Loss and Opportunity (Que Será, Será)

By Tessa, 65. Somers, VIC

It came as a shock. Mid-morning, I was about to make coffee. My niece had died, suddenly. It was savage.

It had been six months since her mother, my sister, died. A stroke and she was gone within 24 hours. There was nothing they could do, they said. It was devastating. 

My sister, my niece, both gone. Barely time to draw air, between the two.

This is it, life and death. Part of the cycle. Deal with it, they say.  

As the world turns, every moment someone is born, someone dies. That’s not counting carnage of war or loss through natural disaster. Now we add the pandemic-like daily routine. “What’s the numbers today?” we asked. We were obsessed. It was exhausting.

Now, the count floats by, I barely hear. But I’m grieving. Every day I wish they were both still alive. I keep tally of my own numbers.

I’m not grizzling, and no cynic either. Just catching my breath and keeping up. My feet drag some days.

And all this while adjusting to semi-retirement, realising I’m less visible in the world and trying to slow the pace down. Around me, so much loss. Sometimes it oozes. In the trees and leaves that hang outside my window. Through the breeze and even the sky that’s painted blue. But on this sunny morning it disappears for a tick, and nothing matters. In the still quiet of the house, there is a peace.

The heaviness of death lightens with time. Healing occurs, they say. I wish. Wish it was straightforward, neat, easy. Wish I didn’t miss sister so much. Wish she wasn’t in everything I do. But not really, because mostly, I’m glad she is. But it’s a rough knot when I can’t ring her and say, “Sissy, when I made the bed this morning, I thought of how you make yours — like a work of art!” And though I didn’t like her mountain of pillows and cushions, I wish they were here.

So, I come to the page. When tears won’t fall, and I slump and wait for the words to draw them out. And when I walk to the shore as part of my every day, the waves wash them from my face. The sea air soothes my broken heart and refills hope for tomorrow in my soul. In this sleepy part of the world, I recover.

Getting older doesn’t seem to help my grief either. It draws closer the proximity of my own death and the reality of waning years ahead. That and the fact that so many I know have died. It’s not morbid, just real. Not drowning, just treading water and waving arms.

And I manage this loss, through reflection. As a way of making sense. But how does one hold and carry change and loss, through this time at our age? How do we find contentment and novelty in the present, and sparks that give fire to tomorrow?  

Is it in what we do, who we spend our time with and the choice about how that happens? Is it luck, coincidence?  Does our resilience and wellbeing count?

How do we make ourselves detectable in a world that forgets to see and hear who we are, what we know, where we’ve been?  As our worlds begin to shrink, how do we make sure we count?

Getting older doesn’t seem to help my grief either. It draws closer the proximity of my own death and the reality of waning years ahead. That and the fact that so many I know have died. It’s not morbid, just real. Not drowning, just treading water and waving arms.

It would be easy to curl up, complain and spend my nights yelling at news on the television.  It’s tempting. Sometimes, I do.

Then, in the midst of my late sister’s daughter’s loss, I won tenure as Digital Writer In Residence with our local regional writing group. It was no small feat, and I did a small happy dance about the room.

But I couldn’t share it within my usual family and social networks because of my niece’s loss. It wasn’t respectful.

So, tell me, how I hold the loss of death against the joy of achievement and opportunity? Within a heart that’s breaking with grief and bursting with joy, at the same time. The shine is dulled and the place I find myself is in quiet retreat. Not moving backwards, not running forwards either. The achievement is not diminished, but the savour is. With no thrill, no celebration, I’m standing still, inside a hollow.

Do I wait in the clutch of these extremities, or do I leap forward and hope the net will appear? I’m not sure. Other than I have a sense that with both recent events, I haven’t properly connected with either.

This morning, as the sun kisses the trees outside my window, they stand poised in dawn light. The sky, with a soft glow holds promise in the day ahead.  I ask, does it matter that I am not sure? Because as they say, what will be, will be. No need to push the river, apparently. It will flow by itself. 

I’m optimistic.

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lomallee
lomallee
7 months ago

That was a beautiful piece of writing Tessa. Loss is made more difficult as we age and as our peer group diminishes there are less people to share our memories, and help us to cope.

Tessa Moriarty
Tessa Moriarty
7 months ago

Thank you Lomallee. You are absolutely right and I appreciate your acknowledgement.

sailorbill7
sailorbill7
7 months ago

They say time cures all , It doesn’t we remember & weep , Remember the good times .