesterday of their holiday in Croatia, where they will be for another eight or nine days. One photo of her in the narrow streets of an old town somewhere, in which she looked strikingly beautiful, gave me that uneasy feeling again, like the photo of Elle in profile holding little Isaac on her knees when he was three weeks old. It may be that Kate struck me as thin and vulnerable. She must be about nine weeks pregnant, and my heart goes out to her as she contemplates the time that lies ahead for us all.

Today I am feeling particularly tender towards my extraordinary life partner, Peter—who has loved me unconditionally from the day we first met. He has never judged me for all the ideas, some very wacky, that I have presented to, and tried out, on him, all the dreams he’s had to listen to, sometimes before even opening his eyes in the morning, and all the confusion I have offloaded onto him over the thirty-six years we have been married. There were times when both of us wondered if we had the stamina to keep our relationship together, but ultimately I always knew our destinies were deeply entwined, even when I didn’t understand why, and I know he knew this too. We have been young, carefree lovers, then awkward friends, lovers again, and now finally more like fraternal souls sharing what we have sowed and what life asks of us—the good, the bad and the not-so-pretty.

24 August

Last night was a tough one for Peter and me. Our friend Mercedes finally told us all she knew concerning Elle’s accident. She didn’t want to tell us at the time as she felt that our pain was too raw. I will come back to this.

Elle spent her day off with Swo Boda this time last year. All I have to go on about her state of mind is what he wrote to me in the months after she died. Apparently, they had enjoyed a good time together, and she had taken him home to meet her friends. In his own words, “When Elle left me after training on Wednesday the 24th she was, I would say, in good control of herself. At least that was my impression or what she wanted me to believe. Who can tell? The next day she messaged me: the girls really like you. You can come anytime xxx. Everything seemed okay and I had no reason to assume anything different.”

But however one looks at this moment at least overnight it must have been the start of things becoming disjointed for Elle, but perhaps not yet particularly apparent to her. By lunchtime the next day her state of mind had altered substantially.

25 August

I awoke before 6am today with energy and so much love in my heart—good while it lasts.

This day and night last year were the last Elle spent with her housemates of three months, in a house right next to the sign ‘Crematoria’ where just over a week later her cremation was to take place. I couldn’t help noticing this painful fact when we visited the house the day after we got the news. Until that moment I hadn’t known exactly where her house was.

As I wrote on 23 August, Elle had worked on a retreat with Maili, and was due back for another shift on this day, but instead arrived at work in tears, distant and distraught. Paola, who had come for the retreat, took Elle upstairs and laid her down on her bed. Maili was busy but in and out. They found out that Elle couldn’t sleep and wasn’t eating. They tried to get from her what the problem was, but she wasn’t able to communicate, or didn’t want to. They asked if it was ‘man trouble’ and apparently Elle only cried harder. They got her to eat something, and a little later, around 1 pm, Elle said she was able to drive and would go home and try to sleep. Paola recently sent me a beautiful message describing more of this meeting. As hard as it is to hear and learn more about her state of mind during these days, I have to get a clearer picture of what happened. I need to know. Considering she was able to drive and knew her work agenda, she was still grounded within the bounds of reality, and in fact this didn’t change right up until her death. I have a theory that she didn’t speak up because she believed nobody was able to help her due to the existential nature of her distress. I say so because I myself have felt like this on rare occasions. At the time of my deepest pain with Greg, I believed no one was able to help either of us, but this turned out not to be true, well, at least in that moment.

Maili first met Elle socially through mutual friends and had always enjoyed talking to her. Originally Elle was going to be her assistant, but then Ibiza Retreats, run by Larah and Sue, offered Elle a position. Leading up to this Thursday shift, Maili found Elle to be content with all that was happening in her life. She recently told Maili that she had never felt so strong and well in her body and credited her extra strength to Wing Chun. I can’t help wondering if what inspired Maili to describe Elle on the Tuesday as her gold standard of an assistant. Could it have been because she saw benevolence and integrity radiate from Elle on that day? Others had mentioned that light.

As I said this afternoon and night were Elle’s last moments spent with her housemates. She was happy to be living with young people again, and in her own space in the family home of Sapphire, with two other girls also living in the house.

The girls have told me that Elle was struggling to get a good night’s sleep. I am not sure exactly when this started, although Elle had a lifelong battle with falling asleep. Over the preceding days Elle’s disposition seemed to change. She was showing signs of emotional turmoil and displaying unusual mannerisms, for example, starting to express irritation with the girls. She was also choosing to spend much of her time semi-naked, which surprised them because they knew her as a private person. Sometimes she was also confrontational or grumpy. At other times she seemed to be vacant or missing. The girls thought it was love-sickness—they had recently met Swo Boda for the first time and apparently given him the thumbs-up.

On this Thursday, one of her housemates Ellen took Elle under her wing, and tried to change her mood by playing various games, along with one or two of the other housemates. One game they played was to guess the name on a piece of paper stuck to their foreheads. Ellen said that Elle was ‘with it’ for the duration of the game and knew what she was saying. They made food together, and then she cut Elle’s hair and styled it for her. We have a beautiful photo, the one of her in a Papa Smurf T-shirt. When Swo Boda saw that photo his first response was, ‘But that’s me. I am Papa Smurf with the beard.’ I will never forget my first reaction to that photo on our visit to meet the girls. I had never before seen what bliss would look like on the face of someone experiencing it, nor is this a word I had used before, but it was the first word that came into my mind on seeing it. Now I see it in a much more melancholic way—as if Elle was resigned to the losses heaping up ahead of her. The tears behind those apparently blissful smiling eyes now make it very hard for me to look at that photo. (Fig. 10)

Ellen then asked Elle what she would like to do next. She said she wanted to swim naked in the sea. So they set off for the beach, and I think they decided it was best to go to the closest beach, the river end of Santa Eulalia beach, as Elle was driving somewhat erratically. There was a wedding banquet taking place at a restaurant adjoining the beach, so they thought it best to keep their underwear on.

A few moments later, one of the ladies from the wedding banquet approached Elle and accused her of stealing a bag or wallet. Ellen was angry with the woman and told her they had only come to swim, and she shouldn’t accuse someone of stealing without some proof. The lady apologised to Elle, and that was that. After splashing around in the water for a while they went home. When I caught up with Ellen a few weeks later I asked if she remembered the state of the inside of Elle’s car. She said it was no different to normal—shoes, personal items and plastic bottles everywhere, yet it was internally immaculate when we drove it some weeks later to the mechanic.

Ellen stayed with her through the evening, and then they all went to bed. Saffy told me that when she came into the kitchen the following morning a naked Elle was sitting on the counter and announced to her, ‘It’s official. I am now an insomniac’. Sapphire suggested she get dressed and Elle dismissively told her that only she decided what was good for her, a refrain that was heard many times over the next few days when someone made a suggestion to her.

I am only able to get through this retelling of what happened by sticking to the facts as far as possible.

26 August

This year of grief has been extraordinary in so many ways, both expected and unexpected—shock, panic, agony, elevation towards my higher self, joy and beauty, steep and scary drops into deep black holes, climbing out and attempting to scale a high mountain, learning about the flora and fauna on the wayside, sliding down snakes, climbing up ladders, synchronicity on an epic scale, exploration, investigation, introspection and connection. It has been the steepest learning curve of my adult life, and I have really had to engage with who I am, who I want to be, and my spiritual faith. Today was no exception. I went downstairs to my Pilates studio and was encouraged by one of our trainers to stay for a shoulder, neck and head massage. I have always resisted spending time nurturing and honouring my body, and often wondered why.

Many holistic and New Age healers note that sayings such as ‘it’s a pain in the neck’, ‘a weight on my back’ or ‘gets on my nerves’ often indicate where we physically manifest our emotional problems. As I lay down and placed my face in the hole of the massage table I became aware of my ‘pain in the neck’. When a bolster was placed under my ankles I felt slightly irritated that it wasn’t quite at right angles to my body, so I straightened it with one foot. It made me recall how I love to line things up (like table napkins, pictures on the wall, or the angle of a standing photo frame). Instead of dismissing or not even noticing my action, I found myself reflecting on what it says about me. This tendency I have doesn’t come anywhere near OCD. Perhaps it’s more that I like to understand how things stand in relation to others things. To know how to act, I first need to understand the position and the form. I also like that what is done or said should be right according to the best of my knowledge.

I was struck by another thought as Elena’s hands smoothed away the knots in my shoulders and neck. I have always been inclined to talk my way out of problems, and probably into them too if I am honest. I strove to verbally build an understanding of how I saw life. I see now how I also always felt a need to explain myself rather than allow my day-to-day living to quietly reveal who I am. As much as I see the importance of verbal communication, I remember Elle as a child covering her ears with her hands, saying ‘don’t speak, don’t speak.’ It is possible that we teach our children much more through our actions than by always trying to explain how the world works or telling them how things should be done. We are strongest as positive role models. I wish I had understood this better and taken greater responsibility for how I lived my life, rather than trying to explain away my weaknesses and regrets.

Later on this morning a year ago, Elle drove to meet with Larah and her team for a briefing on their upcoming retreat. Again, she arrived deeply distressed, and I understand that everyone embraced her and tried to talk her through whatever it was that was so unsettling. Later Larah asked someone who had done some therapy with Elle to come and talk to her. This is the lady I spoke of a few months ago, who told us about Elle hearing voices and seeing visions, one of which had been The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Elle identified one of them as her father. There is more than one way of interpreting father, and I have left it ambiguous for now. When she asked Elle about a boyfriend, Elle said she didn’t know whether the relationship had a future. With hindsight this could also be taken a number of ways. It is natural to jump to the obvious conclusion. But perhaps she had a premonition of what was to come. Maybe the fear I felt, when I looked at that photo of her holding baby Isaac on her knees, was that she sensed motherhood was not to be her future. I felt strongly that this was not ‘my Elle’ I was looking at. I have not been able to get any further details of this meeting, and perhaps there isn’t much more to know. I shall never know if how it seems to me is an accurate assessment of how things were. Being aware of this is how I hold onto humility.

Larah was sufficiently concerned about Elle to suggest she spend the night with her. Knowing how fond Elle and her son were of each other, Larah hoped he would have a grounding influence on her. Elle ate some food with them, and they tried to help her sleep. Larah said that at some point in the night she woke to see Elle standing in their room just looking at her and her husband. I can’t help imagining what she may have been thinking. Larah guided her back to bed.

27 August

I woke up early again today and slipped out of the house to see what the sunrise would be like at Cala Llenya beach on the 30th. Unfortunately the sun rises behind a promontory of land jutting out on the left side. I looked further up the coast for a better view, but it would mean a much longer journey for some of Elle’s friends. It can’t be helped. It will still be perfect—I’m just hoping for a clear day now.

Peter and I are spending today with our thoughts and our writing. Peter read through one of Elle’s notebooks for the first time. I am glad. We are preparing for the arrival of Elle’s friends for Wednesday 30 August, and want to make sure all is in place. It’s yet another steamy day. I keep checking the weather forecast, and perhaps we shall have to trust that the sun is rising rather than witness it. It will be what it will be.

Again I am not exactly clear what happened that morning, but Larah had to go somewhere, and on her return she found her son and Elle, both very muddy and cuddling. Larah didn’t know what to do and decided it would be best to take Elle to her uncle Greg.

Greg told us he felt frightened as soon as he saw her. It had been a while since they were last together. She threw herself into his arms and her first words were, ‘I feel nothing.’ Then she cried. Can one feel nothing, but then cry? Was she wrong about feeling nothing, or was the ‘nothing’ a deep sorrow that felt like nothing mattered? Did she feel very afraid? He hugged her and tried to tell her not to worry, and that she was safe with him. He also told us that he’d felt nervous on a deep and personal level. He knew he wanted to keep her safe, and he would bloody well do his best, but she was almost ‘too hot for him to hold’.

From the reports of residents of San Carlos, it appears that Elle went out on both of the first two nights at Greg’s for walks up the road and into the nearby forest. We learnt this from our friend Mercedes the other night for the first time. It is therefore less strange that she did the same early on the morning of 30 August. This changed how I felt about what happened on the morning of 30 August.

Meanwhile, Peter, Claudia and I were having lunch somewhere on the Cantabrian coast. I think we were near San Sebastian. My mobile rang and I could see it was Greg. He said Elle was with him, and that she wasn’t feeling very good and wanted to talk to me. He handed her the phone. The three sentences Elle said to me are imprinted on my heart forever. She spoke clearly, with pauses between each sentence. It was as if we were one in that moment.

‘Mom, this is very important. I am having a breakdown. It’s going to take the whole family to work together on this.’

At first I was stunned into silence. This was not something I could imagine—that someone suffering a breakdown could tell you calmly that this was what was happening to them, and as importantly, from someone who has shown no signs of depression or stress for at least the last year. I responded that we were all here to help and we would find the very best help available. I told her she was not to worry about anything. We would be home in a few days, and she was with Greg now, and safe. Her voice was monotone, and she didn’t want to talk more than she had to. I understood well how serious the situation was, but wanted to remain calm and show confidence that all could be overcome. I returned to our table and told Peter and Claudia what had happened. I also remember feeling a need to return to her immediately, but a stronger emotion overrode this urge. Now I wish I wasn’t the kind of person who always tried to do the ‘right and measured thing’. I didn’t want her to think I didn’t believe in her. I couldn’t bear to disrespect her, as if she needed ‘mummy to run back to take care of her’. She was so much more than that. Together we weighed up all these emotions and decided it would be best to return, as planned, on 31 August, which would show that I had trust in her ability to take responsibility for herself. I didn’t want to mention the word, breakdown, to Kate because I knew how much this would worry her. I told her only that she wasn’t feeling herself and that she should call her. Kate was coping for the first time with a new-born baby. I mentioned this to her for the first time on the Monday before Elle died.

I spoke to Greg a number of times each day and sent Elle a few messages of encouragement. On the Sunday Greg posted a photo on Facebook of them and friends around his kitchen table, eating and talking, and it gave me comfort that she was coping. I also remember trying desperately to think of someone who could go around to comfort and help her but I just couldn’t think of who could take this on. Later I could think of two people who would have been perfect and who Elle would have trusted. Why did their names not come to me at the time? Perhaps all was as it was meant to be. But that doesn’t really cut it.

Greg told me after our return that during these two days, Elle was sometimes with them and joining in the conversations, but at other times sat outside in his garden. She spent a lot of time showering and seemed comforted by water. Sometimes she cried. She also spent time talking to a young man called Sam who was sleeping temporarily in a hammock in Greg’s garden for a few weeks because he had nowhere to go. He had cancer and was refusing conventional treatment, preferring to smoke cannabis and ‘be in charge of his own body’ as he put it—similar to Elle’s attitude towards her own body during this period. I had the opportunity to speak to him on a number of occasions after Elle died, and his eyes lit up when he spoke of her and their chats. Last winter Greg contacted Sam’s mother to help arrange a ticket back to the UK, and he left reluctantly. He left his bike with Greg. He has not returned this summer to his beloved life on this island, and I fear he may no longer be with us. Bless him.

28 August

My attention continues to be drawn in many directions. Yesterday we had a chat with Kate. We will FaceTime her in two days while waiting for the sun to rise. It is looking more likely that Wednesday will be a day of full cloud and some wind. I have resigned myself to this. We will know the sun has risen as it lights up the world around us.

Back to Kate. She told us that after watching a TED Talk on how different cultures experience and express grief, she is considering writing around this subject. She went on to mention a tribe in the Philippines that keep their dead with them for quite a long time until they can afford a lavish funeral, and also that they place their dead in hollowed-out tree trunks. This rang a few bells, and I told her something that happened when Peter and I were living in Hong Kong before we married. Peter’s mom Tinker joined us for a few weeks, and we took a short holiday together in the Philippines. We stayed at Mount Data Mountain Lodge in the north of Luzon Island, and Tinker wanted to see the hanging coffins and cave coffins of a local tribe. Apparently, they elevated their dead to be closer to heaven. I know it is stretching things somewhat, but nevertheless these bizarre links keep cropping up, and at the very least they remind me of the ever-present connectedness in all our lives.

The above leads me conveniently to something else that popped up this morning. Philip K Dick is either just another science fiction writer or someone who has accidently (or not) become a conduit for universal knowledge. His name kept popping up in ‘Kingdom’, the book I was reading (I have put it aside to finish Isabel Allende’s ‘The Sum of our Lives’), and as I usually read at night, I kept trying to remind myself to look him up. Was he a character from a crime novel or a fiction of Carrere’s imagination? Well, it turns out that not only is he a highly respected author in his genre, but also the inspiration behind one of my favourite movies, ‘Bladerunner’, that was based on his story, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’. Through his studies of philosophy, psychology (particularly Jungian studies), theology, social and political themes, and the nature of reality, he came to describe himself as ‘an acosmic panentheist’, believing the universe to be an extension of God. That got my attention. I may look into a book made up of extracts taken from his journal published as ‘The Exegesis of Philip K Dick’.

