Sunday morning, 9am. The day starts up: a plane drones over; a lawnmower comes to life down the street. The cats and I have had breakfast. When I start late, it works for me to meditate after breakfast, not before, though that's against all the 'rules'. Feeling hungry is too much distraction. And life itself distracts; if I decide to do it before lunch instead, I might never get to it.
I like to come out here early, when the day is fresh. The machinery noises have gone now, and some nearby bird is chirping, softly and briefly. It is the first day of Spring. This time last year, Adam went home (back to Melbourne) in the afternoon, after visiting Andrew in Heritage Lodge in the morning. He had been here several days, and felt there was no more he could do, as well as no more he could stand.
'Goodbye, Dad,' he said, knowing it as the final goodbye. Andrew was deeply loved by all his children, and loved them deeply. Remembering, I'm struck by the sadness in that moment. At the time, it was one piece of a larger, ongoing, all-encompassing sadness.
On the first of September last year I wrote a poem (a tanka):
the time of new life
my dear love
makes ready to travel
to the Summerlands
And indeed, two days later he went. The anniversary is now so close! I cannot believe a year has gone by already. A year in which I have been focused on getting through grief and widowhood as best I could, a day at a time. I am reminded of what my psychiatrist said, many years ago when I was in therapy: 'Just keep putting one foot after the other —and after awhile, if you look back over your shoulder, you'll see that you've travelled quite a way.' Yes, a whole year, step by step.
I feel as if I am only now beginning to adjust. I suppose it took that year-long journey to bring me to this point. I recall our flight to look at Everest in 1998, which revealed that it's a heck of a hike even to get to Base Camp — an arduous journey in itself, even before starting the actual ascent. I guess I've just reached Base Camp. This, I acknowledge, is an achievement in itself.
I don't expect to proceed very differently. I'll go on step by step. But for climbing a mountain, different plans and preparations must be made. You have to make sure you are physically fit. I'm working on it! You have to make sure you have the equipment you need. I've just upgraded various household appliances that conked out ... and I have my friends, my cats and my writing. You have to be in the right frame of mind. I meditate regularly now.
My neighbour next door has woken up and is giving the repeated, phlegmy cough with which he always starts the day. I think I'm bad, with the throat-clearing that goes on at night when I hit the pillow! If I drink olive leaf extract, that fixes it. This guy is much worse; but it seems to be a first-thing-in-the-morning occurrence, not lasting through the day.
We all continue doing our lives the best way we can. Until we stop.
This day, every year, is the birthday of my dear niece, Ellie. This day last year I didn't ring her. Couldn't quite come at saying, 'Happy Birthday — and by the way, Andrew's at death's door [uncontrollable sobs].' I deferred the call until some days after he died. But I'll phone today, in a little while.