Over the last few weeks, I have written a lot in my journal. I have written about the shock, the trauma, the physical, suffocating pain of sudden loss, and how it ripples out from the epicentre in waves of deafening, yet silent and debilitating anguish. I have written from the perspective of a mother holding her child, seeking to contain her, to keep her whole as parts of her shatter on the inside. Watching, powerless as she struggles to make sense of the unfathomable. Crumpling under the weight of the agony.
I wrote about private moments in the days that followed, sitting in a hotel room through the small, dark hours, listening to the silence. A few hours before, Eric had been in this place with Toni. Making plans for their new chapter in life. From time-to-time I would listen at my daughter’s closed door. Did she need me? Did she need space? Did she need to be held? Did she need to sleep? Would she be able to sleep? It reminded me of when she was a baby and I used to listen for sounds of sleep or disturbance. I was one of those mothers that would watch her baby as she slept, making sure her chest was gently rising and falling with her breath. I found myself, once more, watching over my precious girl, willing her on, moment by moment.
Through those sleepless, endless nights I felt as though my soul had left its body – searching for the fragments of everyone’s heart. Instead, finding questions without answers.
I don’t know if I will ever wish to read back some of those writings again because I know they will take me back to that moment when we were all ripped from our sunny world and thrown into a silent, shadowy waiting room. Nevertheless, the words will remain as a reminder of the moments that trauma erases.
There are moments that are still too painful to put into words. All around me, those I care about are still struggling to figure out how to live on and I can only offer support from the sidelines.
I believe as mothers we feel another mother’s pain. It’s as though we are joined together in a sacred soul group with a soul contract, a promise to be there to provide comfort and ease suffering through our energetic presence. I felt my soul sit with many mothers and grandmothers as we all sent our love to Eric’s mother – willing her too to go on. In those moments I felt the presence of Mother Mary. Indeed I have felt her presence around me from an early age, through some of my own sufferings – even though I did not consider myself particularly religious. She was there.
As a healer, I try to absorb the grief spilling over in a silent hug, but I feel inadequate. I have no power. No authority. None of us can ‘will’ it – that the pain of loss can be taken on, or given away to others to carry for a while. I have witnessed the rawness of grief – and to know I can do nothing – nothing at all to ease it or to change it – has literally brought me to my knees. In prayer and bargaining no less.
As a writer I have learned that words, while they hold such power, can also, at such times, fail us completely. I still do not possess the vocabulary to express the deepest depths, the darkest moments … but still I write until the words give form to the intangible.
And yet, there is light…
What I have not written about, until now, are the moments of kindness, the human connections, the love, and dare I say, the blessings – the gifts – that helped us stay afloat in those very early days.
I mentioned, that as a healer, I felt inadequate. As a mother, I prayed I was equipped to know what to do. How as mothers can we help our grieving child? If only I could just take her pain so she did not have to go through this. I decided to do something I never do. I asked for help. I reached out to neighbours, friends, and family. I reached out to my spiritual tribe and asked them to send healing and love – (and some of you did not need to be asked for the healing I knew we all needed ). I felt like I was summoning every ancestor, angel, Goddess, friend and healer in every realm and dimension to step forward – and every single one of you responded. Your love, kindness, support and outpouring of emotion for Eric’s family and for Toni was humbling and truly made a difference. For one thing, it allowed Toni to see she was part of something bigger and that she was truly held through this dark time. I needed that – for her. So thank you, thank you all for the gift of your love, healing, and friendships. Thank you for holding Toni and Eric and his family in your hearts.
I also wanted to give gratitude for a woman called Grace. Eric’s service was held in Strathfield which is a bit of a distance from where we live on the Central Coast. I didn’t want the stress of us all getting ready early in the morning, rush hour traffic and the risk of being late … we also had animals to consider. So, I decided Toni and I would stay in Strathfield the night before, and Mr P would see to the animals in the morning and drive down to pick us up when he was ready. We let the apartments know what time we would be there so everything could be relaxed. However, when we got there, we discovered our room had not been cleaned. We waited and waited and waited. The woman on the desk did her best to chase up the cleaners. “They’re new” she said, “But they are really good, so you know your room will be spotless.” As more time passed, she came out with coffee, Lamingtons and apologies for us.