There was still another moment today while I was doing Pilates, and I can almost see a link. I shall try to be concise! When I entered menopause (what has it got to do with begging men to wait a while!?) I thankfully never experienced night sweats, but rather, as described earlier, a sudden dry electrical heat that rises up my spine. These episodes have never come to an end. During my menopause I could light up like a burning bush any time of day or night, but this later version only ever happens at night. It can last five or fifteen minutes, and as it subsides I generally fall back to sleep quickly. I have spent many moments wondering what it is and why. I know I am probably a bit of a kook, but I even contemplated it as some form of a communication network with the universe. This was long before I had heard of a Kundalini awakening. Was my own electrical system acting as an antenna? The doctor didn’t recognise my description of electrical heat, so I said that my mother seemed to get it in the neck area every night until she died around age eighty-eight. The doctor’s only response was that I would likely experience this, like her, until I die. So okay, that’s how it is. I have asked many doctors since, and I don’t think I’m such a kook anymore. It could be the awakening of my Kundalini, or life force. I have now read up and found references to the electrical heat up the spine in some Eastern mystical texts. It could also explain the proctalgia fugax that also happens only at night, and for which there is no further information. I experienced this a couple of times in the two years before Elle died, but now it is a little more frequent. I have included this in case it coincides with anyone else’s strange bodily experiences, and naturally one should always check anything out of the norm with a doctor.

This morning, near the end of the Pilates session, while sitting on our benches doing spinal lifts and curls, the heat came on most unusually, and I caught myself smiling in the mirror as I wondered what the universe was trying to tell me this time. Suddenly I had a deep understanding of the saying ‘your body is your temple’. This is normally just a convenient throwaway line to encourage people to take care of their bodies. But this time it felt more profound. All there is to know about everything that is, was, or will be, resides within us already. Our bodies truly are temples containing knowledge that will lead us to enlightenment. I nearly laughed out loud. It makes sense even of my experience of the power of breath and the sacredness of expelling all waste from our bodies. I think that language can teach us a lot if only we would look into it, and really listen to the words, not just hear them.

On this day last year, Greg and Elle went to the second-hand market in Cala Llenya, as Elle had no spare clothes with her, and she found a skirt she was prepared to wear. Greg says driving to the market with her was a bit scary as she drove fast one moment and slowly the next, as if she was trying to adjust to what she was experiencing. Later in the day when Greg asked where the skirt was, she said she decides what goes on her body, her response of choice now.

Greg shared another memory of that day with us. He was standing at his kitchen door and observed Elle looking intently out through his kitchen window. She seemed far away. Then she turned to him with the most beautiful, serene and uplifting smile, opened her arms and said, ‘I love you, Greg.’

That day I asked Greg whether I should return straightaway, and he said he felt Elle was safe with him, and we would be home very soon. Not one of us—Peter, Kate, Greg or I—realised just how dangerous a time this was for Elle. We had all experienced the emotional breakdowns of family members in the past, and we would manage this one too. They had been able to keep themselves safe. But the line between a close call and tragedy is very thin, and I have always known this. When I needed to be attentive, where was this knowledge?

29 August

Peter and I enjoyed a lunch out, and he said he feels prepared for tomorrow’s sunrise and wants to enjoy it. I agreed. All of what follows I wrote a while back.

What I know of this day last year is sketchy. Sometime in the morning Elle told Greg she wanted to go to the art store to buy supplies for the children’s workshop she would be doing on Wednesday at Pike’s Hotel. I have not managed to find out who set this up. Greg said he was worried about her going off on her own, but didn’t feel he could stop her from going. He kept watching nervously for her return, and she was gone quite a while. I learnt a while later from Swo Boda that they had decided to do the children’s workshop together because of his concerns about her.

She did buy supplies, which we recently took to Caritas to be used by the children Elle worked with on her volunteering days. Later she called in at the studio of her Wing Chun master, Nino, in San Antonio. I don’t know exactly what she said to him. Was she hoping to talk about how she was feeling or about Swo Boda, or was she simply looking for Swo Boda? Nino was teaching at the time and told her to go to his kitchen or a private area of his studio, and he would see her a little later. Apparently, she started doing something with his laptop. Nino was perturbed because he sensed something different about her. Later, after she drove off, Nino called Swo Boda and passed on his concerns about Elle’s state of mind.

Swo Boda told me he set off on his bicycle from wherever he was, and eventually found her. This in itself is amazing to me. How did he know where to look? He must have left his bicycle somewhere and continued with Elle, and they visited a number of places together. Saffy told me they eventually ended up at her house. Swo Boda was sitting outside appearing to read a book while Elle ate some fruit in the kitchen. Elle then told Saffy they were going to get some lunch somewhere. Swo Boda told me she seemed to be driving around somewhat aimlessly. I believe it was mid-afternoon by the time they arrived at the house, and Greg was very relieved to have her back safely.

By this point Swo Boda was very upset about Elle’s state of mind. He had never heard of Greg, and initially, when Elle introduced him, he was quite aggressive towards Greg. Later, they got a chance to talk, and Greg explained that he was her uncle and had known her all her life. Swo Boda then relaxed with Greg. Greg and I spoke on the phone for an update, and this was the first time I heard that  Elle had a boyfriend. Greg assured me he was a good person, and I felt a huge sense of relief. Now there were two people looking after Elle, and soon we would be home. But after hearing about her driving off on her own, and with a deepening fear for her safety I remember wanting to ask Greg to lock the door to her room, and then thinking, ‘No, you can’t do that, it’s too demeaning.’ Apparently Greg had had the same thought and came to the same conclusion.

At some point during the afternoon, sitting around Greg’s kitchen table, Elle asked Swo Boda, ‘How much ego does one need to stay alive?’ Taken by surprise, and trying to work out an appropriate answer, he said, ‘Elle, a Buddhist I know says you need enough ego not to get run over by a car.’

Later in the day he said he had to shout this out to Elle, as she ran across the road to a pond on the roundabout. She was so deeply drawn to water in all its forms during these final days. A day or two following her death I saw a couple of girls sitting beside the pond on the roundabout—not something I had ever seen before or since. Were they there for Elle?

Greg tells me that all through these days Elle never drank alcohol or smoked anything. He tried to get her to eat but it wasn’t easy. She spent most of the time partially dressed, and regularly took showers. I had had to let Kate know that I was worried about Elle and I suggested she call her sister. Around nine that evening Kate called Elle. We didn’t know this until a few months later, although Kate says she told us. Perhaps for some reason our focus was elsewhere. She said they talked for a while but she didn’t get any sense that Elle was suffering a breakdown. She simply understood that Elle was very, very tired. She suggested that Elle take the sleeping pills I had asked Greg to buy from the chemist, but Elle told Kate she would decide what went into her body. She wanted nothing to do with chemical medication. Kate then suggested she take something gentler and natural, and Elle indicated that she would look for something. They shared how much they loved each other and said goodbye. About nine hours later, Elle was killed on the roadside about 200m from Greg’s home.

21.30

I have just seen a pop-up on my laptop advising me of an email from Swo Boda.

There are hardly words to describe what I read and saw. It was a special message that brought me joy and comfort on this day, as I wrote about Elle’s last day here on earth. Swo Boda had returned to Malaga to be with friends during this difficult time, and on an evening walk he encountered ‘Elle’. It fascinates me that I have often noticed how the letters can be read from either end, and this poster takes the idea even further. My joy comes from knowing that I am not just a delusional mother, and that Elle keeps sending acknowledgements and affirmations, not only directly, but also regularly through third parties. She is with us all.

Elle 29 August Swo Boda 1 (1)

Good Grief – Part Eleven

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.

July is the seventh month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendar and the fourth of seven months to have a length of 31 days. It was named by the Roman Senate in honour of Roman general, Julius Caesar, it being the month of his birth. Prior to that, it was called Quintilis being the fifth month of the 10-month calendar. I sure am glad that it is still not called that!

16 July

Peter and I went out onto our balcony for a moment. It is such a beautiful evening after the humid heat of the day. I find the fleeting beauty and slight chill of dawn and dusk intriguing and evocative. Sunrises and sunsets provide me with endless inspiration. Not surprising then that they are responsible for more poetry and paintings than any other earthly time marker of our days. I tend to see the sunset more often than the sunrise. That moment when the sun visibly drops below the horizon, one sees time for the energy force it is as the earth spins on its axis. Who amongst us has not held the hope that tomorrow will be a better day?

17 July

I have spent so much time over the past year trying to understand why Elle lost her grip on reality. She had been through tougher times emotionally and mentally, and still managed to stay with us in the here and now. Perhaps the answer lies in the opening of her heart to love, and not being able to find a way to reach out to someone about the deep anxiety and confusion this brought on. I know a few of the people who spoke to her during the last few days, and who tried to open up this conversation. But she didn’t seem to want to talk about it or really anything else either. She told me only once or twice in the last two or three years of her life that she was lonely without a partner to love. She also shared with me that she was struggling to open her heart to love. It was when she told me this that I understood how real a problem this was for her, not a little notional issue that was causing her minor problems. Once or twice in her last year, she said she felt she was getting closer to being able to meet this challenge. There were quite a few young men showing interest in her, but she found it hard to respond naturally to their attention. She told me it made her anxious, and if she felt something back, it made her shaky and feel the need to quickly turn her back on the situation. I could only hope that she would grow and develop out of this difficult place she was in at the time. But what would I say today? Perhaps I would have been a better listener today instead of always trying to think of something to say that would ‘fix’ her. This is a hard one to learn.

18 July

It has been a good start to this day of our 36th wedding anniversary! Our wedding day was also a day of white, but not altogether traditional. No wedding dress—it just wouldn’t be me—but rather a white suit and a blouse of white dots on a yellow background, made to measure in the city of great tailors. I also tracked down a cobbler to make a pair of white and yellow shoes with a matching handbag. Peter and I had only been in Hong Kong for six months, and we made a decision not to send out invites far and wide. Few would have been able to cover the expense of joining us on the other side of the world for a wedding day and we only wanted a small wedding. Peter’s mother joined us, along with his sister and her boyfriend Rick, who had been a university friend of Peter’s, and later became her husband. The rest of our guests were people we had met since arriving in Hong Kong, and many are still good friends today.

I had not thought about flowers but my mom did, and she set about making a corsage of frangipani flowers from the tree outside our bedroom window. She made one for Peter too, and I think also for her and Tinker. It perfectly complemented my outfit, being white with yellow at the centre, and the scent was heavenly. Our vows took place in the chapel of Hong Kong’s cathedral, where I had arranged for chairs to be placed in the front of the chapel. Peter and I sat on them as we waited for the ceremony to start. Walking out of the church together was one thing, but walking up the aisle was not for me. If my dad had been able to join us I don’t think I would have denied him that father’s privilege, but I was happy to do it my way. My dad did a beautiful thing in letting my mom be the one to come over. They couldn’t both leave their business, and I think money was also tight. My dad and I had always been very close, and I know that staying away would have been very hard for him. My mom and I had an uneasy relationship through my childhood and teens, but now that I was my own person a new freedom came into our relationship. I was beginning to see her as a woman, or even a girl like me, and we had fun and discovered each other’s sense of humour. I have wondered if the problem in our initial relationship was that I didn’t seem to need a mother and that she felt rejected by me. Who knows why we are as we are?

The ceremony was followed by a cheese and wine party at a family friend’s apartment on the The Peak, looking down on Hong Kong Central. We have always viewed the tropical downpour as we set off for the church as a blessing, and as an indicator that the Chinese gods were happy for us! The day after the wedding a friend took us out on his company’s Junk boat for the day and following that we all went on honeymoon to Macau. This time spent with my mom on her own was pivotal in creating a close and lasting relationship between us.

Earlier today I received an email from Sapphy’s mom Melanie, who now lives in Canada. We have exchanged a few emails through our involvement with the breath work courses Sapphy completed in Bali. We seem to be on the same spiritual wavelength. She was keen to make contact with me because something had come through to her from Elle. This morning she said she had received another message from Elle who told her that she is very happy, her work is keeping her busy, her work here was complete, and she needed to return. Some may think this is, if not wholly batty, me needing to believe that Elle is out there somewhere and not just diminished to dust, but if this was true I would be seeking out mediums to prop me up on a regular basis, and I never do. They seem to find me, and I know when someone is trying to ‘feed’ off me. It is not something I need to hear and nor does it occupy the forefront of my mind. I can feel she is out there somewhere—always have— and plus, I have had visions of my own. I look forward to meeting Melanie this winter in Ibiza.

Hello there, little darling

It’s been a while

Since this world has seen your smile

Little Darlin’, Tom Odell

19 July

Last night was a beautiful evening and we were out celebrating our wedding anniversary with Greg. As often happens, Elle’s name came up and, as always, Greg’s eyes filled with tears. The trauma of the event still lies very near the surface for him, and always will because they had a special bond. While his life is better, and he is experiencing a sustained happiness like at no other time in his life, there will always be this bittersweet reverse side to his happiness—nobody escapes coming to terms with the harshness of duality which is the predominant human paradigm. I can see how nonduality is the next level up.

I leave early tomorrow morning for three days in Amsterdam. I am meeting Christina, and I am excited to meet for the first time her three grandchildren and one honorary grandchild. This is a visit I was due to make a couple of weeks after Elle died. Instead, Christina came to us. I don’t intend writing while I’m there, but will definitely take note of anything interesting that pops up.

Over lunch today Peter and I were living and walking our talking, if that makes sense. We were talking about how feeling free to talk about Elle whenever either of us wants to has helped relieve our stress and thereby stopping grief from building up behind the flood gates. It is an outlet or release Kate doesn’t have in the same way as us because she’s not physically sharing the loss directly with a blood relative. She will often avoid talking to Alex and her friends and has also chosen to avoid dealing with many of the details of what happened. Seeing Alex’s pain at witnessing her pain is more than she feels able to deal with. I also know she doesn’t want to burden others by constantly wearing her grief on her sleeve. Equally, I can see how her friends feel that they don’t want to bring Kate into a place of pain when it seems to them that she is doing well by moving on from her grief. Once a week she sees a therapist, but that is therapy, and while I know it’s necessary and helpful, it’s still ‘observed talking’. Peter and I have an equally shared interest in our loss, are able to talk about it as often as we like, and whenever one or both of us needs to. We are fortunate in this way and at the same time it helps us to be patient that Kate will need more time.

24 July

Having returned from Amsterdam with lots of thoughts and some notes, I asked Peter to give me some time alone at home this morning to get my thoughts down on paper. He had some things to do and wanted me to join him for lunch, but he understood my need and took our houseguest with him instead.

Thirty-six hours into my three days with Christina, my compatriot of many years, and after some great conversations, explorations and reconnections, I found myself slipping down into that familiar black hole. It was disappointing for both of us, but we found a way through it. I am reminded of my dream of the black hole, and how I now know it only goes a turf’s depth below the surface, and there, sitting on an earthen shelf just a few feet down, is my ‘love’ in the form of Kito. I no longer fear my perceived detachment from love. I do love all right—it just doesn’t look or feel like I expected it to. While I have been writing and taking the odd cigarette break, those thoughts and connections keep taking shape in my mind, and what I am slowly learning is that I am no longer as scared of those dark moments as I was before—they yield benefits in their own unique ways and they pass in their own good time.

It will no doubt take time to untangle all the threads of the experiences and conversations that passed between us and to elicit as much meaning as I can from them. I talked to Christina about some of my recent writings, and happened to mention that there wasn’t a lot of iconography around ladders. She reminded me of Jacob’s dream in which he saw a ladder with angels ascending and descending. I have just looked up this event, and I smile a little smile as I imagine them heading up and down the ladder,  making way for each other, perhaps even stopping briefly to exchange pleasantries, as they turn up for work, or return to headquarters for a debriefing! It reminds me of one of my own semi-lucid moments when a phrase kept going around in my mind until I took notice of it, and on this occasion the phrase was: you cannot bypass headquarters. Peter and I had a laugh about it because it was not only incomprehensible, but such weird phrasing too. What I take away from it, though, is that there is no easy way around the obstacles we are meant to deal with in this lifetime. Perhaps Jacob’s dream tells us that these ladder-like portals are everywhere, and constantly active.

