Tomorrow is my sister's birthday, she would have been fifty-eight. It is now five months since she died. I think of her most of the time; more, in truth, than I did when she was alive, perhaps I didn't need to do so then. But that's fine, she ain't heavy. The thought of her is there in more or less everything I do, but I don't have to keep making reference to it. I've written bits and pieces about her, but I've mostly been content to let them sit and settle for a bit. However, perhaps now's the time to start going over some of them. I've tinkered around with this one for a while, taking a bit in here and letting a bit out there...
Someone who isn't conventionally religious, but who I suppose believes quite a number of things I can safely say I don't, wrote me a very kind message shortly after my sister died, in which she said she had become 'pure spirit'. I usually mistrust that kind of thing, whether from mainstream religion or its alternatives, as rather glib and precious, but I found I was comfortable with this, perhaps partly because she also said a number of other things which were intelligent and not glib, but also it just felt OK. My sister had little time for anything that might be called religious or spiritual.
Being pure spirit
Being pure spirit suits you, it's what you did so well.
Why must we get so heavy when we die?
What's mortal remains with a weighty horror, then
a dreadful gravity of absence.
But you would make light of even this, and,
if we chose, with nothing mystical,
mysterious, spooky, kooky,
fey or strange, and - heaven forbid! -
nothing religious, your spirit could continue
with us. If we chose. You know,
the one which used to ask 'Well, in the end,
does it really matter?' Which shrugged and said
'That kind of stuff - like God, and dogs,
and fussing over food - is just not something that I do.
I'll leave that to the rest of you!' And smiled.
The one which used so easily that well-worn phrase
that women - wives and mothers, sisters, aunts -
will always say, but won't quite always mean - you did:
I want you to be happy.
There will be a gathering in Sydney tomorrow of friends and family who are in that part of the world to mark her birthday, so I'm putting this up now as they are ten hours ahead of us there. Tom, Molly and I are off tomorrow to our beautiful retreat on the Bay of Morlaix, which, by serendipitous, or whatever, grace, we happened on when we felt the need to get away back then in April. We loved it so much we booked these few days for Tom's birthday, which is the day after my sister's, on Friday. I am intensely, deeply, quietly (fairly quietly anyway!), full of joy and delight at the thought of being there again.
See you next week.