Death does keep a calendar
March 7th has rolled around again. With little fanfare. Sorry Dad.
It’s not that there’s no thought, just that where do you fit even a thought in amidst regular 16 hour work days, kids, washing and whatever else people need. Life keeps trucking and unless you book a time to acknowledge the ones you love who’ve gone, then the moment disappears. And the truth is, unless you acknowledge it, no one else will. Keeping memories alive comes down to us, the ones still here.
A calendar of death. Sounds dramatic. And depressing. And I guess it is. But that is a thought that often springs to mind. My kids countdown to who’s next on the birthday list. I count down to who’s got the next death-iversary!
In the last 5 years my calendar has become peppered with death days. Sometimes it feels oppressive, like there’s always something looming, something I should do in recognition of Dad, Nina and Molly. There’s a welling of feelings that floats for weeks before, and then a closure, a feeling of, ‘well, there, it’s done for another year’. And also a feeling of disappointment. The moment of recognition that they were people, they happened, and they mattered, is gone.
Perhaps there’s a guilt that surrounds those days – a feeling that if I don’t put enough effort into them then, that I’m losing my love for those precious people. I mean, I wouldn’t get away with doing that little for my living kids! (Ask them! They’ve got birthday ideas planned years in advance).
It sounds silly I know, but we love these people that are gone, and sometimes doing something physical feels more meaningful than just having our head wrapped in thoughts of them all day. Perhaps doing that something physical is an outward sign of your grief and your love for them? It’s the one day where expressions of grief are allowed and normal, rather than awkward and unspoken. An annual outpouring of your constant companion –
I’m often tempted to not say anything on these death days – no mention of my little girls or Dad, no social media posts – and just see who actually comes to the party, so to speak. Who does remember? Who sees? Who acknowledges? It’s rather mean of me really. A test. All based on a lie I’ve allowed in my head that says they don’t matter if no-one says anything. But they do. All of them. In the womb, hours old, or 60 years old.
In all honesty, I’ve never actually tried that test. Thought about it many times, but my overwhelming pride in my children and my Dad who have passed away doesn’t let them go unnoticed. In reality, it’s our one day of the year where we can unabashedly speak of them. And if we don’t celebrate them then, then who will?
I’ve seen this with my sister Shannon – she would be 33 this year – stillborn at 36 weeks with the same chromosome condition that Nina and Molly had. But she was born in a different time and era, where ongoing grief or celebration of a baby who had died just wasn’t a common thing. Shannon’s death was also out of the blue. There was no time for my mum to come to terms with her baby’s forthcoming death like I could for Nina and Molly. There was no headspace to plan how she might celebrate her child. There were no #babyloss groups and insta-communities to belong to, all cherishing and talking about the children they had lost. And so, along the way we’ve lost the memory of Shannon. The only people who can keep those memories alive are the ones who love them most. And somehow we just let it slide.
I’m not saying we should be glorifying the dead… But to speak of them and cherish them years on is more than ok. They may have died, but your love for them never died.
So, another day is crossed off my morbid memorial calendar! Perhaps though despite the heaviness of grief, there is a joy found in truly celebrating the people that you’ve loved and lost. I find that life is so fast-paced that carving out pockets of space to think, remember and dwell on my people is so important. It’s almost like a grief planner… frustratingly though, grief never sticks to a schedule!
This calendar isn’t just for my people either. Because I realise the deep feelings on these days, I understand what they mean for others too – I’m definitely more aware of the heart of my friends who’ve experienced loss. And their loved ones pop up on my calendar too. Because an unsolicited mention or memory of someone’s loved one is such a welcome gift.
Now for 5 months off until the next day ;).
Much love to you today especially, Dad. I give you so little thought it’s refreshing to just sit and think of you. My hierarchy of grief has relegated you bottom of the pile! Apologies! But really, I know you wouldn’t want me to make a fuss of you anyway, haha.