Grief on a breeze
Posted on 5th January 2023 at 19:04
Today is January 1st 2023.
Lots happened last year. Last year my son started his A levels, last year I won an award, last year we blew up one campervan and built another. Last year my father died.
If you are lucky enough to take a trip to a Buddhist temple, you will always find brightly coloured flags hanging and blowing in the wind. These flags will be in various states of disintegration, some hung recently will clearly declare the intention behind its presence. Other flags will be nothing more than a few strands of cotton, no words remain, no picture easily depicting, “here is what I am praying for”.
I took a dear friend of mine to our frequently visited temple near our yearly family hide away – she was confused by the bedraggled nature of the prayer flags and couldn’t understand why instead of taking the rags down, more and more of the treescapes were being used as posts to support new lines of prayers. At the time, I have to own part of me agreed, it felt a shame that so much of the view was taken up by shreds.
I notice as I sit with my grief 6 months into its journey, I learn that it is becoming like the torn prayer flags that line hills all over the world. Its fragmentation means that it is not so easy to define. On a day-to-day basis, I am able to acknowledge my father’s non-living state relatively easily – I can tell stories of him, and hear his voice in my mind without it causing a river to flow. And yet, there is a constant state of knowing that something is becoming unravelled.
Eroded cobblestones, tall grasses lying flat in the evening sun, prayer flags; all symptoms of a well-worn pilgrimage. Where do the broken bits go? Disintegrated fragments taken by the wind – what DID exist, now lives on in memories, in thoughts, in hearts.
Having left God behind in a church when I was 14, the idea of heaven returned in June. It became unfathomable to me that I would not see my father again. I became consumed with watching television programs that offered a suggestion that this life is not it – perhaps I knew I was heading into the irrational landscape when my husband convinced me to watch “alien encounters” and we sat debating its truth for a whole evening. My dad would have laughed, he always said I could argue myself out of any situation. I could cope with his death, if my death would mean we would meet again.
But that’s no way to accompany grief. I cannot wish my own life away in the hope of one last moment with my father. I arrive in 2023, my father died last year and the dreams of seeing him again are becoming tattered in the wind. I could become irritated with the rags that are still swinging in the breeze, it would be easy to hang out brand new brightly coloured notions….. and yet… and yet…there is something quite beautiful about the worn markers of a pilgrimage well-trod.
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