Mary and I, April 1978
My first profound experience with death was when my paternal grandmother died when I was 7. Her name was Mary and she was a loving, strong and pious woman. I spent many an afternoon with her and when I was hungry and she asked me what I wanted to eat I'd say porridge and she would lovingly make it for me.
Her hair was pure white and her eyes were a crystal blue. She never saw me through her eyes. She slowly went blind in her 40's. Her blindness did not limit her ability. She wrote letters using a typewriter, played piano, cooked and baked and did all these things well and with love.
In my memory she was warm and kind and indulgent. I feel grateful that I was able to spend the time with her that I did.
At this time of year as Samhain approaches my thoughts always turn to my beloved dead. Each year memories float in and some take hold and stay while others drift off with the mists. For many years I was sad that my strongest memory of my Granny was her death and how the days around it played out. But now I've come to understand that it all falls into place as it can in each moment. Her death was the last part of her life to those left on this plain. I can't separate it from who she was or who I've become because of it.
July of 1944 wearing a dress she had made herself
One morning in the summer of my 7th year I awoke to the sight of my mother leaning over me. Her chin trembled with sadness as she told me that Granny had died. Early that morning my grandfather had phoned my mom asking her to come over to his home (just a short walk down the road). When my mother arrived she checked Granny and confirmed that she had passed away in her sleep. As I stared up at my mother, seeing her grief plainly on her face I knew first and foremost that I would see my granny again. It was the first feeling I had and while I was instantly sad I felt a resolve that has never gone away. I will see her again.
The next few days hold a sprinkling of memories. My grandfather coming into the house with his head bowed and a coat draped over his shoulders. It was the first time I remember perceiving his vulnerability, the first time I had ever felt the urge to comfort him. I remember the dress I wore to the funeral home viewing - it was mint green with an eyelet edging and a sash. I remember seeing my Granny laying in the coffin my first instinct was panic that she surely was only sleeping and would wake up in the ground alone and frightened. And I remember the silken pillow that was beside her in the coffin. It had blue and pink carnations and was meant to symbolize her grandchildren, all eight of us.
I have often called on her in the years since her death. I know she watches over all of us and sees us in a way she couldn't when she was alive. There have been two marked times when I felt her presence, both at Samhain rituals. The first was the fall before I became pregnant with my first son. While in the Summerland during a trance journey I sat with her near a stream. I remember being so happy to see her and the light around us being soft and golden. She spoke lovely words that I do not remember. When I left to journey back I was filled with the knowledge that I would soon have a child. Five months later I was pregnant.
The second was almost a year ago also during the trance journey at our local Spiral Dance. She came and was there with me. I was so overwhelmed by her energy that I wept, something I've never experienced at that ritual in the 9 years I've been going. It certainly was profound to feel that energy again after so many years. I am very grateful for that gift.
This is a sad post I suppose but I see life's moments as important whether they are sad or happy. As I've told the birth stories of my sons I have told the death story of another loved one. The universe saw fit to grant another gift when my son Elliott was born on Mary's birthday. It is a link that he will share with her forever, something that warms our family and honours her memory.
Cecil & Mary's wedding November 1944
I didn't share my knowing at 7 that I'd see her again. Perhaps I knew that it was a personal truth and not something that everyone would find comfort from. Whether she comes to me again on this plain or not there will come a day when we will meet. That stays with me. It is a feeling for which I am always so thankful.