I am also reminded of my recurring dreams of tidal waves, and my urgency to find a ladder to reach higher ground. They occupied the first decade of my adult years. In another dream I feared that Danger was coming to get me in my home. I knew it was approaching an open window on the first floor, and because I was frozen with fear I couldn’t close it in time. A ladder appeared above the windowsill, adding to the atmosphere of fear and dread. But the person entering turned out to be a female policeman, and the first thing I noticed was that she was carrying a fishing rod! It is strange that I remember it so clearly although I had no idea what it signified. It was from a time when Christina and I were regularly sharing our dreams and their interpretations with each other. What do I see in it now? What’s outside—the unknown—is never as fearful as we expect it to be. And what of the fishing rod? Perhaps a portent of my future—I am certainly doing a lot of ‘fishing’ at the moment—it must be a good idea to cast your line out to sea and wait to see what emerges from below the surface as we draw in our lines. Just a thought!

Another interesting fact about ladders has come to light, and light is the optimal word here. There are San rock art paintings in the Kalahari, and similar images of much the same age are found elsewhere in the world, and they were painted around twenty to forty thousand years ago. Some feature ladders with people hanging off them. They have been described as ladders or streams of light. Many experts these days think that it is more than likely that the cave paintings were not an attempt to bring about a successful hunt, or simply an early form of artistic expression, but a record of the work of shamans explaining or confirming their experiences of journeys made while under a trance. It is thought they may be a depiction of the shamans’ journeys to conjoin with the ‘sky gods’.

Responding to something I said about religions and proselytising, Christina said that Buddhists do fish, but with straight hooks. One of the best laughs I have had in years.

In another dream, around the same time, I was walking down a busy main street, and all the lampposts were giant fishing rods. I was chatting with some friends as we walked along the pavement when out of the tips of all these giant rods came magnificent fireworks. I assumed at the time that they had to do with my emerging sexuality. But now, reviewing that dream, I can’t help returning from my fishing trip with the gold nugget, ‘go fishing for the light’. I remember many dreams from my deep past, both visually and in content. Finally, after forty-five years I am yielding a catch!

Another interesting thing that happened in Amsterdam opened up a new way of looking at those little habitual ways of behaviour that we think nothing of. Christina feared that we’d forgotten to tap our travel cards when we got off a tram, and said she always panics when she thinks she’s done or said something wrong. I recognised immediately that this is true of her. It got me thinking about what causes panic in me. It didn’t take long for me to recognise where mine lay. Peter’s modus operandi, the ‘two-minute-rule’, is how he deals with the panic that rises in me as soon as I can’t find something important like my keys, passport or glasses. Nine times out of ten it is within two minutes that I find what I’m looking for! And it happened within moments of arriving home from Amsterdam, when I reached for my glasses case in my handbag and found it empty. I immediately assumed I’d carelessly forgotten them in Amsterdam and sent a message straight off to Christina, only to find them on a table where I’d put them moments earlier. Either it is simply that I panic because of being told I was careless as a child and now believe it to be true, or it functions as a road sign or billboard even to point me to an area that I need to work on in this lifetime. I will and I am.

25 July

I am back in a cavernous black hole. I am not interested in a future. I struggle to feel any emotion, even towards my nearest and dearest, and I am not interested in anything happening around me. These are classic signs of a deep depression. But even though I recognise that these feelings and experiences may represent depression, I also know that tomorrow I could wake up feeling anything from fine to happy. That is why I also know that this is not depression I feel—just an overwhelming sorrow. I understand that depression is a very real place for some people, but it is still, in its accurate psychological diagnosis, quite rare. It is so often incorrectly diagnosed when really it is more the manifestation of a deep disappointment in something, someone or oneself, or a great sorrow like grief. There may even be a confluence of factors leading to a serious depression. I can understand that it is easier for a doctor to prescribe antidepressants than to try to find the underlying causes, and tablets may be helpful in the short term, but not as a long-term answer. Once again, our medical profession treats the symptoms rather than searching for the cause. It amounts to sticking a plaster over the wound rather than helping the person to engage with what is sucking away their life force.

26 July

We have had friends staying with us since Monday. One guest left today and two more have arrived, so I don’t have much time or space to settle in to writing.

27 July

I have been getting a real buzz from my recent ‘investigations’—allowing road signs/synchronicity to take me by the hand and lead me down all sorts of rabbit holes. Much better than black holes! Yesterday I managed to squeeze in a few Ted Talks, lectures and interviews on YouTube, and was fascinated to hear of the number of eminent scientists, past and present who, after a lifetime of intense study, have come to conclusions not dissimilar to those of the mystics, yogis, gurus and masters. A few quotes in particular caught my attention.

Max Planck:

Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.

Love it—heavy self-analysis required if we are going to have any luck engaging with the mysteries of nature!

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.

If we don’t engage with our own consciousness, and appreciate the role of the collective consciousness in what happens socially in our world, and the consciousness that is present in every corner of the universe, we have absolutely no chance of ‘mattering’—we may as well have not turned up.

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Spirit. This Spirit is the matrix of all matter.

This may have been stated by a genius, but it doesn’t take a genius to grasp its meaning. I feel I have got as far as understanding the oneness of everything, but again, the question of what was at the zero point cannot be ignored. Or can it?

Isaac Newton, on how he made his discoveries:

I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.

Albert Einstein:

Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man.

Letter to Phyllis Wright (January 24, 1936), published in Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children (Prometheus Books, 2002), p. 129

On this day a year ago, Elle took a selfie on her laptop, something she rarely did, and I have to include it.

Elle selfie

28 July

Yesterday I came across an interesting article posted on Facebook by Christina, entitled ‘The Illuminating Geometry of Viruses’.

The article was about mathematical insights into how DNA/RNA helps viruses pull together their protein shells, in other words, their packaging, and will guide future studies of viral behaviour and function, which could make it possible to stop them from assembling themselves in situ, and therefore render them harmless and perhaps even useful. A form of preventative intervention could be achieved by developing vaccines. If I understood the article correctly, this would also render the viruses incapable of mutating because they won’t have been ‘switched on’ yet. The point of the article is that mathematicians have been able to interpret the form/structure/pattern of a virus using hexagons and now pentagons, or more precisely, Penrose tiling.

I was surprised to learn that maths has only recently been integrated into biological research. Obviously the discipline has always involved maths and biologists were capable of doing their own maths, but more recently mathematical biologists have now joined the ranks of microbiologists and nanobiologists etc.

If maths is the key to everything in the universe, all the way down to the atomic makeup of viruses, it is not such a leap of faith to grant mystical powers to numbers as they resonate, ricochet and echo through everything.

29 July

Pete and I went north to San Joan last night with Leah and her boyfriend to a friendly and understated restaurant called the Giri Cafe.

During our meal Leah told us that when she was in Paris with Elle and friends for Elle’s eighteenth birthday, she was beside Leah when she got news of the death of a friend of hers. Again, two years later, Elle was with her when Leah received a call saying another friend of hers had been killed. The next time Leah got a call about a death of a friend it was Elle who had died. This doesn’t seem like ordinary coincidence, and if we look closely at the intersection of such moments that are not causally linked, what Jung calls synchronicity, there is usually information waiting to be observed that will bring a deeper understanding of what it is to be human and alive. What comes through to me here is a nudge to help us understand that we do not live in an egocentric and disconnected world but rather in one of connected consciousness—how you think and feel affects how I think and feel, and all that we think, feel and do projects back into the collective consciousness. This then feeds back, and when Christina in South Africa is thinking of me I can feel it and will call her. Well, one small example of the flow.

People who don’t believe in the interconnectedness of everything or the mysteriousness of the universe put instances like this down to simple and random coincidence. In this particular case, I believe the meaning for Leah, and later for me, was to highlight exactly this point: that when acausal events converge it is important to look for the inherent meaning. I wanted to say ‘Elle said’, and then I remember that this was one of the ‘carousels’ I woke up to not long ago, just the words, ‘Elle said’ calling me out of sleep, nothing more! I told Peter, and while I had no context that I could apply it to, I also never forgot it. If nothing else the presence of Elle during those tough moments in Leah’s life that would come to include Elle in a different form a number of years later, made Leah stop and think about the connectedness of things, and just by thinking the thought, the brain wiring has been changed—a kind of upgrade has happened.

The more I have learnt of Elle’s last weeks, and as I look back over her adult life, most of which were spent with or near us, the more I wonder if  there were indicators that she would not be with us for a full adult lifetime. An example of what I refer to as synchronistic is the photograph of a tree she had been drawn to climb up to, and I can’t help having thoughts of the Tree of Life. As described earlier, to reach the tree she had to climb a shale cliff, and she left her flip-flops halfway up because they were causing her to slip—she meant to collect them on her way down. But she couldn’t take the same route down because it was too dangerous so she had to continue to the top. She was only reminded to tell us of this ‘death-defying’ (in her own words) experience because I asked her why she was barefoot again when I had so recently bought her a pair flip-flops. The discovery of that photo, how it happened, and the three sentences she wrote across the top of it: ‘Fear comes from looking back. Error comes from doubt. Keep moving forward.’ are now our ‘go to’ lines of encouragement when Peter and I need to rebuild our inner fortitude. The other extraordinary accompaniment to this annotated photo was the spotlessness of Elle’s car interior. We have no idea when she achieved this, but definitely after the Thursday before she died. Why, in her disturbed state of mind, did she decide to clean her car and remove almost everything from it? It certainly helped us to notice that what remained in it was to be seen. I cannot imagine how, three weeks after Elle died, Peter and I would have completed the impossible task of sorting through all sorts of personal items, clothing and other detritus that usually lay around in her car, and at the same time taken special note of this photo. It would have been just another item lying around in her car. But now it was facing whoever opened the boot of her car, and this happened to be me.

Today Leah did what she has been longing to do ever since she heard about the tree. At sunrise she managed to climb to Elle’s tree, hoping to find Elle’s flip-flops on the way. It was an important moment for her, and around one of the branches she tied a red cotton prayer cord that had been blessed by the Dalai Lama. We had warned her that she shouldn’t count on finding Elle’s shoes because of the heavy rains last winter following a five-year drought, and they were gone.

I wonder what it’s like in the shade of a tree 
Shooting the breeze being carefree
I wonder what I’d choose if given the choice 
Between silence and noise
Words or a voice

Beyond the Sun, Nashville Cast

Later I learnt that Leah also had to continue up the cliff, as it felt too dangerous to go down. She told us she found the final forty feet even scarier, because there were no rocks to provide handholds. I like knowing that the red cotton cord is now part of another one of Elle’s trees on this island. It reminds me of the trees the girls, Peter and I chose on the Chiltern Hills above our house with the ‘chalk cliff’, in what feels like a different lifetime now. Trees have taken me by the hand all through my life.

30 July

It is eleven months, and in two days the start of August. The next month is going to call on all our inner reserves all over again.

I was looking back over my notes and reminded of an amusing moment Christina and I shared in Amsterdam. She had booked us into a hotel for a couple of nights so that her young families would experience the least amount of disruption while trying to organise their children and their work lives. I say ‘families’ because her son and his first wife are divorced with a child, and both have since remarried with more children.

On our first night Christina, who had been searching for the bathroom light switch, called out that the light comes on automatically. Later, when getting ready for bed, I opened the door and waited for the light to turn on. When I remarked on the lack of light, she said, ‘Perhaps you have to walk in for the light to come on’. It struck us both as potentially rather profound and, yes, illuminating that we needed to first enter the darkness before the light would make itself visible, and we both laughed. If you are not prepared to enter into the unknown, you will not give yourself the chance of learning something that could fundamentally change the way you view and live your life. It’s just the type of moment both of us are quick to take note of.

I have just put myself through the ordeal of another episode of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood written more than thirty years ago. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how it ends, and I am longing for, and in need of, a feel-good ending, but I can’t imagine what it could be. I understand that I am putting myself through this awful ordeal so I can know the worst of what is happening to some women right now somewhere in the world, and also because it could become a reality if a few men (I hope I am right in saying only a few) have their secret beliefs and wishes granted, that women stay out of ‘their’ world and merely provide the next generation of babies and take care of the needs of their men/husbands.

Sadly, very few husbands and boyfriends will watch this series with their womenfolk. It is men who need to witness how women have been discriminated against, bullied both physically and sexually, been excluded and ignored by society, the law etcetera. They need to say to women ‘not in our name will this attitude continue, and what do you need from us’. In my experience, when you try to discuss this subject with most men, they see it as a personal attack and try to duck out of the subject. Until men stand freely and of their own volition alongside women nothing can truly change for the better. I also think some men feel it is a battle being waged by women to deny them what is theirs and of their perceived rights. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Women want only the freedom to be all we can be, to be humans before we are women, and to be allowed to represent the Divine Feminine. Almost all women want our men to be humans before they are men, to be all they can be, and free to represent the Divine Masculine. Too often menfolk swat away the issue and say in a hurt tone, ‘It has nothing to do with me, I’m not that kind of man, brother or husband.’ Sadly this attitude comes across as passive support, even if it’s not meant as such. Also what needs to happen is that women have to find the courage not to buy into the system. I can’t help wondering what the difference in society would have been like today if all female actors/employees of all statuses and age, when coerced into favours for favours or elevated status, had said no and walked away, while others had said no to keeping silent and walked away from the money. Women cannot walk away from bearing responsibility for helping create the patriarchy, and the sooner this is understood the more likely we will be able to move forward.

When I was at university as a mature student, and showing some talent for the visual arts, my lecturers regularly encouraged me to push myself, to dig deeper and take more risks. Today I understand what they were trying to do. A lot of what occupied my fractured thinking back then had to do with a desire to ‘reclaim ownership of the feminine’—was it still ours, or had we handed over ownership to men thousands of years ago? I have never felt comfortable to place myself within the feminist movement, and finally I have a better understanding of why that is. I think that it comes down to the fact that I cannot see us as only victims in this power negotiation but also as perpetrators.

I told Peter earlier that I’m feeling a bit anxious and fearful when I consider what lies ahead. It’s hard to imagine that there will ever be an end to this missing and longing. I can’t see that getting past the first anniversary will make much difference. All I can think of is that it won’t be possible to say ‘this time last year she…’ anymore. Thanks, Time! You’re still not my friend.

23:14

What a day this has turned out to be! I stayed up to watch last week’s episode of Madam Secretary on my own (Peter had already seen it). All was normal until the final scene when the mother arrives at a cabin in the woods with her husband, sad that her children were not going to join them for a special weekend off-grid. She opens the door to find her children waiting for her inside, and her face is a picture of joy. It hit me like an arrow to my heart, and tears streamed down my face. I felt so sad and a wave of self-pity came over me. I went out onto the balcony, trying to understand who and what exactly I was crying for. It made me think about my ‘detachment’ issues. I remembered when my children would shower me with Mother’s Day cards and letters. I was always amazed at how much and how often they told me they loved me. I say this with no pride, but I remember questioning how and why they loved me so much. What had I really done to deserve such love from my children?

As I have grown older, and certainly since Elle died, I have come to understand that my own quieter form of loving, both undemanding and undemonstrative, is relevant. In the earlier years of our marriage, Peter sometimes expressed a desire for more from me, but he came to understand that I was doing the best I knew how, and that I obviously cared enormously for him as witnessed by the respect and kindness I gave him. I can’t help remembering my two stand out experiences of ‘universal love’ with the tree and the mountain when I was twenty. Perhaps these experiences were given to me as a yardstick by which to know how love feels, and maybe that was the problem. There is not language that can adequately describe the experience. But I am reminded, and given hope, that perhaps my detachment is not in itself a fault, and maybe just needs to be redefined and owned by me. I didn’t realise this at the time but having experienced that both the tree and the mountain loved me, I believe I appropriated the inner knowledge that all is conscious and therefore  all expresses emotions. For sure I see purpose in what I have understood about my life so far. I feel convinced that this lifetime is one small part of the journey of my soul as it attempts to polish yet another of its facets to become the diamond I hope to be one day, even if it takes, or has already taken, a thousand lifetimes.

Ooh great creator of being
Grant us one more hour,
To perform our art
And perfect our lives

The Ghost Song, Jim Morrison

31 July

Thoughts keep surfacing from the depths of my mind, and this one came to me while showering this morning. How to begin?

The moment my eyes met Larah’s at Elle’s life celebration five days after her death, our hearts collided with such force that it almost caused a physical injury to my soul. Her first words were, ‘I think Elle came to lift the veil for those of us who believe.’ I had already had the same thought. Proof is understandably not easy to come by. It may as well be called the Holy Grail or the Philosopher’s Stone. It would make life pointless if we did not have to search for it ourselves, and wrestle to spot it amongst all the debris of our human experiences and emotions.

Recalling this moment seems to initiate a ‘playback’ that gets an aspect of my life story revealing itself to me again. What would our minds do without access to our memories? And this we know the answer to because sadly most of us have witnessed the loss of memories through brain damage, dementia or Alzheimer. The mists of time claim sufferers, and they are lost to themselves and others, and all that they have ever known, and therefore all that they could become has ended too. Time is lost in the process.  But back to the memory jog. Now and again I think about my Anglican confirmation. Greg and I were confirmed at the same time, when I was around fourteen and he a little over eleven years old. We were tutored by our second cousin, the young Rev David Hamer, one of a few people whose Christian testimony resonated with me. He showed me that it was possible and not wrong to follow your own spiritual path.

