If it has come to that, feel free to give rein to the outraged helplessness at the injustice of having to watch a beloved human being endure a difficult departure from this world. Perhaps it hasn’t come to that; perhaps your partner has been heavily drugged for some time and you’ve already whispered goodbyes and begun to grieve.
Gurus of grief talk about stages of grieving—beginning, for instance, with anger and moving through to acceptance. Whatever steps you are treading on your own Via Dolorosa stoicism will get you no brownie points. Sob. Wail. Howl. Curse with grief if you want to. Stoicism tends simply to bury grief and its pains underground where it might get up to a lot of mischief, like the chance of becoming a kind of perverse luxury. So even if it’s never been your usual everyday style, do not be shy of letting it all hang out on this sad occasion if you feel a need to give way to strong feelings—“give way” in the literal sense, too, of making a path for them.
It might be of some help to create your own private rosary, an imaginary or an actual one—perhaps made up of a necklace you already have—of memories of happy times you enjoyed together. If you construct it yourself, adding a few smaller connective beads could serve as deodorants against whiffs of spurious sainthood: memories of times when you had a bit of a falling out, or had to agree to disagree, or had a row— long since resolved in an amicable armistice. A variation on a happy-memory rosary could be a memoir, a kind of retroactive log book. A reminder: Memories can be selective; don’t hesitate to conduct the occasional cross examination.
Photographs, dated and annotated, can be useful as both memory-joggers and memory-assessors.
JOHN SOWTON, PHYSICIAN
February 1934 – September 2015
A modest man, whose capability
far exceeded his own estimation of it.
Never outshone by your brilliant brother,
you walked in the sun of your own integrity.
You practiced your vocation not with pity
but compassion and unaffected wit.
You knew, bone deep,
that we are here to help each other.
No one in your care was just file-fodder,
no personhood left adrift in the wake
of on-line diagnostics and prescriptions.
That twinkle in your eye was
genuine as a star. I’ve heard your
trumpet do Purcell proud.
With death, self-diagnosed, upon you,
we chatted, broke bread together for
the last time, while even the looming
hurricane of loss for Anne and family
could not prevent us from basking
in the warmth of a life well lived.
That aura of being
the real thing—a mensch—was not
at all portentous but your Yes! to life,
italicized by your jaunty bow ties.
Ian Sowton, 2015
For those who…
is a series of poems and reflections offered by Holy Trinity as an inspiration and support for the community. Through this and other initiatives, we are trying to foster a local and personal community of mutual care and engagement.
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