A four-foot box, a foot for every year*

*Taken from Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

It was horrible here yesterday.

I’ve got a million other bits of grief going on … Mossy’s sister-in-law died unexpectedly at the age of 38 a couple of days ago. She was being kept on life support so her organs could be harvested. If this isn’t sad enough on its own, she was seven months pregnant. The baby was born by C-Section. She leaves behind Mossy’s brother and a two-year old. I know it’s corny, but all I can wish is that there is a heaven and it was short two angels. There can’t be many reassurances in this, and heaven is cold comfort when she has left behind a broken family.

I’ve done little but cry about it. It reminds me so much of Andy, who would be 33 this year, perhaps a family man. I was sad too, reading over posts from after Christmas and re-reading my words about Rra Matakoni from the Number One Ladies Detective Agency. Sometimes life is very hard indeed. I can only hope it is rewarded. It’s the only comfort I can find. It’s hard to think that it all ends – just ends – and that once it’s gone, it’s gone. I don’t like that. No wonder we believe in angels. The idea of atheism is very cold and I’m not sure I can live with it.

I picked some snowdrops yesterday and put them in a vase – was remembering Seamus Heaney’s Mid-Term Break. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s about the death of his brother and how he comes home to find his father crying. He says ‘He had always taken funerals in his stride’ – unfortunately, I’m too sensitive and selfish to do so. Death is always personal to me, especially such a tragic one. The poignancy of it is almost too much to bear. The snowdrops gave me little cheer. Luckily, I’m surrounded by animals who it is impossible not to be giddy about.

There are many other things underfoot with stuff – I can’t say what they are – but they aren’t good and it’s a long time since I’ve been so distressed. I’m bone-tired and sleep doesn’t come easy to me. I need a little comfort and I’m finding it in my sister, of course, my friends Joanne and Deb… and I thank them for that. And Jakey boy, who I love to pieces. He knows how to make me smile 🙂

Perhaps in death do we find the solace of other people, of other arms.

I’m reminded of Edna St Vincent Millay’s sonnet:

Time does not bring relief

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go – so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, ‘There is no memory of him here!’
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

It’s cold cheer indeed to know that time does not bring relief. Each day is a little easier to cope with, but I think all happiness is tainted with the sadness of them not being there for ever more. The Japanese have a phrase for the sadness caused by the transience of life: mono no aware. And for ever more, you carry this like a shadow over every moment in your life. At best, you can see the departed as a guiding light, a star watching over you, remind yourself that at the very least they live on in you; your memories keep them alive. You seek to make that sadness, that shadow, into a rainbow and carry them with you forever.



3 thoughts on “A four-foot box, a foot for every year*

  1. I’m very sorry the family has seen such a tragic loss, Justine. I love Edna St. Vincent Millay, too, but I have to believe that if time can’t heal a wound, it can still mute it. Here’s to softer, less sorrowful times.

    1. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, sadly. And for the Moss family, it’ll be a long time before it starts to fade, I guess. I remember my grandma not being able to visit the places she’d been with my grandfather after he died; and then going to new places thinking only ‘how he would have loved this place!’

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