Once we had received our first communion it was as if my folks felt they had done their duty, and now it was up to us to choose our way, and Greg and I didn’t want to go to church anymore. The services in our Anglican church didn’t feel relevant to us and we were too old for Sunday school, but I carried on with my nightly prayers for quite a few more years, in fact into my twenties. I have also come to look back on this time as the moment when Greg saw that the human race was not the beautiful and benign force that he believed it to be, and his instinct seems to have been to step back from fully growing up. It would make sense to me that this could be a moment that sets in stone the next stage of your life, and brings with it its own set of consequences, until the next big life decision that one consciously or subconsciously takes.

Over these last years I have come to think so much less about what my parents did not give us children, and instead thank them for the way that they refrained from moulding us. They never referred to any person in derogatory terms, nor expressed any prejudices about another’s race, creed, nationality or sexual persuasion, and I now realise how rare this is. While we may not have been told that we could achieve anything we put our minds to, they also never put any pressure on us to achieve or live up to their expectations. I honestly believe that they wanted for us what I have always wanted for my children—that they would become fully participatory in a constructive and well-rounded life, and through this find meaning to their existence. I am grateful today that I can say that all that I am I made, and that I take full responsibility for what I have and have not achieved. I am not saying that this is the right way to bring up children. What I am saying is that the circumstances of our childhood were what we needed in order to achieve our individual soul growth in this lifetime. There is less wrong with whatever childhood circumstances we came out of, however difficult or traumatic, or how conducive they were to give us a good start or not on our life’s journey. The circumstances were as they were meant to be.

1 August

I feared that the arrival of today’s date would not auger well. I find myself oscillating between numbness, expectancy and tears. But I keep writing—it feels safe to stick to common ground. I don’t know how I would have managed this year without it. I am aware of trying to keep the balance right between getting together with friends and family and making sure we have enough downtime alone at home. But there has been some wonderful news—just the lift we needed today. Kate has just called to tell us she is pregnant. They thought they would start trying for a baby in case it took some time. It didn’t! I note with interest that this will bring another Aries into the family.

2 August

The days get harder as we and Kate become more contemplative. I keep writing to maintain some equanimity in my life. I continue to attempt to understand how and why things went wrong for Elle in the last days of her life, if that is the case, but I accept that I may never know what happened.

Last night Peter and I, as tired as we were, could not slip into restful sleep. This is unusual for Peter. He is normally asleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow, even when he has something on his mind. The early hours of the mornings are when he tends to wake and do his worrying. But this has occasionally happened to us in our married life. I think our brain waves must sometimes be interfering with each other’s and keeping us awake. Not such a farfetched idea, because so much of life, if not everything, is to do with vibrations and electromagnetic fields.

We went to bed around midnight after a night out with Greg and around 2.30 am I must have finally dropped off. Moments later I woke with a start after a nightmare in which Peter and I were seated in an unfamiliar room and facing each other across a table. To the side of me was a white wall with an opening on both sides of it. I could hear someone being attacked, and the attacker’s voice was female. Then Elle rushed in through the right opening and threw herself into my arms. Peter ran through the left opening and there was a commotion, and I sensed an evil force was threatening us. After a short moment all went eerily silent, and I awoke deeply troubled.

There are several ways to look at this dream. It may simply be a manifestation of the fear and trauma I experienced at the moment of hearing that Elle had died, a kind of dramatic enactment of all the emotions I felt, if not in the correct order. On re-experiencing the dream this morning it felt that the danger to Elle was equally a danger to us all. Perhaps in that flash of death Elle was in my arms with Peter trying to prevent it. Or perhaps we have always known in the inaccessible recesses of our souls that this dreadful event would one day manifest in our lives. For years Peter  had been telling me that he had a sense that something was going to upturn our happy lives. He feels he has been proved right.

3 August

Today has been all about catch-up tasks—a list that never seems to get shorter. I have finally arranged an appointment to get the butterfly tattoo done on my arm next Tuesday, Heather’s birthday. I knew I would get one from the first days after Elle died, so it’s important to me that it is done before the year completes. But the first item on my list is to write to a friend who lost his son, Linkin, three years ago today. I know what it means to have people remember Elle, and I love to hear others mention her name. We, the Rememberers, will never forget.

I have just broken from watching another episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. It causes such conflict in my mind, but I suppose that is what it is meant to do. I went onto the balcony for a cigarette (Kate will be so disappointed in me, but I will never give up trying) and sat watching the island’s visitors go by. My world has shrunk so much that I hardly notice the mayhem, both good family fun and total excess. I don’t feel part of that world anymore. Life is simpler today, and that feels good. Tomorrow I am going to the beach for the morning. We are only five minutes away and I have no idea why I find it hard to get there. It has been an exceedingly hot, humid summer, and the idea of a swim in the Med is calling out to me.

4 August

I spent the morning with a friend on a beautiful and relatively tranquil beach, but once home a cloud of sorrow engulfed me. I have received further information on the judge’s conclusions about the accident, but I don’t want to go into it yet. This is becoming harder and harder, and I don’t make things easy on myself! I keep reading articles in the hope that I will gain a deeper understanding of what caused things to go wrong for Elle. Then I get caught up in yet another cycle of ‘if only’s’. But this is not an investigation without purpose. I genuinely believe some good eventually will come out of the process. According to my latest reading, experiencing just three of a number of possible childhood traumas can cause chronic adult diseases. The article goes on to say that even when a GP discusses past traumas with the patient and acknowledges the possible impact the traumas may have caused, this can have a positive effect on the patient’s health—something akin to a placebo for mental health issues, perhaps. I have no trouble believing this to be true and could ease the great financial cost to society of mental health issues. It also says that while many reports now prove this, medical schools still do not include this knowledge for fear of bringing psychiatry into the lectures. It is not considered appropriate for initial medical studies. God, we humans are still so stupid!

I am struggling to make headway in writing up the last week of Elle’s life. If it continues to be too difficult, I shall hold off until later in September. I also just had a word with Elle while sitting on our oppressively hot balcony. I told her I am sorry, but I make no apology for being deeply involved with the ‘earthly Elle’ at this time. I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. There will come a time when I will go in search of my heavenly girl, I hope.

This time last year I was with Kate and baby Isaac. It felt strange and a little frightening to hold a new-born baby again, but I quickly got over that. I have always adored new-borns—anyone’s will do—and I loved being able to give Kate a chance to shut her eyes as little Isaac lay across my chest on the sofa. Our world felt glorious. The new family and the ‘old’ family were settling into a new paradigm. I had two more days to enjoy baby and then Elle was due to take over from me on the day I departed.

5 August

As the ache in my heart ratchets up, I wonder if I should make an effort to reach for my higher self, or just go with all these emotions that are so determined to attach themselves to my body. I don’t have the energy for a fight. And perhaps I should allow myself to be in a state of inaction for now! At my Pilates studio downstairs there is a mirrored wall, and for a moment I was captured by my own eyes. I could feel the tears just waiting for permission to flow. The thought crossed my mind—was I giving myself pity? Was I saying to myself, ‘I feel sorry for you?’ It felt like that, but purer and more loving than self-pity.

This is a story that has a very tenuous link with the here and now, and I have no idea why it has come up except perhaps to shift my mood. I have had fun sharing it with friends and family over the years, and it sits oddly within the story of my life.

About thirteen years ago I made one of many trips to Malaga, where we had created a holiday home out of a ruin just inland from the coast. This time I was flying from Heathrow, rather than driving. I had probably become a little blasé about flying and had let my concentration slip. I always arrive at airports in good time, and on this occasion I had settled somewhere comfortable with a coffee and a book. But I’d mixed up the time, and suddenly realised I should be at the gate already. I ran all the way towards my gate, and as I approached two waiting air stewards they herded me through a door saying ‘Hurry, hurry!’ and up to the desk where someone glanced at my boarding pass—the old fashioned type—handed it straight back and told me I was the last passenger. The plane door closed behind me as I made my way to my allocated seat and settled in. We took off, and a little later the captain made the usual announcements. I only caught his last few words that we would arrive in an hour and fifty minutes. Normally the flight to Malaga takes two hours and ten minutes, so we clearly had a strong wind behind us, I thought to myself. As we were banking to land the Malaga I saw below looked particularly grand, but then I noticed that I could not see the sea. This caught my attention. Pointing towards the ground, I asked the man next to me, ‘Where is this?’ And with a quizzical look he said, ‘Madrid’. ‘Is this plane going on to Malaga?’ I asked. He said he wasn’t sure, so I buzzed for the air steward. ‘Does this plane fly on to Malaga?’ I asked her. ‘That’s where I’m flying to.’ ‘No,’ she said, and I could see her trying to absorb what I’d just said. She had a word with a colleague, came back to my seat, and told me not to pass through security after landing, but go straight to the Iberia desk, where they would help me.

I did, and stood second in a line. The young man in front of me was a South African. His shorts and short-sleeved shirt on a winter’s day were typical of an Afrikaans farmer from the Free State province, and he appeared to be carrying nothing with him. I then realised he had a big problem. The ladies were trying to tell him in broken English that to be rescheduled on a plane to Johannesburg he needed to pay seventy euros. He kept telling them he had no money and no credit card. As the ladies talked to each other, I could hear they were about to call security. I had to step in and help a fellow South African! I said I would pay the seventy euros, and they explained that he had been refused permission to board his flight the previous day because he was drunk. In fact, he still wasn’t fully sober, so he must have been paralytic! He was then issued with a boarding pass for the next plane out. When all was sorted out, he sank to his knees, wrapped his arms around my legs and asked me to marry him! I accepted his display of thanks and told him in Afrikaans to go get a coffee and have a good flight home.

Then it was my turn at the desk, and what a commotion I caused! The ladies struggled to understand what I was telling them, and between their broken English and my poor Spanish they understood that we had landed in Madrid instead of Malaga. They kept asking where the other passengers were, and I kept telling them it was only me. Eventually they got the picture, and after some frantic calls to whoever they answered to, they issued me with a new boarding pass for the next flight to Malaga. It was only a couple of years after 9/11, and a mix-up like this should not have been possible, so no doubt someone back along the chain got a serious warning. It wasn’t long before I realised I was unlikely to find my suitcase on landing. The plane I was meant to be on was probably delayed for a long time while the Captain explained to all on board that a passenger had not shown up, and therefore they had to remove a suitcase from the hold. I also imagined the passenger whose plane I mistakenly boarded finding that his plane and his baggage had left without him. Was his seat number really the same as mine? There weren’t many empty seats on the flight. If someone on my flight had been allocated the seat number on my boarding pass, the mistake would have shown up before we took off.

Sometime later, on a visit to South Africa, I told Christina this story, and remarked that I couldn’t understand how I’d allowed myself to be bundled through Gate 2 when I knew my flight was leaving from Gate 6. Her response was immediate. ‘Well, of course, Jennie, you were his guardian angel that day.’ And yes, I gladly accepted that explanation. I have often wondered what that young Afrikaans man, underdressed and without money, was doing so far from home. Had he come over for a farming convention? Had his friends managed to slip him on a plane as some sort of bachelor party prank? I wonder how he told the story when he arrived home, and whether he experienced any more adventures before arriving at his destination.

23:00

Peter and I just watched a documentary made by Brian Cox in 2008, questioning our understanding of time. The more I hear and read what astronomers, cosmologists and physicists have to say, the more confident I am in my faith that there is a spiritual dimension to all that exists. A few years ago science made it harder for me to hold onto my spiritual beliefs but now it is quite the opposite. Listening to a theory being developed by Professor Neil Turok, one of the world’s top theoretical physicists, I heard something that I don’t see how any intelligent person can ignore—pardon the pun but it leaves a gaping vacuum open to interpretation. He made the point that if the Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, something mysterious happened to cause it, and if so, there was a time before the Big Bang, but at this point no scientist has an understanding of what this could be. And frankly, even if they find what happened that caused something to happen that led to Big Bang, the same dilemma remains infinitely, or eternally, omnipresent. He goes on to say, using his background in string theory, that there is a possibility of infinite dimensions in the cosmos (and therefore parallel universes) which he calls membranes, or ‘branes’ for short. The name brane appeals to me—I think of them as twinned to the human brain, as we too are made of trillions of atoms that resemble microscopic ‘solar systems’. He theorises that everything we see in our universe is one of these ‘branes’, and that the possibility could exist that the ‘mysterious happening’ was a full-on collision of two ‘branes’. He suggests that as the two ‘branes’ of matter and radiation collided, there was a massive explosion, the Big Bang, and on separating, their matter and radiation got replenished, in a different form so to speak. Well, that is how I understood his theory. I was immediately struck by its simplicity and logic. It addresses the question begging to be answered—but what existed prior to the Big Bang? You could say ‘more of the same’, and equally, simply call it ‘Eternity’.

It seems much more likely to me than the theory that everything began with the Big Bang, and that it was the beginning of time, or perhaps time emerged as the result of the collision. Many scientists still theorise that all the energy of the universe was there in some infinitesimally minute point, something happened, and then poof—the ever-expanding universe sprang into being! If that doesn’t sound unlikely, I don’t know what does. It makes sense to me that what we can see of our universe is hampered by our inability to see beyond our three physical dimensions, and anchored by the fourth dimension of space-time. But it could be that everything exists everywhere forever in a sea of moments. It makes sense to me that there needs to be a single progression, and linear time is its obvious format, perhaps even providing the source of energy any movement requires. I read that scientists studying quantum mechanics and trying to square up to Einstein’s Law of General Relativity to find a Universal Law of Relativity, are looking at the idea of viewing time as grains of sand, or bits, that mount up to indicate or enable its ability to flow. I like that idea, as it fits with another way of looking at time—as memory. I get tired of hearing scientists and others mock and pity those of us who believe that our consciousness survives death. This belief is often said to reflect our inability to accept that life ends with death, and that believers must be desperately stupid to have faith in something as bizarre and unlikely as a Chief Designer of the Universe, or the Oneness. I have no doubt that this life ends in death, and according to my beliefs I won’t know any more in my next life, so no advantage there for me individually. There are so many mysteries of nature and the cosmos that continue to elude us, and long may that last. It means that no scientist can truly say they are close to laying claim to the elusive ‘theory of everything’, something like the other Holy Grail—the ‘missing link’.

6 August

Oh, oh, oh, we have just past the hour of the last five minutes I spent with Elle a year ago. I was leaving Kate and baby Isaac to return to the island. Elle arrived around 3.30 am that morning. I let her in and told her what time I was leaving for the airport. Elle dragged herself out of bed and not because I was making a noise. I had not expected to see her around 7.30 am. She came down the stairs to give me a hug just as I was about to walk out of the house—she could so easily have slept on. There was no need for this other than her desire to do so because we would have been back together on the island in just three weeks. There was no time to talk about anything, but she seemed serene albeit a little preoccupied.

The anger is still boiling away in me. I know I have to do something about it but not this month. I am letting myself run the whole gamut of grief. What kicked me off on this trajectory today were the judge’s words in an email to our lawyer. ‘Anti-regulation eruption’ was the rather crude translation. The judge has declined our lawyer’s request for a speed report and adds that it is no longer possible because insufficient evidence was collected at the time of the accident. I know this is not a good path for me to follow, that I should look at what happened in another way, and it is more important to find acceptance and forgiveness in my heart. I will get there, but not now. For now I will be whatever I need to be. Right now I am grieving for the less-than-half of a life lived by our daughter, and a lifetime she never got to spend with her sister.

I am confused as to why the driver did not apply her car brakes at all, and only came to a standstill 250m from where the collision took place. She changed her statement from having seen Elle on the side of the road to not having seen her until the moment of collision. I suspect she was not looking at the road. We will never know the truth, and I doubt it would do us any good if we did. Somehow, this blurring of what exactly happened feels better, even if it brings me to anger. For now I can’t be thinking of the feelings of others. I can’t afford to give away that space.

[Correction months later: I misunderstood the judge when she cited an anti-regulation eruption. It apparently means that Elle wasn’t wearing a luminescent vest while walking on the road in the dark. There was no pavement and therefore the road was her only choice.]

Following my writing earlier this morning, I sat smoking on the balcony with tears flowing, and said to Elle, ‘Please forgive me. I shall try harder next month’, followed by the tapping of my collarbone, which I do whenever I want to communicate my thoughts to Elle. I started doing it immediately after Elle died, initially without thinking. I have a vague memory of Elle telling me that you can make contact with the universe by tapping your collarbone. I do it because it comforts me.

