My big brother passed away without warning over Christmas. I’ve been paralysed, unable to write since. So my dear friend Sydney has written this wise, beautiful post for me. It’s about Rod. Thank you Sydney. Somehow by your gracious act, I’ve been set free to write again. I just needed a little help 🙂 xx
In Memoriam by Sydney Smith
Jenny’s brother Rod died in late December, suddenly and out of the blue, and since his going, I cling to a small yet persistent belief that he isn’t really dead. It’s involuntary. In my mind I “know” he’s gone. But that knowledge lives on the surface of my consciousness. In my heart, he lingers gently yet persistently.
I went to his funeral thinking that would put a full stop on this feeling that Rod isn’t really dead. A friend picked me up from the train station, and as we drove to the church, I told her how, three days after Rod’s death, my computer hid my Start menu, that every time I minimised a document or a browser, it vanished from view, and I didn’t know how to get any of it back. ‘Ghost in the machine,’ I said. Normally, I would call Rod for help and he would sort out my problem. He did that for lots of people. That’s how to get to know computers in a deep-down way, by fixing them when they get sick. I said to my friend, ‘Rod’s telling me I can’t live without him.’
The funeral went along as these thing usually do. Rod’s friends and family stood to speak about his life, his achievements, his effect on them. The minister invited people to come up to the lectern and add their piece about Rod. I wanted to say something but didn’t know what that should be. These people had told anecdotes of Rod that captured aspects of his mischievous, independent spirit, his charm and his talents. I wanted to say something else, but what, I didn’t know.
As I travelled home after the funeral, I was aware that it had not done what I hoped it would do. I still didn’t “know” Rod had died. As I write this blog, ten days after the funeral, I still don’t “know” it.
Death is a strange thing. No matter how often it happens, it remains a foreigner in our midst. It speaks a language we each have to learn. The spark that once animated a body is wrenched free, and what is left is familiar and at the same time shatteringly inadequate.
This “not knowing” Rod is dead is a kind of haunting. It’s an awareness of a space that used to be filled by a flesh and blood person, and which is now filled with the fact of absence and an ongoing, elusive presence. Rod is hovering in this room where I work at my computer. The air tingles with the voice that is about to speak. The air shifts with his movement. From the corner of my eye I almost see his beige and oatmeal plumage. This haunting isn’t oppressive. It simply is, gentle and lingering.
Death isn’t a single, decisive event. The body loses its life, and we are led to believe that this is the end. But it isn’t. There is no end, no finality. There is a gentle shifting into another kind of perception, where each of us in the intimacy of grief meet him again.