A couple of things happened on the road in America. I guess life has a way of showing you things through odd timing that way.
Throughout the trip, blogging and uploading, I was accessing my email where possible to keep tabs on things at home in the UK and home in Australia. My Aunt has been fighting cancer, my Mum went out to Oz to be there with her through the hard times and the better moments.
I had a birthday early in the trip and felt sort of old. It was a sort of “nothingy” birthday one you don’t mind being away for . I’ve never been particularly good at parties. A birthday like that makes you feel grown up. The pink parties and candles are long gone and you get on with things. Maybe you tick a different box on forms, that’s all.
Shortly afterward, I got an email about home. My Dad wrote to let me know that my aunt was heading into morphine territory. The end was getting close. I called my Mum.
I sat in a motel room and listened to her voice cry across miles. In all my travels I’ve never felt quite so far away and still really close to her. I cried too, about being that close, about loss on the horizon and knowing that my Mum would be doing he best possible job of loving and being there. I hoped that she was not feeling too alone. She told me she was glad to hear my voice and I felt as though a million tiny shards of sparkling glass were passing through me.
I wrote to my Dad. I told him about the call and wondered if he was doing ok. All three of us on separate continents sharing the same grief. It felt as though my sense of home was spread around the world. I guess it really is people and not places.
A day or so later, the email came. My Aunt was gone. No more hospital, no more morphine, no more cancer to fight with. It made me feel not old or experienced at all. I’m too young to know much about losing people that close to me. Grief arrived as a rush of love and the feeling that there was nowhere to send it anymore. Gone.
I walked out of another motel room into blazing heat to call my Dad. I couldn’t find the right things to say. I talked about practical stuff. Around me, unfamiliar people, a strange car park and a place I did not know. We got in the car and I couldn’t say it.
I can’t seem to believe when it comes to religion, but that day was somewhat glorious. We had seen empty blue skies, but for that morning, perfect white wisps of cloud appeared creating beautiful shapes. As a child I imagined other people thought that a heaven would be in the clouds and that day I had some to look at. From time to time I cried a little bit, hot winds in through the open car window pushed them away and dried them on my cheeks. Miles and miles passed by.
Over the following days until the end of the trip, small pockets of grief turned up. I didn’t see the end, so I remember her from late night phone calls, laughing so much on my night shifts at work, during her days on he other side of the world. My Aunt never married, travelled the world and looked after my grandmother. She always had the wickedest sense of humour in the family and meant so much that I have some trouble processing that she is not around anymore to call. Grief is a selfish thing sometimes.
Hours of travelling overnight and I made it back home. Tired and plane weary, I was unpacking, making tea, sorting out laundry and post.
An envelope had arrived from Australia. I knew what it would be before I opened it. Life has an odd sense of timing when you come home to a birthday card from a dead loved one. Finally I had a moment to pour it all out and write some of this down. I talked to my Dad and we remembered how brilliant she is and that at least there was no suffering for her at the end. I still can’t find religion, but on her travels, I think she would have appreciated that bright day with all those clouds.
JK – I hate mawkish advice. But if you get a moment to tell people you love them, it’s probably a good idea.