When we have to say goodbye to anyone or to anything it is a marker in our life. We mark the time, the place and the feeling and store it away to use as a benchmark for future loss. We joke in our circle that we attend more funerals than weddings and so it is,….we are at that stage of life. But I see endings as beginnings and believe strongly that the spirit of those who have passed is ever present ..it is simply a new beginning for them in a different form. I am not religious; a secular Jew is what I am, with an interest in all faiths.
Part of aging is seeing that final breath closer in your sights – without fear – it is one certainty we have in life and with it comes the uncertainty of when?
And with every loss comes a gain; the memories, the good times, the laughter, the tears, the getting closer as we bond. Getting older teaches us to deal with loss in a more pragmatic way and to see what we have gained from that experience.
And it is not just death that I am talking about. Loss comes in so many forms – a partner, a job, a friend, a home, a business, an animal – we all suffer loss in some way and learn that it is part of life’s great journey. Each one of us deals with loss in a different way but the joy of being older is to know that we will come out the other side and there is a beginning in an end.
So why have I chosen this subject?
Earlier this week my dearest cousin passed away and I was privileged to be with her at the end. It had a profound effect on me as I started contemplating life without our chats and get togethers, how her presence had been an anchor from the time I arrived in SA and how she had filled the role of Mother in a totally unassuming way over the years. She was a gentle person who did not judge and never said a bad word against anyone – she kept her own counsel unless pressed but did not raise her voice in anger…I would say she was pragmatic and private. The lessons I learrned from her are many and I hope I can tame my volatile personailty to practice some of them. When I ever I spent time with her I would come away feeling peaceful.
My own mother died when I was 18 and I sought a new beginning by coming to SA from the UK some four years later. My aunt and uncle and their two daughters had emigrated from the UK in 1948 and settled in Cape Town and then moved to Johannesburg. When I arrived in 1969 I stayed with the elder cousin, her husband znd their son and my aunt, who had been widowed some years before. They became my family unit and shared the ups and downs of my ‘growing up’! Which I am still doing ….
So now it’s down to beginning a new journey without her gentle presence, of keeping the family unit together in an unconstrained way, knowing that we are bound by her memory and her values.
And I have the opportunity of yet another new beginning….my business will be taken over by my enormously talented business partner allowing me to enjoy growing older a little more disgracefully and ease into semi- retirement knowing that she will take the busines to new heights. ‘Semi’ i hear you say? Well, you didn’ t imagine I was going to sit still, There’s plenty of life in the old gal yet.. as Mehitabel said to Archy ( and if you don’ t know the book..look it up!)
A week of huge emotion and much thought but one that heralds a new chapter in my life and reinforces my belief that endings are beginnings.