Today we are having lunch at Pike’s Hotel with Alice, a school friend of Elle who currently lives with her boyfriend in Sydney. She is staying in San Antonio while visiting the island. Pike’s was the most convenient place we could think of that wasn’t a long taxi ride for her, and then it struck me that it was the first place Elle found work when she moved to Ibiza in 2011, and where Betty found her. We have also been invited to the wedding next year of Natalie, another school friend of both Elle and Alice, and it will be wonderful to be with Elle’s Embley Park girlfriends again.

While getting ready I took my music into the bathroom with me, and the first song to play was Leonard Cohen’s ‘Come Healing’. I won’t hear from anyone that Elle is not here for us and helping us all to heal. Coincidence just doesn’t cut it! I have fifty-three songs on my playlist, and climbing, and each has its own point of relevance. I am with Einstein and Jung when it comes to giving Synchronicity its due.

Every song that followed spoke to me in some special way. I love the line, ‘I need your grace to find my own’, from ‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol. Elle ordered two books shortly before she died, and it was both a painful shock and comforting in its poignancy to pick them up from the post office—like a brushing of her hand across our cheeks. The first was ‘The Alchemist’ by Paul Coelho, and I learnt so much from my reading of it. The message about the necessity to go, at least once in your life, on an inner sustained journey couldn’t have been clearer. The second was ‘Grace and Gratitude’. It was the name of this book that revealed its teaching. The next song to come up was ‘You Are Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera, which reminded me of Elle saying ‘you are beautiful’ to me, and my amazement and gratitude for such a loving daughter every time she said it. I feel some good grieving happening here today! As I listen to the Rag n’ Bone Man sing ‘Lay My Body Down’ I feel a bit of defiance enter my body. That could be a good sign. I wear defiance well!

7 August

I am thinking so much about Kate. I said I was going to turn inward and not worry about others as a gift to myself, but my heart is equally sore for her. She worries too much sometimes. She worries that Elle’s death may have taken me to a place out of her reach or that perhaps I don’t see her in the same light as I did before. It is true that grief seems to dominate my heart but my love for Kate has not diminished—it just lies in the shadow cast by my sadness, but hopefully not forever. I will never desert her. I just need more guiltless time to cradle my grief in my empty arms. And while I am thinking about her, Kate called me from Keystone, Colorado. These psychic happenings never pass unnoticed. She is there for the wedding of the son of good friends of ours from all those years ago in Pasadena Glen, where Elle was born. Earlier she sent us a video of her dancing at the wedding, and she looked radiant. But her phone call told a different story as is so often the case with Kate. She said the wedding was all about siblings—they’re a close family—and she felt so alone. Naturally she hid her sadness, not wanting to spoil the special day for others but we shared a comforting cry and talked about our ‘missings’. I was pleased that she made me aware of this—grief again taking on different shapes in different circumstances. She also told me that she’s getting anxious about not being with us on the 30th of this month. I thought this might happen, and we’ll have to deal with it by speaking to each other during our moment at dawn on the beach. We will also be together mid-September. She was worried that I may be dropping into a state of depression, but I reassured her that I am not depressed, just sad.

We had a good time with Elle’s friend Alice yesterday. She’d been unable to attend any of our previous events, and she had felt it necessary to connect with us in person. While we did chat about memories of Elle, we also spent a good deal of time talking about what she’s doing with her life. We didn’t know that she and another of Elle’s friends visited the island about a year before Elle died, and have wonderful memories of that time and of visiting some of Elle’s favourite places. She remembers a particular chilled evening at a hillside restaurant where they shared tapas together late into the night. I cannot think where it is, but I shall investigate and hope to find it.

23:21

I am waiting on the roof terrace for the full moon to make an appearance. There is a breeze tonight, thankfully bringing a coolness with it, and black clouds are hiding the moon. There is supposed to be a partial eclipse tonight. Looking into the jet-black darkness now you would not believe there was a full moon, then ah, there it is again, like a pearl cradled in a black box lined with petrol-blue velvet. Oh no, gone again. I don’t think I will be seeing the eclipse. This is the same full moon, a year later, when Elle and Swo Boda shared a special moment.

Peter and I had a wonderful dinner tonight at Cala San Vicente. We talked a lot about our feelings. He asked me, ‘Did you ever foresee pain like this ahead for us?’ ‘No,’ I answered, ‘nor should we have.’ No one should ever live in anticipation of a situation like this. It would mean you were not living in the moment giving your full attention to life and all it offered. I told him about my conversation with Kate, and that her greatest pang of longing comes when watching siblings enjoying each other’s company, as it reminds her that she is alone. When she arrived last year with Alex and baby Isaac, she walked straight over to us and cried out, ‘I am alone now.’ While not exactly true, I knew just what she meant. My ‘pang’ makes itself felt when I am amongst young people having fun and young lovers with a future stretching out before them—a future I will never get to witness Elle live out. Today on Facebook I saw a photo of Graeme and his girlfriend of the past six months. As much as I want him to find true love and happiness, it hit my ‘ouch’ button, but my wishful ‘voice’ considers that perhaps Elle may have had a hand in this. Sometimes I am surprised at the happiness that can be observed in the wake of her death, or as a result of her having been here in the first place. Yay, tomorrow I get my butterfly tattoo. I shall take a photograph of it when the redness fades.

8 August

Today is the fifty-seventh birthday of one of my sisters, Sister Heart (Heather). She sent a photo of herself in her birthday outfit, which is in the exact colours of my beautiful butterfly tattoo. We are connected in so many ways!

The whole experience at the tattoo parlour today nearly had me rising up out of myself again. I shared with the young woman, Emilija, my reason for wanting a tattoo of a butterfly, and wham, the road to deep connections opened up instantly between us. She is from Macedonia, and as soon as she said that, I thought about the book I am currently reading: ‘Kingdom’ by Emmanuel Carrere. He uses the creation of the early Christian church as a parable of his own life, and brings a mythical ancient time into modern reality such that I can recognise the individuals as contemporary fellow travellers through my own human story.

Emilija tells that she lost her grandmother when she was three, and when she asked where her grandmother had gone, her mother said she had gone to God. She asked, ‘What is God?’ and her mother said she could read a book that would explain all when she was older, and pointed to the Bible. She told me she kept asking people what their name began with, and slowly learnt the alphabet that way, and soon she learnt to read. The first book she read was the Bible. She has now also read it in different languages. This beautiful, highly intelligent young woman with dreads and many tattoos has chosen to live a simple, hippy lifestyle. She was supposed to return home at the end of July but decided to stay an extra month. How lucky am I? Not many could have achieved the beauty that is my blue and white butterfly, which looks as if it’s about to land on my arm. I believe it is a Blue Morpho. The two-and-a-half-hour process passed quickly as she held me entranced with stories, some mythical and some true, of back home. I always ask people the various names of family members now—not sure why but I became aware of this tendency shortly after Elle died. Her sister has the name Eliza, and she is called both Eli and Ela. I now have a bee on my back for someone special called Ella who came into our lives a few years ago, and an Elle butterfly on my arm.

I hadn’t yet decided where I wanted my tattoo but I knew it needed to be quite large to do justice to the detail. She suggested the inside instead of the outside of my arm. It made perfect sense, and it would feel more intimate, but I thought, oh boy, it’s bound to be more painful there. Amazingly I felt no pain from the first puncture of my skin. I thought maybe I was in shock and would feel it soon enough, but no, it was as if someone was poking me gently with a ballpoint pen. Meanwhile the young man on the couch next to me went white in the face and felt faint within a minute of the tattooist’s first marks having be made. I had to smile and thought just as well he will never have to go through childbirth. There was so much more Emilija and I shared, accompanied by regular shadowing of the hairs on our arms and legs—this is more usually referred to as ‘getting the shivers’, but now I like to think of it as the sensing of vibrations of communication reaching us from somewhere out in the universe that is beyond what we can imagine.

9 August

I am feeling pensive and sensitive today. I think Peter is too. Somehow, I just have to maintain a measured and even pace.

I went back to Emilija today so she could clean away the excess ink and put a new patch on my butterfly. She had especially brought into the studio a triplet rose quartz crystal from her personal collection with the instruction to always keep it close. I will! Yesterday she told me how she found these crystals—another special human/spirit story. Sometimes I meet a person and I know very quickly that they are a little more ‘angelic’ than others. In moments like this I feel strength flow into me, and then I know I can get beyond this longing for something I cannot have.

Today a year ago is one of the two days Elle cooked a lunch for Kate and Kate’s sister-in-law Evie. This was when she told them of her intention to ‘create a community centre for the children of the island, with the help of all the people of the island, where children could learn things they are not taught in school through using all five of their senses’. Next year is the year we hope to put Angels & Elephants into action. It will not be easy, and I feel a little intimidated, but I hope by starting somewhere, anywhere, we will find our feet and learn how to move forward.

A few weeks ago I got this response from Saffy to my enquiry about how she found Elle in those weeks following her return from the UK.

Good morning dear Jenny,

Sorry it has taken me a few days to write, been so busy with the retreat!
From what I remember of the last few weeks of her life (as I was in the midst of a crazy season full of work and chaos last summer) is that Elle was having problems sleeping. So often I would wake up to go to the washroom in the middle of the night and I could see that she was still awake… Then during the day I hardly got to see her because she was out with Swo Boda or I was working so we didn’t really coincide. Also, she was very very floaty, and ‘in love’ is what we called it, as she would forget to turn off the kitchen stove and leave doors open and was in a very dreamy state which we all knew she was thinking about love and him, we would all giggle about it at home.
Then she spent several days at her uncle’s as she said she needed a break and was going to spend some time with him… I remember trying to get hold of her during this time over Facebook as my phone was broken and I didn’t get the message that she was at Greg’s until our housemates told me.
I got home on the Monday lunchtime and Swo Boda was outside reading a book and I went inside, and Elle was munching on some fruit as she sat on the kitchen table. I walked in and said hello but I noticed that she was not herself… there was something not quite right as her voice was deeper and she seemed to be grumpy, which was very unlike her… I asked several questions and I could sense she didn’t want to talk or answer, so I decided to not take it personally and I let it go. She told me she was going to have lunch at a beach but she was unclear about where or when they were going.
Then she got dressed and said goodbye and they went off. I hope this is ok, Jennie, it seems very brief and short… but I don’t really have many other details as I didn’t get a chance to see her a bunch….
If there’s anything that pops out a bit more and you would like clarity on, please let me know and I can also ask Trixy if she recalls anything.
Much love to you,

Sapphire

I would like to heed, and stay close to, Buddha’s words, ‘The root of all suffering is in attachment’. But at the moment it is not working for me.

10 August

I can hardly breathe as I write this—Elle said goodbye to Kate, Alex and Isaac this time last year, and left London for Ibiza.

Can’t write anymore, my hands have frozen… perhaps later…

Well, synchronicity continues to flow through my life more than ever this month. Just as well! Whenever I feel overwhelmed with dark and painful thoughts, something or someone pops up and some hope flows back into my limp body again. On Facebook this morning up popped a four-year-old Ted Talk featuring Isabel Allende talking about how she deals with growing older. Her mantra for living is to live passionately. She says she grows older with acceptance of what it means on a physical level, and by keeping close all the things that have always been important to her. She embraces the greater freedom she now feels to be wholly authentic, with no pressure to be what others seek her to be. I know she isn’t saying that she doesn’t care about others—she probably cares more—but she is enjoying feeling kinder to herself, and life being simpler.

Many years ago, not long after it was published, I read her book just called Paula who was her daughter. I had always enjoyed her novels about complex and passionate individuals, and particularly loved her complete and fearless embrace of all that is magically spiritual. Apparently, her most successful book, ‘The House of The Spirits’ from 1982, began as a letter to her dying 99-year-old grandfather to ‘keep him alive, at least in spirit’. I love that early in her life she got a job translating books by people like Barbara Cartland into Spanish, and was fired for making unauthorised changes to the dialogue of the heroines in an attempt to make them sound more intelligent. Bless her! She even changed the ending of Cinderella to give the heroine greater independence to go out and make the world a better place. I am not a fan of fairy tales, well, not the Disney versions, but perhaps they’d make more sense if we viewed the princes and princesses as the masculine and the feminine rather than men and women as they encounter various archetypes, and perhaps that is exactly how our young minds do encounter them. As a mature student at Winchester Art School I enjoyed messing around with the fairy tale ‘The Princess and the Pea’, and wrote my own subversive ending to the story. The princess, on being told she had passed the ‘good breeding’ test, told the prince and his mother just what they could do with their offer of a ‘good marriage’, and then walked away from their castle, their wealth and their lives! Something else Allende and I have in common.

I couldn’t help wondering whether, while reading Paula, I had practiced some of the emotions a mother goes through when she loses a child. Paula went into a coma at the age of twenty-eight. She had a serious but manageable disease called porphyria which is caused by a gene mutation generally passed on by a carrier parent. While caring for her comatose daughter at home, Allende started writing her a letter so she would be able to catch up on all that she had missed while in the coma. It later became a testament to her daughter’s life and her pain because Paula never regained consciousness. This is what Allende said to her brother Juan who was a priest, shortly after Paula died:

‘I’m lost, I don’t know who I am, I try to remember who I was once but I find only disguises, masks, projections, the confused images of a woman I can’t recognize. Am I the feminist I thought I was, or the frivolous girl who appeared on television wearing nothing but ostrich feathers? The obsessive mother, the unfaithful wife, the fearless adventurer, or the cowardly woman? Am I the person who helped political refugees find asylum or the one who ran away because she couldn’t handle fear? Too many contradictions…’

‘You’re all of them, and also the samurai who is battling death.’

‘Was battling, Juan. I’ve lost.’

While I identify strongly with her words, I also know that she didn’t allow herself to stay lost. By hook or by crook she found her way back. She too had a second child, a son a couple of years younger than Paula.

There is something else quite astonishing about Paula. She knew, or rather seemed to sense, that her life would be short, and that the possibility of dying before her mother was there. She wrote a letter during her honeymoon that was only to be opened in the event of her death. In it she seems to have had a premonition of her coma and her mother’s unwillingness to let her die:

I do not want to remain trapped in my body. Freed from it, I will be closer to those I love. Please don’t be sad, I am still with you, except I am closer than I was before. In another time, we will be reunited in spirit… Remember that we spirits can best help, accompany and protect those who are happy…

This explains, better than anything I am capable of, everything about what underlies, informs and comforts me on this journey I know I shall now continue for the rest of my life. It is why I will not let go or give in, although there are powerful moments that attempt to lead me astray.

11 August

These days of August I find myself lurching between darkness and the light. A ride called Space Mountain at Disneyland comes to mind. I consented to it because of my girls and I dealt with it in my own peculiar way—mainly by laughing hysterically from start to finish but laughter won’t make this go away. Or will it? My dad used to say that laughter is the best medicine. Now, in one moment, I am with Elle as she encounters her last three weeks here, and I can’t help being afraid of how deep her fear may have gone. Did the sadness come on slowly? Was she getting premonitions of what lay ahead? She had just witnessed Kate in a state of the greatest joy. She returned to the island perhaps with great hopes for a future with Swo Boda opening up in front of her. Perhaps she too entered a phase of the greatest joy she had known. I try to live with light and hope, and for a while I can do it, until the next dip. In the next moment I am with Kate who doesn’t know that she has seen Elle for the last time. I suppose it’s not surprising that I find myself on a sickening rollercoaster ride for now. I hope eventually to learn to live more peacefully alongside the Heavenly Elle.

Paula’s letter to her mother has made a big impression on me. Particularly the words, ‘remember that we spirits can best help, accompany, and protect those who are happy’. How did she know that? She must have seen her mother’s core. She gave her mum all she would ever need to help her find a way to live life fully and with passion. We are lucky in a similar way. Elle left us lots of clues too, most notably the photo of the tree with the three sentences handwritten across the top. There it was, almost the only thing she left in her car, which we only saw when together we opened the rear door of her blue Seat Ibiza—the car she was concerned was too good for her, but with the addition of a few scrapes and bumps over time, felt more acceptable to her. Yet in her own way she took good care of it.

As soon as I was up this morning, I googled ‘Letter to Paula, Isabel Allende’, and up popped a letter from a medical student Erin Coleman to Paula, sixteen years after her death. I will not include it as it is copyrighted to Isabel Allende, but it is beautiful and illuminating, and the website is listed in notes.

I have now downloaded both of Isabel Allende’s autobiographical books, and look forward to reading ‘The Sum of Us’, her follow-up book to Paula.

12 August

For some time I’ve been thinking that surely tomorrow I will wake up and find nothing interesting to write about. But I need not worry.

