Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ashes

I had to pose a question to people a number of weeks ago.  Dumb struck, lost for words, and crying I asked my facebook pals: How do you live with something that cannot be undone?  Any of you reading along for the last few months will know the news that my Dad died recently.  His wishes were to be cremated and his ashes thrown out to sea.  I was cool with this and actually loved the poetry of this action.  The ocean plays a strong part in my life historically, and it is where I feel calm and happy.

Mum had spent weeks dealing with the paperwork associated with Dad's death and tidying up his affairs.  She was dealing with her own grief and juggling baby sitting my niece and nephew over the school holidays.  She rang me and started to mention catching up with friends who couldn't make the funeral because they were interstate.  But before I knew it I was confused by what she was saying.  And here's where my facebook question comes into focus.  She told me how she and friends had spent the day casting Dad's ashes.

Silence.  I couldn't speak.  This was more than a surprise for me - it was a complete shock.  I had thought she'd ask us kids to be there and we'd say our final farewell to Dad together.  But he'd gone.  No warning.  No asking if I wanted to come along.  Nothing.  It was done and there is no way of undoing this.  I think I cried for the next 48 hours.

Friends are wonderful and they were trying their best to offer alternatives for me to say my final goodbye to Dad.  Writing a letter, burning it and casting those ashes to the ocean.  Flowers thrown to the tides.  All sorts of heartfelt, supportive, loving suggestions.  I love my dear friends, but inside I couldn't get past the fact that this would be different.  It could never be the same as actually being there.  This hurt more than I ever would have imagined considering the complicated relationship I had with Dad.

I spoke to Mum a number of days later.  She was naturally upset that I was upset by all this.  She offered to take me to where it happened and we can say farewell together.  I'd still like to do something myself, perhaps with Peter holding my hand.  And somehow, after about a week, I took a deep breath and had to let the pain go.  There was no changing the situation.  It wasn't done with malice, but rather in a haze of grief.  It was hard, but not moving on from this was only hurting me.  Of course the feeling of bizarre disbelief and outrage from my husband and friends helped me feel that my reaction was perfectly understandable.  Somehow this really helped too!

I checked in recently with my friend (again, let's call her my psychologist) as the last time I'd seen her Dad had just died.  It's great to run things past someone objective and supportive...and constructive.  I mentioned the word 'closure' and I swear she visibly shifted in her chair.  I was saying how I was proud that I could let the pain of Dad's ashes go, but there were somethings that it's hard to get closure on.  Her take: perhaps there's no such thing a closure.  Perhaps it's a process and sometimes that process of learning to live with something or letting pain go can take a really, really, REALLY long time.  You never just wake up one day and feel at peace with something that has been traumatic.  Sometimes you need to work at this, over the course of your life.

I guess we all have incidences that have hurt us.  I find the pain caused by my Ex and our messy breakup hard to get over.  Deep down there are things that stick.  A friend once said to me 'you never get over some things, but you learn to live with them'.  And I guess I'm reminded of these words now.  There will always be things that sting and hurt, but if we're lucky we learn to keep getting out of bed and live our lives.  We can carry on, see the beauty in life and feel happiness.  And maybe one day those feelings will put the pain into perspective.

Thank you Peter and my dear friends for answering my question.  Life would be poorer without you, and with your help I always see the beauty.