Sometimes, walking through the woods I temporarily forget where we are in the year. There’s a mist, a light touch of grey and it seems like autumn. Then I turn a corner and see the tiny crowns of yellow in the distance. Daffodils poking their heads up above the muddy ground.
But that autumn feeling will not be shaken and it has transported me back more than three decades. Me and Paul are clearing my late aunts’ house ready for sale. We are moving through the echoing rooms, smashing old bits of furniture and tossing them into a skip. It’s half term and we’re just teenagers messing about having fun. It’s mostly what we did. The image I carry of him now is with a wide smile on his face. Nothing gets past it.
Early this week news reached me of the death of an old colleague. After a six month battle with cancer, he had no fight left. I remember a bus journey the morning after the night before in Rome. On our way back to the airport I am feeling horrible and all I can see is his smiling face, amused at my abject discomfort. He leaves a wife and young children. It’s hard to imagine how another sentence can be written after such a dreadful full stop.
At Easter, regardless of your faith or lack of it, you’ll probably give or receive a chocolate egg or two. The symbolism inherent is as valuable to the pagan as it is to the believer because it is a sign of new life, rebirth.
In our lives there are countless times when we are required to be reborn, to begin again after the end of something which had woven itself into the very fabric of our being. Relationships breaking down or ending permanently is challenge enough, but the death of someone loved is truly forty days and nights in the wilderness, and some.
Perhaps we make the struggle harder when we attempt to recover from grief and bereavement. There is no coming back from this, no reassembling of the previous order. Instead, we are tasked with creating something wholly new, acknowledging that the world no longer appears as it did. This is rebirth and it is hard.
Harder still is the solitude in loss. When someone dies or something significant ends the shock waves of the change resonate outwards touching everyone in the vicinity. But no two people are changed in quite the same way. There is unity in loss and there is terrible isolation.
When we are hurting it is space we most need. Space to be exactly who we are at that moment without the need to justify, to edit or even to be conscious of what others might think of us. Grief is utterly personal and that is why there can never be a formula, a map or a timeline. Rebirth occurs when it is ready and the only thing that hastens it is an absence of demand that it arrive.
Strangely, I realised yesterday that it was the anniversary of Paul’s death. Taken at twenty-one, thirty-two years ago, leaving in his wake a devastation that broke his parents and threatened the same to his brother.
At Easter, these four days from Friday to Monday have always felt somehow more peaceful than any others in the year. I think it is a sense of space. Space which can be used to reflect on past sadness and struggle, and to consider what rebirth means. If we can accept that rebirth is a choice then it truly represents a turn towards the sun instead of a bewildering and eternal wander in the darkness.
PS. I made those hot cross buns. If you want the recipe leave me a comment 🙂