I don’t know why, but after my phone call with Kate yesterday afternoon, I felt out of sorts. I tried to see why, and there are a few possibilities. I have so much to be grateful for, and Kate’s pregnancy is going well, so why am I jittery? I asked for some guidance, a dream or something, and sure enough while nevertheless surprising, when I opened the book ‘Paula’ on my iPad, I saw that Isabel Allende had added a further chapter some years later. It covers how she came to write ‘Paula’ through the gentle encouragement and direction of her mother, the conflict surrounding its publication, and how she struggled with life and her grief. On 8 January, a month after Paula died, her mother took her by the hand and led her to her writing room, handed her the bundle of letters Allende had written to her during the year of Paula’s coma, and told her she needed to write. She knew that Allende began a new book every 8 January and that she needed to pick up her life or drown. Her mother said that she would then understand that Paula’s death was the only possible liberation for her soul. I know just what her mother meant, and there was more that sounded familiar to me. Isabel, her mother and I are definitely cut from the same cloth. First names only from now on!

When Isabel was told that Paula’s husband had fallen in love again with someone called Guilia, who was born on the same day as Paula, whose mother was called Paula, and whose father was born on the same day in the same year as Isabel, a broad smile broke across my face. Facts like that are not brushed aside into my bin of coincidence, but rather put confidence in my step. Thank you for that, Universe, I hear you. She also grappled with her reasons for writing on such a personal level about her daughter, who was a deeply private person. Elle was too. Wrongly or correctly we both came up with the feeling that it was ‘permitted’ for the right reasons. I know why I started writing on 1 January—I needed to stay close to Elle as time conspired to take her further and further from me. I also needed to evaluate my life that was on constant playback in my mind. Finally, I needed an outlet for my grief—to do something that used up dastardly Time so I didn’t have to face it down all day and every day. Isabel reached conclusions similar to me. If Elle did come to ‘lift the veil’, she may equally want me to share my journey back to establishing a healthy relationship to time and to not letting the fire of my faith go out, and how through suffering there can also be joy, beauty, personal growth, hope and much more love, while never letting humility, grace and gratitude out of sight as I remember my regrets.

My moment with Isabel today gave me much needed reassurance. I no longer doubt my belief in God or the Oneness, though I do doubt myself sometimes still. According to Elle’s photo of her tree—doubt leads to error—so I prefer to consider that doubt is a pointer to where in one’s thoughts one needs to give more attention to. Perhaps doubt left unattended leads to error.

13 August

After I took the dogs for their last lap around the car parks for today, Peter asked me to have a glass of wine with him on our roof terrace. We had paused something enjoyable on TV, so I understood that this was something he needed from me. Once we had settled, I saw his face breaking up with emotion, and fear in his eyes. He told me Elle had spoken to him. He went on to say that he was afraid that if he let himself go, he would break apart. This was similar to something Kate had said. They are alike in so many ways. He then said he was struggling with his faith intellectually. This was not really news to me. I told him something I had been thinking for a while. ‘It’s worth considering that the reason you studied theology at university has everything to do with this moment.’ It obviously resonated, as he gave a chuckle. Through all our years together, he always told me that he had studied theology because faith—whether you do or don’t believe—is the most important issue in our lives. It never sounded like an authentic reason to me. For sure it is always good to talk about what is going on within us at the deepest level. Some people are so scared that it will expose them to judgment, mockery or worse. But whatever Peter’s concerns and doubts are, he never undermines or resents my spiritual journey, and even seems to enjoy sharing my experiences and observations. That must be good for him, as it certainly works well for me. What he heard Elle say to him was, ‘All is fine, dad. Things will be good.’

I needed to do a few things in the kitchen, so on went my music. The first song was Jake Bugg’s ‘Two Fingers’, and yay—I danced for the first time since Kate’s wedding. It felt good to dance just for me. The last song was ‘If You Go Away’ by Scott Walker—one of my favourites to sing along to.

Please Mr. DJ won’t you turn the music down
Why can’t you understand
I’m too hurt to dance tonight

Songwriters: Albert Hammond / Aimee Duffy

 Later we visited Mimi and Martijn on the south side of the island. They cooked a wonderful lunch, and as usual the conversation flowed easily. They have also been through a bereavement recently.

Good Grief – Part Ten

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.

I have enjoyed a sense of community as I see that some new and many old friends in many countries of the world are sharing my first year of grief following the death of Elle. Since then my brother, Greg, has also died, in the same month as Elle three years later. I am still processing what I have learnt from his beautiful and at times troubled soul and his death, and my writing is continuing to help me sift and sort through my thoughts. I have a sense of wanting to say thank you to you all.

I also wanted to communicate something of where I am ‘living’ now and for this reason I have included my journal thoughts for today:

I never fail to be excited by my personal but simple discovery that looking deeper into words and metaphors supplies me with a multitude of clues that help to illustrate and join up more and more of my beloved dots. I continue to labour under the belief that one day a beautiful painting of the meaning of my life, or anyone really, will be revealed to me in all its glorious livery. As I continue to explore my inner workings in the hope of becoming a more conscious being, I have become more observant of things that are constantly happening around me which normally would pass me without causing a flicker of recognition. I was struggling to fall asleep last night and it was not clear to me that I was anxious about anything in particular, so I decided to observe my insomnia in a different way. I have this luxury being retired. I opened my iPad to YouTube to find something I could listen to and perhaps even fall asleep to, and took a look across the various offerings that the algorithm was throwing up for me. Again, I allowed my interest at observing the element of coincidence to make my choice for me, and the one that caught my eye was a talk by Tara Brach. I was familiar with her name and chose Learning to Respond and not to React. Definitely something I have been working on! Her first words were: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” These words have been attributed to many people including Lao Tzu, the probable first person to have uttered them.

As I listened to her talk I found myself playing with what she was talking about, and while I was struck by the undeniable truth of what she was saying I started to wonder if one could travel the other way through this path and what that would say to me. And yes, I came up with something, which didn’t exactly surprise me. But first I want to explain another mental game I played with myself the other day.

When my brother Greg died, Peter gifted me two songs to ease my sorrow. One was Empty Chairs and the other was Crossroads, both written and sung by Don McLean, and both songs were unknown to me. Bless him—they were the perfect gift. I was listening to my playlist in the shower the other day, sometimes it is my Greg one and other times the one I have for Elle. Crossroads came up and it got me thinking about words and the clues they reveal to me. A crossroad is where two roads intersect. How many times have we not said, I, he or she, came to a crossroad in life. With the water falling on my head the excitement started to rise up and challenge me. If this is what happens you can bet that three options lie ahead of you. Yes. You can choose to change direction by turning to the right or to the left, or you can carry on down the same road you were on. The left often gets a bad name – sinister – so I am going to call it the High Road and let right be the Low Road for a change. I think it would be fair to say that a few of us will make poor decisions, and we may or may not realise at the time that we have chosen the Low Road, while the vast majority of us may glance to our left and our right and choose to carry on straight ahead—seems easier to stay with what is familiar. I will call this one the Middle Way, and I definitely don’t think it is necessarily a poor choice. In most cases it is the best we can do, especially if we have consciously eschewed the Low Road. But one day we may be asked to enter the unknown and take the High Road. Is this that time?

That said, back to my initial play on words and ideas. There is no doubt in my mind that Lao Tzu’s well-used saying is a Truth. But if there is the possibility of multiple or even infinite directions of travel, or more likely only two, forwards and backwards, then perhaps the following is possible too. Perhaps we come into the world with a prescribed destiny, and once born with our genetic characteristics, opportunities and circumstances bring into play free will. Our environment that we grow up in causes us to build up habitual ways of responding to stimuli and events which can make it easy to press our buttons if our habits feel judged, in turn making us act in certain ways, and say things we may or may not mean. And ultimately we start to think about what we have become and what we do and say, and maybe or maybe not we end up seeing the light. And our destiny, the original contract, is finally revealed to us. A circle of life and death is once more manifested.  Perhaps when we are finally ready to make that difficult choice and choose the High Road, along which only a very few have walked, our mission will have been accomplished, and then hooray we get to stay Home.

Part Ten

July. Middle English Julie, from Old English Julius, from Latin, from Gaius Julius Caesar

1 July

What we know of Elle’s last few weeks after she returned from visiting Kate and Isaac is very patchy. I feel strangely familiar with her spirit and presence during the days she was with Greg, almost as if I was there, but I cannot make the same connection with the preceding few weeks. So a while back I asked Larah if she could put me in touch with people who may have spent time in Elle’s company in her final few weeks, and with her help Peter and I met up with Maili today. I will write about this meeting later.

Back to my friend M… She told us of a moment she experienced some years ago in the company of her friend Roseline, Elle’s mentor, which freed her to sing and record the many songs she had written. Roseline had previously spoken to me of M as someone who years earlier gave her the courage and support to develop her own artistic practice on the island by befriending her and commissioning many pieces. How time and karma, if a space is made for them, work their magic in our lives. M is an example of someone who has gone in search of her own unique talent, and proof that it is never too late.

2 July

Today my journey feels less like a mountain climb, and more like I am being shoved around on a Snakes and Ladders board, and now I have landed on a snake that takes me all the way back to the beginning and into the underworld. Not good for the heart! As always, I just have to ride it out. Peter finds it hard to stand by when I go down and keeps trying to talk me up one of the ladders instead. I have asked him to be patient. I will come up, but in my own time and in my own way.

3 July

It was on Saturday after meeting Maili, who worked with Elle during the week before her death, that I found myself sliding down that slippery snake. That night, after switching off my life [a rather apt Freudian slip when I meant to say light!], I turned onto my back, put my hands together and prayed as usual, addressing myself to Dear God and Dear Elle. I know that my prayers are usually sloppy, and probably ‘soppy’ even—I don’t think I have a good enough relationship with God yet to be able to natter with him. I usually go through the names of all my loved ones who are no longer with us, then say how much I am missing Elle, talk about the person, wife, mother and grandmother I am trying to be, start drifting off to sleep but just manage to slip in my Amen, turn onto my side, and then, as if on cue, the monkey in my brain starts its incessant chatter. But not that night. Someone seemed to take my hand and show me how it should be done. This time the prayer flowed out of me in one smooth movement. It seemed to flow faster than I could think, but I heard it perfectly. It was quite long and seemed to say much more eloquently than I could exactly what I wanted to say. I am easily amazed.

One of the island’s attractions for me is its clarity of light, even during the hot summers. I have always been conscious of how light affects me, and I definitely find my inner peace is affected when the light quality is poor. I have a sense though that what I call poor most people think of as normal. I struggled to settle in the UK where the sun most days has difficulties finding a path through the clouds except for a few hours now and again, and it took seven years for me to stop fighting the weather and get on with just living. I had similar problems in Los Angeles and in Italy where there was either air pollution or something else causing the light to be somewhat opaque.

Another reason I love the island is because it has always attracted ‘seekers’, people not interested in just living but wanting to understand why they were living. Wherever one lives you can always find them but almost everyone here seems to be seeking something or other, some more positively than others. I remember exploring the island with my father in 1978 and experiencing the serenity of the elderly Ibicencans we came across as they farmed their land in the old ways and tended to their livestock. I didn’t understand much about life then, but I knew there was something special about the island and its people, and certainly it has captured the imaginations of many artists and writers since the very earliest of recorded history, and more obviously since the beginning of the twentieth century. There was always something cosmopolitan about the young incomers, whether from the mainland or from further afield. The hippy tribes from many parts of the West were attracted to the island because there seemed to be an openness towards them, a lack of judgement, and this still lingers on today, but I don’t know for how much longer. And then there were the people who wanted something of what the hippies had—their beauty and physical, mental and emotional freedom from the mainstream of society, but with the security of having money behind them. And finally, all those in between. While a part of me identified more closely with the hippies I have never wanted to belong to any particular tribe of humankind, just as I have stood back from religion institutions and political parties. There are many legends and theories about what makes Ibiza special and I am no different in having my own. I gathered another helpful basis of knowledge about human nature in those two years I spent on the island back then, and I took with both hands a chance to experiment with who I was, and who I was becoming.

Peter has always worried about me when I wander off into distant places of my mind, and now more so than before. I think he fears that he could lose me forever, but I told him he doesn’t need to worry. I am nowhere near that edge, and never will be. I told him that I don’t want to be talked off my ledge—I just need some time and I will be back soon enough. Today I am alone in my studio space at Greg’s home. I feel comfortable and even a little inspired. I sense I am emerging, at least until the next time and I am sure one day those times will be spaced a little more comfortably apart.

Thank you oh lord
For the white blind light

The Ghost Song, Jim Morrison

4 July

I am cooking, singing my songs and crying, all at the same time. Boy, has ‘missing’ come back to haunt me.

It was only going to be a matter of time before I looked into the origin and mythology of the Snakes and Ladders game, a childhood favourite. The snake was definitely worth looking into and made all the more interesting for me because Elle and I are both snakes in the Chinese calendar. Probably no other animal or reptile features more in the mythologies of every culture in the world. It is also the origin of all dragon mythologies. There is barely a culture, going back as far as stories have reached us from, that do not reference the snake in one form or another. Its most wide-reaching associations seem to be with healing and fertility, including ceremonies to ensure a good harvest. There could be many reasons for this, one being that snakes visibly shed their skins, so are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality and healing—a bit like the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths, who are also seen to represent rebirth, and therefore associated with death and grief, but are more transitory than snakes. In the case of snakes it may also have arisen out of their appearance, with their unblinking lidless eyes and the absence of facial expression which makes them hard to read. Do they feel? Is there an all-knowing entity behind that staring gaze? The legless smooth movement of snakes across the earth, through water and up trees also serves to give them an air of ambivalent mystery. Are they with us or against us? We now know they just are, but they are also deeply embedded as an archetype in the collective unconscious of our DNA. In the US the symbol representing medicine is commonly the caduceus which is two snakes coiled around a winged rod. This is the symbol associated with the Greek god, Hermes, who was the god of commerce. Not really who you want your doctors associated with. But for the rest of the world it is the Rod of Asclepius, a single snake coiled around a rod or staff, the staff being symbolic of the wandering medicinal men of old.

And then there is the elephant in the room: the snake that tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden. I has been years since I stopped seeing the snake as the ‘devil in disguise’ but rather viewing it as something of a prod by God—the first invocation of duality, of light and dark, calling us to our human destiny, to venture into the unknown and begin our education in Earth school, through the first conscious exercise of our free will. What use were we to God’s purpose of creation simply existing in all our inert innocence in a place of perfection? And I love that it was an independent Eve who opened up the way of the next stage.

5 July

I also looked into what ladders might infer—less than I expected, as it turns out. But a major reference that pops up is ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’, or ‘Ladder of Paradise’, a religious treatise written in a Christian monastery on the Red Sea around 600 AD. It describes the perilous climb required of mankind to ascend to religious perfection, or heaven. Apparently, there were thirty steps to represent the thirty years of Christ’s life. Many paintings depict this treacherous climb with all the temptations one could fall prey to on route—not usually a pretty picture.

But I do have my own ladder story. I had a series of recurring dreams featuring ladders throughout my twenties. Typically I would dream that a tidal wave was coming and I urgently needed to find higher ground. I would look for stairs if indoors, or more usually a ladder, often made of rope, to scale a cliff or a building, and awaken feeling exhausted and frustratingly short of my goal. Never did I actually see the tidal wave—probably because it wasn’t the point of the dream. In the last dream of that series, I managed to ‘force through’ a scenario in which, having reached the final three steps, a person held out their hand and pulled me up to safe ground. I can still feel the immense sense of relief and achievement. I know I learnt something from it on a subconscious level, and can see now that it would probably have helped if I’d noticed that what I needed was to ask for help from someone on higher ground, reminiscent of the words of the first medium who found me shortly after Elle died.

Peter then suggested I look at the origin of the game of Snakes and Ladders. The game was popular in ancient India where it was called Moksha Patam. It has links to traditional Hindu philosophy, illustrating the difference between karma and destiny, or desire. It was thought that a version of it (and Ludo) was brought from India to Victorian England around the end of the 1800s. It doesn’t take a genius to see how it could be used as a tool for teaching the virtues of good deeds and the consequences of bad choices.

6 July

We are just two in the apartment, but we seem to fill a bag of plastic for recycling every day. How is this ever workable? What hope can there possibly be for this planet in the long term? I know it sounds so ‘glass half empty’, but today I struggle to hang on to hope. So many emerging countries aspire and work hard to join us in the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first. The oceans are already overflowing with plastic, and we have no real solution for how to live without it. A young friend from South Africa was telling me that finally Africa is hopeful that its time is coming. Strange that we all emerged out of Africa once upon a time, and just as it is Africa’s turn to shine once again, things are not looking good for the planet.

7 July

I think the world has slipped into a parallel universe, or at least into an upside down alternative reality. Brexit, Trump, Popularism/Fascism, ‘alternative’ facts and downright lies—all bring an unsettling foreboding of moving in the wrong direction. How are we to get ourselves out of this mess?

