I’m sorry I went uncharacteristically quiet for a while there. The sadness made me paper-thin, so that just breathing, opening my eyes and looking at my surviving loved ones felt so hard. Thank god for that automatic breathing reflex thing hey. Because I certainly couldn’t have bothered doing it consciously.
When a little more energy did well up in me, there were some other very big calls on it – trying not to turn on Rima and instead trying to hold hands, even though we were in very different places within our own grief, and preparing for the fortieth day memorial service last Sunday. On the Rima front, I think we hit the bottom and are now working our way back to the surface – trying to take care of each other this time.
And the memorial? It was hard but good – in that painfully satisfying way. We felt so loved, both by our loved ones there and by the loved ones who couldn’t be there in person but sent us so much love and support in other ways. It felt bizarrely like a wedding (perhaps because my dad & stepmum got married there nearly 12 years ago) – except for the volume of the weeping. While we’re still not allowed a legit wedding in this country, Rima and I are now wedded in this grief.
Somehow time disappeared and although we’d gotten there about two hours early, we didn’t get a chance to test the music system – with the result that none of the music played properly. We would get the first few stanzas and then it flickered in and out and was awful to listen to. I was cranky about it, but Rima was very philosophical and calmed me with little pats on the arm. Sadly, Kerri Simpson (an amazing soul singer and friend of my mum’s) had to taken her partner to hospital that morning, so she couldn’t sing as planned. And old friend stepped into the breach less than 20 minutes before the service, which was lovely, so at least we had some music.
An hour before things started, I left things in everyone else’s hands and hobbled off to the beach with Rima, my sister and my brother. Jez and I went in – him rapidly like an otter (his stubbly beard helps the otter effect) and me slowly, letting the water lap its way up my broken body. It was warmer than the usual antarctic temperature, crystal clear and very little seaweed.
I dived down and opened my eyes – feeling for the bottom with my hands. I came up, rolled onto my back and let myself float. How many days and hours since I last did that – but in Sydney in the ocean baths and with Haloumi also floating inside me? And I thought of the spectacle I presented then – my belly popping above the water like a fleshy island. The girls had thought it was hilarious when I took them to the pool and did backstroke – my belly sinking and rising with each stroke.
Now my fleshy island was just a wrinkly belly below the surface. I sobbed and let my tears mingle with the big salty sorrow of the sea.
And, as always happens when I float like that, I realised that I’d stopped being aware of time, and startled back into myself. But when I opened my eyes and rolled over, Jez was floating right there beside me.
Gratuitous otter pic from here
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