I can hear Christina and Elle reminding me not to get agitated and anxious about what I cannot change. They both feel the world is taking its lead from the collective consciousness of humankind—nothing will change because I worry about it, and by adding my angst into the melting pot of human consciousness, I may even be contributing to the energy that grows my fear. I know they are right. I have to allow light to reflect from my being—perhaps the future depends on us all choosing to live in the light. After all, it is hard to see the forest for the trees in the dark. I wish we could all live with more love and peace in our hearts.

A family member posted an interesting link: ‘Why Grief is a Series of Contractions and Expansions’. I am not sure whether the writer, Joanne Cacciatore, is the Zen priest described as the source of the content in the article. It comes from a site called ‘www.tricycle.org’, and definitely resonates with me.

A contraction of grief occurs when our attention and energy are pulled inward, our surroundings made smaller perhaps because, in this particular moment, we feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed, we contract and tighten emotionally; we conserve our energy and attention, focusing intently on grief—and on self. In a moment of contraction, it feels as if our very survival may be in question. We may feel unsteady, unsafe, unheld; we may feel tenuous, desperate, fearful, and vulnerable. In such moments, we may curl up and hold our breath. In such moments, we feel the call to self-protect. We sense, on some level, that contraction will save us.

Expansion may come with the deep in-and-out breath, in a period of small, even minuscule, growth post-contraction. Allowing contraction to just be, in time we see it naturally ebbs, and the tightness loosens, we grow larger, and we become more willing to venture out and explore, to take risks, to open and unfold. And we find ourselves in a moment of trust, safety, curiosity, willingness, connectedness, belonging—and maybe even hope. In previous moments, the contraction saved us; in this moment the expansion will save us.

After ten months of contractions and expansions that can each last from hours to days or even weeks, I have come to trust the process. It is after all the contraction and expansion of our lungs that sustains the life of our bodies, and therefore not surprising that I find comfort in its tidal rhythm. I am comforted knowing that I cannot forget Elle. But Time is not yet my friend. It will have to work a little harder to gain my trust.

8 July

I fell asleep easily last night—unlike the night before. That is how it goes. In the early hours of this morning I woke up sensing I’d had a pleasant dream, perhaps featuring Elle. Sadly I could not retrieve it. I drifted off to sleep again, but when I awoke at my usual time I was not in a good mood. Later, at my Pilates class, I realised my irritation seemed to be morphing into anger. I don’t have anything or anyone to focus my anger on, so I am just angry that Elle isn’t with us. She has been constantly on my mind this morning, with memories just floating by, one after another after another.

I shall try to focus on the cicadas that have just woken up from a long sleep in the ground, full of wing snapping and sexual energy. I love their peculiar squeaky rattle that reaches into the mists of time and returns with memory after memory of happier summers. For a moment, my sadness is forgotten in a haze of memories.

And suddenly I am with Elle back in Barcelona at the end of May, just three months before she died. After writing her first-year philosophy module exam, she wanted to go shopping and we ended up in the lanes off Las Ramblas. Elle led me into a store full of hippy-style clothes run by an attractive young man, and she tried on a number of things. While she often asked my opinion, she rarely took it, but I came to understand that my comments were still somehow useful to her. I learnt a long time ago not to push her into a purchase, because if it didn’t sit easily with her it would stay in the cupboard. There had been a number of these mistakes over the years as she wrestled between wanting to express her innate sense of style but feeling more comfortable holding back. On this occasion she went for it, and bought a pair of trousers that said ‘look at me’ and decided to keep them on for the evening. They were flamboyant psychedelic hipster bellbottoms, and she looked gorgeous in them. Before setting off to find a good place to eat she asked me to take a photo of her. Thank goodness—it is not something I often remember to do. Even though it is a hard one to look at, I am very grateful to have it. I don’t know if anyone else saw her in them, as they weren’t amongst the things in her room after she died. Maybe she gave them away. She preferred to blend in rather than stand out. There really wasn’t much amongst her clothing worth hanging onto, but I have kept a bag of them for Kate to go through when she’s ready.

Elle new trousers

 20.23

I am finding it hard to enjoy Wimbledon this year even though it is one of my favourite annual sport tournaments. We took the dogs for a walk and they are both still panting—a combination of a good run and a very hot evening. I am feeling even angrier than I did at the start of the day. Angry and deeply disappointed that Elle was cheated out of a life that was getting better and better. Three months was all she got after this photo of her looking so at ease with who she was becoming. I know, I know. I am going to have to work through these feelings, but for today I shall allow myself this intense anger against the whole world and everyone who is alive.

9 July

I am feeling kinder and a little lighter today. Although I got bogged down in an anger flare-up yesterday, my faith and beliefs remain untarnished and undiminished. Thank goodness! To lose my faith would make it harder for me to stick around. Today is also Isaac’s first birthday. We have travelled a lot recently, and Kate and family will be with us again very soon, so we left them to have a barbecue celebration with their friends this year. But we definitely won’t miss his birthday next year.

It is also the eleventh full moon and I will no doubt do some moon bathing tonight but meanwhile the heat of the day is already ratcheting up. Our friend Rachel joined us for breakfast in the bakery café we can see below our living room window. We met her not long after moving to the island, and we have developed a strong friendship over the years. Elle practised chanting with Rachel and other members of one of the Buddhist groups on the island for quite a long period, but in her last year or two she mostly followed her own practice. This included silent meditations, chanting, drawing, walking in nature, and also practising the martial art, Wing Chun.

Around 5 pm last Thursday, Manu, a friend and also a Buddhist, had asked if she could come and chant in front of the butsudan, a small wooden cabinet, that houses Elle’s Gohonzon, a calligraphic mandala scroll awarded to students who have attained a certain level of practice. It sits on the desk in our study. This morning when Rachel and I were alone, she told me that while she was chanting last Thursday, a message came through from Elle. Apparently she regularly has ‘a word or two’ with her. What made the message more noteworthy was the coincidence that Rachel was chanting at the same time I was holding Elle’s prayer book and chanting with Manu in our apartment.

About three months ago, I had said to Peter, ‘You know what? I think I was built to cope!’ It was a statement that even took me by surprise. Today Rachel told me that Elle had said that she was never going to live a full life on earth, and that I was specifically chosen to be her mom because I was capable of detachment. Perhaps this is a contributing factor to why I identified at a young age that love and I were complicated bedfellows. I had certainly identified that Elle was in the process of detaching from me from the beginning of 2016, and it felt more like a necessary and natural process than something I should take personally. Rachel had found the message confusing, but nevertheless passed it on to me as it came to her. There are now two new adjectives that appear to describe me—stubborn and detached but I am fine with that, because I can see the positives and negatives of both states.

Peter and I are trying to settle into the difficult idea that perhaps Elle didn’t come to stay.

10 July

I do not use the word ‘epiphany’ lightly. I keep it for moments when I learn something fundamentally new that leads to a change in my framework of thinking. What I experienced during Pilates this morning I would call a mini epiphany. As I said before, I am not in the habit of engaging with mediums, and perhaps Elle would call it my innate stubbornness, but I believe it is not my place to seek ‘inside information’. Since my coffee with Rachel I have wondered why it is necessary for messages/information to come through a third person. What is wrong with telling me directly? This morning I got what seems like an answer loud and clear—sometimes it is necessary. While I am becoming adept at recognising a thought that arrives in my mind from the universe, the collective consciousness or the Oneness, I can see that there could be times when it is harder for me to make the distinction, and important that I hear it. Yesterday Elle gave me an important message through Rachel. It has helped me to come to terms with an aspect of myself that has caused self-criticism, self-disappointment and confusion at various times in my adult life. It has been tough too for Peter and the girls to understand why sometimes I don’t engage with things they feel I should. What I also understand is that detachment should not be confused with absence and perhaps it is better understood as non-attachment. It helps one to take a step backwards before reacting to situations, circumstances or consequences. I like to think that any ‘detaching’ I am doing these days has more to do with non-attachment. And yes, I do understand why it is necessary for messages sometimes to come to us through a third party, and maybe I should be more open to hearing what mediums can contribute to my understanding of who I am is—you know what I mean!

11 July

Today Peter and I met Natasha, the jeweller Elle worked for. It always feels good when we meet up with her and her sister Charlie. I had a few questions for her too. I am still trying to fill in some of the last few gaps in my understanding of what may have gone wrong, if that is what happened, for Elle in the last week of her life. I shall always have a deep fondness for both sisters.

12 July

At the moment I am happy, or should I say, comfortable with who I am. Rachel also told me that Elle said I would be happy again. I still want to reject that. I can only achieve happiness now as long as I am forgetting her for a while.

I have enjoyed listening to the odd Ted Talk for many years, but over the past year I have moved on and discovered the incredible volume of lectures and interviews available on YouTube. How wonderful to have access to all this material. Earlier I searched for ‘Jung and synchronicity’, and a whole array of options popped up. The first lecture to catch my eye was one by Stephan Hoeller talking about Jung and synchronicity, which led me on to Terry McKenna talking about his DMT experiences, and on to other related talks. By now you are familiar with my love of coincidences, otherwise referred to by me as road signs and, more importantly, synchronicities. I view my life as a journey that’s all about an earthly experience—a journey of self-discovery and purpose, and this can literally translate into another kind of journey that always excites me—a road trip. I loved being on the open road in South Africa, particularly on my own and from as soon as I passed my driving test. I regularly drove my blue and white Mini up to Knysna to join family or visit friends. The lecture I listened to this morning reminded me of the pleasure I got at the thought of miles of open road that lay ahead. All I had was a car radio which needed to be constantly tuned every few miles, so it was usually just me and my thoughts. I would fantasise about my future, review past events and reflect on the meaning of life.

Knysna is my maternal hometown. This sleepy town was, and some would say still is, one of the most beautiful places in the world, and it is where my parents met. There is sadness to this moment as well, because it is the place when my father’s first marriage came to an end. Knysna is the second name of Marion, my half-sister, who I was told of when I was eleven years old. The town sprawls along one side of a long and beautiful lagoon surrounded by hills and the magnificent Tsitsikamma forest of massive hardwood trees. There is not a lot left of this semi-rainforest which is the reason Knysna came into existence some centuries ago. In times long past the forest folk who felled these giant trees with axes were known as the Knysna woodcutters. They lived in little huts or cottages isolated even from each other and  rarely emerged from the forest. Their children did not attend school but were educated in the ways of the forest and raised to distrust everyone except fellow woodcutter families. The beautiful novel ‘Circles in the Forest’ by Dalene Matthee describes Knysna, the town folk, the woodcutters, the company that bought their wood, and the magnificent Knysna elephants that the woodcutters shared the forest with, who were said to be even larger than the elephants further north. I have a further special connection with this book as it mentions my mother’s grandfather who was the pilot guiding ships in and out through The Heads where the lagoon washed out into the Indian Ocean. As a young girl, my mother actually saw a small family of elephants at a picnic site called the Garden of Eden found between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

When Peter and I first visited Knysna together the Christmas after we met, I was keen to show him the forest, and we found ourselves unexpectedly in the front yard of a woodcutter’s cottage. The mother looked at us from behind a stable door while her children hid behind the trees, and from nowhere a huge wolf-like dog leapt onto the bonnet of our car and put his snarling face up against the windscreen. The whole experience felt primordial. Peter slammed the car into reverse, and managed to throw the dog off the car as we left at high speed, both admitting that we had lost our appetite for a forest experience too.

Immediately another memory surfaces, and one that I have thought of from time to time although I don’t know why. It is from just a few years earlier. I was eighteen and joyous that finally I had come to the end of my school years, and as usual our family was holidaying in Knysna. Some friends had invited me to join them, and the plan was to look for a house called Sugarhouse somewhere in the forest. I also want to mention that the big hit of the time in South Africa was Sugarman by Rodriguez, later to be the subject of a documentary called Searching for Sugarman.

This house was the centre of a massive manhunt in August 1969, a couple of years earlier, after Rosalind Ballingall, described by the press as a beautiful young hippy, disappeared while staying there. All we saw for a while were lots of trees whose canopy kept the light down. Eventually we entered a clearing, a grassy knoll, that rolled this way and that and bathed in sunlight, and then we came upon a woodcutter’s cottage. And yes, we were aware of being observed from behind a stable door by a tall slim woman in a headscarf. I must have been on high alert because I can still see the whole scene clearly and in full technicolour.

The house we were looking for was a little way beyond at the edge of the clearing. Unusually for the forest, and I cannot imagine how it was ever possible to get planning permission, it was a contemporary single storey building of brick, wood, and glass. We all felt spooked but being young this was part of the attraction. Around the back of Sugarhouse we found a studio with abandoned sculptures and an unlocked back door which we entered cautiously. It was even more eerie inside. We found empty bowls with porridge residue in them and newspapers scattered around in an area that seemed to be something of a sunken sitting room. It was apparently the home of a sculptor and his wife, and Rosalind had been staying there along with a few other people. While they may all have been referred to as hippies, it would probably be closer to the truth to describe them as New Agers, and Rosalind was a second-year drama student, the daughter of a prominent Cape Town family. What is accepted as fact is that she walked out into the forest with just a Bible, and her disappearance wasn’t reported for twenty-four hours, perhaps because house guests often went for long walks, or because the other residents didn’t want publicity so first searched for her themselves. There had been very heavy rains, which washed away any tracks, and nothing ever came to light about what happened there before, during or after her disappearance, and no arrests were made. It was reported though that the evening before her disappearance they had all been talking about the Book of Revelations in the Bible. This was also a time when most people were suspicious of this new sub-culture just arriving in South Africa, and viewed the hippy and drug culture to be somewhat anarchic, and theories and accusations abounded.

What got me thinking about Knysna this morning during the lecture on synchronicity was something my mother told me just a few years before she died. I had worked out sometime during my late teens that I was conceived ‘out of wedlock’, when that phrase was in common use. My mom and dad were courting, and he had taken her out on his speedboat and possibly the first in Knysna—I believe it was a Chris Craft from America. I have a photo of my mom in a headscarf and holding a cigarette, sitting on the bench seat at the rear of the boat with the lagoon at low tide in the background, showing a few islands and scattered sand banks. I have always loved this photo of her.

For a period during her later years, my mum lived with my sister Heather and her family, and we were visiting them in Barrydale over the Christmas holidays. I showed my mom a beautiful beaded ring I had just bought from Heather’s shop called Inkaroo. The tiny beads were in oceanic blues and greens mingled with a few that were iridescent. I told my mom it reminded me of the sea, particularly the Knysna lagoon. She ‘disappeared’ for a moment as if questioning herself before a smile crept across her face. Her eyes twinkled as she told me that I was conceived on a sandbank in the Knysna lagoon. She and my dad had gone out for a summer evening cruise and it must have been New Year’s Eve because I was born on 3 October, and I put my mother through three days of labour before being born by Caesarean. Probably a half century earlier neither of us would have survived that ordeal!

I like to think that they were overcome by the emotions of the season and the romance of the sunset, and passion took charge of my destiny. Apparently, they managed to call out to someone they knew passing by on another boat, to tell my mom’s mother, Lylia, that they were stuck on a sand bank and would return home with the high tide in the morning. I loved her so much in that moment for telling me the story of my conception. She was very sensitive to divulging information that might lead others to judge her badly. Many years before this moment Peter had told me that he was conceived in a tent on the Sand Banks near Poole, England! Too odd to be a coincidence but I can’t see what deeper meaning can be drawn from this, other than ‘all is written’. Or was someone having a laugh!

The links I am drawing on here are a bit random, but I enjoyed looking for them and more often than not, I find there is always some purpose in that. Unsure why I raised the Rosalind Ballingall mystery, I decided to look it up on Google and was surprised by what I found—a Stellenbosch University thesis written by a student (submitted in 2016) called The Riddle of Rosalind Ballingall: Poster girl for hippie counterculture in Cape Town in the late 1960s. I know it is random but there were many descriptions of Rosalind that resonated with what people had said about Elle.

This search led me to another thesis abstract submitted by a film student at the University of Cape Town in 2005, Memory, Time & Place in The Ballad of Rosalind Ballingall, by Nicole Schafer. What caught my attention immediately was an opening extract of a poem by TS Elliot, called ‘Burnt Norton’. It immediately appealed because of my regular tussles with time. This is what I read, and it is just the first part of ‘Burnt Norton’, which is itself only the first part of a quartet of poems:

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened

Into the rose-garden. My words echo

Thus, in your mind.

But to what purpose

Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

I do not know.

It is beautiful and worthy of a full reading. There is obviously a lot more to this poem but to sum it up in just a few words, he hoped to encourage people to leave their time-bound world and look into their ‘selves’. Many critics said that he had let himself down with the religious content while others believed it to be a masterpiece. T.S. Eliot begins with two quotes, or epigraphs, which were taken from fragments of the work of a pre-Socrate Greek philosopher Heraclitus which translate as:

  • Though wisdom is common, the many live as if they have wisdom of their own.
  • The way upward and the way downward is one and the same.

I have now also looked up Heraclitus, known as ‘the obscure’, and later the ‘weeping philosopher’, a man after my own melancholic heart, who is said to have ‘flourished’ between the years 504–501 BC. He may have lived a long time ago, but I am struck by how modern his thinking sounds. Exposing myself to the ancient philosophers for the first time is definitely helping my own jumbled thoughts become more coherent—well, at least to me! What a pity philosophy is not compulsory in schools from the age of ten years old. I could imagine children becoming more experimental in their thinking rather than losing interest and confidence in what they are being taught at such a young age. I can also imagine it impacting on all subjects. If I had been introduced to philosophy at school, it would have saved me a lot of time!

For the sake of ease, I am including this quote from Encyclopaedia Britannica on Heraclitus:

“Though he was primarily concerned with explanations of the world around him, Heraclitus also stressed the need for people to live together in social harmony. He complained that most people failed to comprehend the logos(Greek: “reason”), the universal principle through which all things are inter-related and all natural events occur, and thus live like dreamers with a false view of the world. A significant manifestation of the logos, Heraclitus claimed, is the underlying connection between opposites. For example, health and disease define each other. Good and evil, hot and cold, and other opposites are similarly related. In addition, he noted that a single substance may be perceived in varied ways—seawater is both harmful (for human beings) and beneficial (for fishes). His understanding of the relation of opposites to each other enabled him to overcome the chaotic and divergent nature of the world, and he asserted that the world exists as a coherent system in which a change in one direction is ultimately balanced by a corresponding change in another. Between all things there is a hidden connection, so that those that are apparently ‘tending apart’ are actually ‘being brought together’.”

I love his idea of the unity of duality, and it fits so well again with current thinking that we need to begin to understand the nonduality of the universe, that is its oneness, and that linear time is an illusion that keeps us trapped in our egos. Perhaps it is being able to understand the paradigm of duality within the paradigm of nonduality that is to be our new experience of the earthly school, another two becoming one. Nonduality is a conceptual state that is much easier to grasp at the abstract level which is why I think that only some people are able to know it, while few still can ‘live’ it. It is something like the ‘unitary’ experience I tried to describe but put more simply you could say that it is an experience or way of being without opposites and cannot be reconciled with emotions like anxiety, confusion, pain, sadness and fear. There is an acceptance of what is and living with attention and equanimity. That is as far as I am willing to try and describe it, and even so I think I have taken too many liberties—books have struggled to given a cogent understanding of it.

Many years ago—I would have been nineteen or twenty years old—Christina and I went to a lecture on transcendental meditation in Cape Town, my first introduction to this practice. There were some words I heard that night that stayed with me more or less intact for the rest of my life. It was only once we had the internet that I was able to search for a reference to them. This is how I remembered them:  when the left becomes the right and the right becomes the left, when the inside becomes the outside and the outside becomes the inside, then shall you have found the kingdom of Heaven. The words wrote themselves into the core of my being and I would say remained with me as a ‘truth’ my whole life, even if my understanding of them at the time was more on an abstract level. It makes me smile when I think of all the times I have quoted it to others and mostly caused confusion and probably some derision too. I now know it comes from the Gospel of Thomas, saying or logion 22, found many years ago at Nag Hammadi—the Dead Sea Scrolls:

Jesus saw some infants who were being suckled. He said to his disciples: These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom. They said to him: If we then become children, shall we enter the kingdom? Jesus said to them: When you make the two one, and when you make the inside as the outside, and the outside as the inside, and the upper as the lower, and when you make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male is not male and the female not female, and when you make eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then shall you enter [the kingdom].

The reason I am including this in my book is because it is a good example of how I pay attention to the many things, which I now call ‘dots’, that have happened in my life and which before I saw as simply random events. This event, that took place before my unitary or universal experience, kind of gave me a mantra that has occasionally cropped up in my thoughts and conversations all my life but I have only recently realised how deep a meaning they carry for me, and how much they explain who I am. I see how much clarity they bring to so many of the dots that are highlighted in my ‘playbacks’.

So while the Knysna links may be tenuous, I have certainly enjoyed my rich pickings.

13 July

While showering after a lovely swim this morning, I was thinking about Kate and felt a need to speak to her. I try not to call her during the time after lunch because this is when she is writing or taking a rest. I had just finished dressing when she called me. I sensed she needed to talk. She says she has had a few big self-revelations lately. So much of what she is learning about herself is coming out of her recent writings. I remember her saying soon after Elle died that she believed they were ‘made of the same stuff’. Like one coin whose sides face in different directions, I remarked back immediately. Kate is thirty-four years old and I couldn’t help but see the synchronicity in that I had had my thirty-fourth birthday in Spain when my friend Christina was visiting, during those few months when Peter and I had separated. Kate is now the same age, and that separation came up in today’s conversation. It was the acausal ‘collision’ that brought those two events to mind and marks the importance of the moment so the meaning can be revealed.

It seems to me that our thirties can be a time when we start to look back and see what our twenties have been about for the first time, with a new kind of fragile awareness of the passing of time, and if we are lucky, an understanding of a need to value life more. We are all of us locked into our egos, that we can become as islands surrounded by a sea of aloneness. I was told a long time ago that the word ‘alone’ comes from a combination of the Middle English words, ‘all’ and ‘one’. Again the unity of opposites! I think Heraclitus would like that one.

July 14

A thought crossed my mind yesterday and I can quite see how it could be thought of as careless.

Since Elle died I find I worry less about the future of the world, and equally what will become of me and all those I love. I am convinced much more is going on than we can easily comprehend, and that we’re here for an earthly experience in the school in life, and we may as well get on with whatever it is we need to learn, and stop worrying about what we cannot control or change.

It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here, or that I don’t care about all that is happening. It just means that I am less fearful than before, and please God, no more testing on this! Because I now love more people and more deeply, I find I ‘miss’ more, I enjoy music more and hear more of what it has to say to me, I understand poetry better, I see more beauty around me, I don’t let negative or unwanted thoughts linger in my mind except to know and understand them better, and I don’t shy away from being in a sad place with thoughts of Elle, either. Whatever I am doing by the one hand, my sadness is always in the other hand. Yet I have moments of joy when I want to shout from the rooftops, and I love this path of learning I am taking myself on. If not for my time spent writing, I don’t think I could have coped with the loss of my child. It also fulfils my need to share Elle with the world—no doubt something that every parent who loses a child feels. You want their life to count and the loss of it to matter.

At the moment we are planning a beach picnic on 30 August to watch the sun rise. Our friend Mal will sing the song he wrote for Elle as we watch the sun rise on a day that never dawned for her a year ago. A few friends and family will join us, while others who cannot because of their commitments say they will join us in spirit. Kate won’t be with us because of the way Alex’s annual leave worked out this year, but we will bring her here with the help of FaceTime. This is the last of the shared events we will arrange. It will be the end of a momentous year for all the wrong reasons. In future, anyone who wants to join us as we mark her birth and death days will have to seek us out. Life must go on. It is what it is, but for us, her family, we will keep a photo of her forever in our left breast pocket, our hearts.

15 July

Greg invited us for supper last night, and it is always worth turning up for one of those! His house is rather like finding yourself lingering on one of life’s crossroads—not surprising that we call the roundabout outside his front door the Magic Roundabout. Last night an unexpected meeting provided me with a possible insight into what Elle’s last few days may have been like, and a challenging glimpse of what could have been a different outcome for her. Not long after we arrived Greg got a phone call, and I heard him say, “Yes, come over, and you can see my sister as well.” We were seated for our dinner when his friend Ester—the Spanish version of Esther—arrived. I still regularly look up the derivation and meaning of names, and her name means not surprisingly ‘star’, or may also come from the name Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat and political power—wow, a lot of duties! She gave Peter and me a long Elle hug—we know these when they happen—and then sat down next to me at the head of the table.

I will introduce some background information to strengthen my point about this particular synchronicity. In 2014 Greg was offered a kitchen, bathroom and living space in this house on the beautiful roundabout near San Carlos. A year later he had the chance to take over the whole house, at a time when he was ready for the extra responsibility. The two ladies who were originally renting the whole house had taken on a shop in San Carlos, so they no longer needed the extra rooms to store the stock for their market stalls on the island. Greg was then asked to fit out their new shop, which we have a good view of from our current living room window. 2015 was their first season of business, and Ester ran the shop for the owners. During that season a number of my family visited the shop, and Elle most of all.

Ester soon started describing how Elle would come in and try on various things. There were a couple of standout jackets she liked. Ester told us that she would pop in from time to time to try them on, but just couldn’t make up her mind as to whether she wanted to buy one or even which one she liked best. She had told me about them. I still find it mysterious that the little she told me of her separate life seems to have covered most people and some connective events, and the little information that it was has been even more useful to me since she died. That winter, aware that she needed a warm jacket, I encouraged her to get the one she liked most, but she didn’t. Once again, she satisfied her humble need to keep warm by borrowing a coat from her sister.

Ester said she understood Elle’s hesitancy because she was like that herself. She was drawn towards beautiful things but she too didn’t want to stand out. She really did understand Elle. And the more she described herself, her early years and various experiences, the more I recognised how similar they were. She talked about her interest in different religions in her twenties, and of experiencing a Sabbath ritual at a house on the island around the age of twenty-five, and how it led her to an interest in Judaism. She was born into a Spanish Catholic family, and said that San Miguel, or Saint Michael, is her protector, and Zen is now her chosen practice because it is the least judgmental of the religious paths. The mention of Saint Michael again resonated. Elle wrote his name a number of times in her final notebook. The more Ester talked, and it was more of a monologue than a conversation, the more closely I listened because she was touching on so many of my‘dots’. She mentioned how struck she was that the Israelis wore only white during the Sabbath ritual. This immediately gave some meaning to my powerful instinct for everything to be white during the week after Elle’s death, including the white dress and white rose to accompany her in the coffin. It came upon me instantly out of nowhere but I held onto this need for dear life. As I said, I was not prompting Ester at all, but I felt aware of the gift of this meeting as it was happening.

It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to record all Ester shared with me in the lead-up to and including the description of her first psychotic episode, except that she mentioned a need to be free of clothes (wanting nothing to hide her from the world), a strong association with water through which she heard voices from other dimensions, her inability to sleep, and lack of interest in eating, and that opening herself to love was a key factor in her moments of crisis. I know the link to water is a leap too far, but I couldn’t help remembering the doctor telling me that Elle had been listening to the world through liquid in her middle ears for the first four years of her life. Ester described herself as too sensitive at times—an empath as Elle had described herself to me—and told me how she has had to fight back the forces of darkness from her life. It was an uncannily familiar story. She went on to tell me that when she felt drained, it was as though the darkness sensed this and rushed in to fill the space—a pattern I recognise again. Elle was doing far too much that summer. Is this what happened to her? Ester now deals with dark thoughts by instantly pressing the ‘delete’ button. I know what she means, because I do this too, but I am learning that it is more important to take note of them, mull over them, and see what they can teach me about myself. Suppression or deletion of dark thoughts is more likely going to slow down our evolution to becoming effective and well-rounded individuals. It is fear that will darken our doorways more than anything else we come up against.

All the time she was telling me about her life I couldn’t help looking at this beautiful lady of thirty-five and thinking that with time, Elle could have arrived at this place too. During Ester’s psychosis she ran to San Miguel church, and someone who noticed her agitation called an ambulance. She was taken against her wishes to a hospital where they seated her with medication for fifteen days. The doctor then told her she was bipolar, and would need medication for the rest of her life. She felt angry with her parents for keeping her there, but later identified that anger as directed more towards the universe, and not because of anything her parents had or had not done.

I should have done this for Elle. My concern not to take away her dignity, which at the time felt overwhelming but now seems neglectful, had prevented me from returning from northern Spain, and while I tried hard to think of someone I could send over to help her, without seeming to interfere or take control, I just couldn’t come up with a name. With hindsight I can think of two who would have been more than adequate, and should have been obvious to me. I will never understand why their names eluded me at the time. There were times I sensed that Elle was angry with me and her family during the final year of her life. It didn’t come out in anything she said, but more in facial expressions when we talked. I raised it with her once, and she told me that she knew the anger she felt was unreasonable and that she didn’t understand it herself. Sometimes she would ‘walk it away’ around the kitchen island, and I would watch her pain and wonder why I was so useless to her. I felt so inadequate when she had these meltdowns although she would usually seek me out, perhaps just to keep her company as she worked through it. I have learnt so much since her death, and I am sure that I would be more useful to her now. But these moments of anger certainly did not dominate her daily life. Most of the time she appeared calm, contented and effective in the way she went through her daily routines, and it certainly seemed to be more so in the last year.

I know a lot of people, on reading this, will say ‘ah, yes, but this is typical of bipolar behaviour’. And yes, typical of something, but not of manic-depression. The changes in Elle’s moods could happen so quickly—she could oscillate a few times in just a day. Sometimes I think that bipolar is just the easiest label to apply to a variety of conditions that are hard to identify because we don’t have the knowledge to yet. If we did know more perhaps the term ‘mental illness’ would not be how we describe it. As it has reached epidemic levels in Western society, with no-one untouched by it, it certainly is the most comfortable way of dealing with it.

Ester said that at times she has used medication to deal with a situation before it became a crisis. She has an eleven-year-old daughter who is her grounding force and the source of her energy, and she wants to make sure her daughter never fears for her mother’s health, and to know that she can rely on the love and support she still needs from her mother. Even though she is not in a relationship with her daughter’s father, she says they are still a family.

I had an obvious question for Ester. How did she feel about having to take medication, and how did the pills affect her? She said one of the medications was lithium, and yes, she hated having to take it. She had also been told she could never have children because of it, and that it effectively made her into a ‘zombie’. But as this was her only route out of the psychiatric ward, she cooperated. She was in hospital for quite a while and she said she found group therapy the most helpful, as the group members didn’t call her crazy but listened without judgement to what she had to say. Her memory of this period seemed crystal clear—something I wouldn’t have thought possible if one were in the throes of psychosis brought on by mental illness. Yes, she said, she had total recall.

As she came to the end of her flow she looked deep into my eyes, and I know she saw my pain. She seemed to understand that I was listening to a story that could have been Elle’s. She had survived to tell it, but Elle had left. ‘But we must remember,’ she said to me, ‘we have no idea what God’s plan is for any of us.’ She spoke of the spirit of Elle that is around everywhere, and close to us. And as suddenly as she arrived, she disappeared from the table.

Peter wasn’t able to hear our conversation easily. He also finds it hard to listen to others who talk about the Elle they knew, or to witness mental and emotional difficulties, so he found a quiet spot instead where he could listen to Greg’s music.

On arriving home I felt like zoning out for a while, switched on the television and ended up watching a programme called ‘One Born Every Minute’. The young woman having a baby had been struck by a car as a child, affecting her both physically and mentally, but she had a very special husband who was going to make sure she got the help she needed to raise their baby daughter. There was so much love all around her. While I say that her mental faculties had been damaged, there was still a kind, perceptive and thinking person there, and I could see why her husband had fallen in love with her. They called their daughter Elizabeth. The next moment it pops into my head—what I had experienced with Ester was from left field, but so illuminating, and both painful and hopeful. It felt like Elle was helping me to understand who she was, and how to accept what had happened. I know I can never be sure this isn’t just wishful thinking, but that is what keeps me humble. That night I spent a moment with her while looking into my eyes in the bathroom mirror. I told her I had heard her. I thanked her for her guidance and requested that she keep guiding me. During the night I had one of a type of panic attacks I have had for the past four years. I will say no more about it, except that it is called proctalgia fugax, which you can look up on Google. After my first one I visited a doctor and when I told him what I had experienced he immediately responded that I didn’t need to worry—that it was a form of a panic attack. Since then they have mostly occurred in my life at times of stress. My own research tells me that they are not an indication of a deeper medical problem, they only happen at night which I know to be true, and that the medical profession doesn’t have any further answers on the condition. I am satisfied with my South African doctor’s advice—something tells me he knows more than he is letting on.

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.

IMG_1330

 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.

Good Grief – Part Eight

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.

1 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!

chicory for book

2 May

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.

3 May

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:

Elle,

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

R 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.

4 May

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.

IMG_1789

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.

5 May

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.

6 May

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.

7 May

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?

8 May

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.

9 May

Our house sitters have arrived to take care of Kito and Zac so we can go to Italy for a week. Lots to organise.

10 May

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!

P1000093.JPG

The view from our roof terrace – beautiful Umbria

11 May

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.

12 May

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.

13 May

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.

14 May

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)

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

15 May

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.

  1. 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.

16 May

It is going to be a rough ride to Rome airport later tonight for our early flight to Ibiza.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

19 May

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.

20 May

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.

  1. It felt as if I was talking to people with more wisdom and equanimity.
  2. 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.

21 May

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

22 May

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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

23 May

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.