Nearly two hours ticked by and I could see Toni just needed to rest. The point came when I had to say something to the lovely woman on the desk. I explained our situation, why we were there and that the whole idea was so we could check in and relax before contemplating the huge day ahead. There was something about the woman that reminded me of my own loving gran and my mother-in-law. She was so chatty and caring – it seemed such a rare thing in Sydney to meet someone that treated us as family (terrible thing to say but true). As if to emphasise the point, she went to her handbag and took her own money out (something my gran used to do each time I visited).
“Please, please take this. Get some dinner on me,” she implored. I was so shocked and if I’m honest a little embarrassed.
”No, no I can’t take that”, I said pushing the money back toward her. The money was pushed back and forth a few times until I accepted it – as graciously as I could. “OK, maybe we will go and get something to eat. Thank you.” I had hoped by the time we got back maybe we would be able to get in our room. I also hoped the woman would be reimbursed by the business for her generosity.
As it turned out, it was three hours before we got into our room. We were so exhausted by that point, but we ate well. And the room really was spotless.
The next morning Grace handed me an envelope with a note. She had refunded the money on the room and asked me to give Toni $50 to buy herself some flowers. She hugged me and spoke about life and love and how we must grab every piece of happiness in life, wherever we find it because God wants us to be happy. She then led me down the hallway to her own little kitchenette area and told me to make sure Toni had food before the big day. I think I cried at that point and Amazing Grace hugged me until I stopped. I really felt my mother’s strength and my grandmother’s love channelled through her so that I could be strong for Toni and anyone else who needed it that day.
What a beautiful gift of a woman. I couldn’t help but think, ‘how magical that she was in that place at that time’ as though her presence had been orchestrated from above.
There have been so many moments of kindness from neighbours bringing soup and flowers, to family sending cards and flowers and text messages from across the miles. The neighbour in the property next to us has even made her little cottage available to Toni, and we have been there most days, feeding and caring for her horse. Animals are such amazing therapy and I have been able to reflect on how grateful I am for all of this care and compassion around us.
As we approach the next milestone of the 40th Day Mass I wanted to reflect on the Mass held for Eric. The actual service feels too private to write about here. Sacred. Though I do want to share a couple of things because it brought comfort. If you are going through your own painful time or dark night of the soul, this may help you too,
I finally understand how bringing everyone together in prayer and an empathetic Priest can bring comfort. Father Gavin Foster spoke about how we should all “Look for the gift. Ask yourself what gift did Eric give to you?” It was in line with my own belief system, though at first, I thought it was far too soon to be looking for that gift. There was still so much pain. Until I realised, the very act of thinking about what that personal gift could be, seemed to help for a few moments. I found myself replaying the first time I met Eric (he presented me with a bottle of Bacardi – so of course, I was going to give my approval and say ‘this one’s a keeper to Toni), to the last time I saw him when he got me tipsy after buying me a Pina Colada on my birthday. The joke being, 10 years ago I could easily drink a few Bacardi’s – whereas nowadays I hardly drink at all – the idea of getting tipsy over a Pina Colada was quite funny. I found myself smiling inwardly as I replayed those moments on a journey from first meeting Eric, the stepping stones in between, to the joy of him becoming our future son-in-law.
The Eulogy was so lovingly created by a mixture of Eric’s parents, friends, family and of course his fiancé, Toni. Eric was also a writer and so it was a beautiful touch that some of Eric’s own writings, words and conversations were shared. He had many sayings and words of wisdom. A beautiful conversation between Eric and his mother was shared and it resonated so deeply. His mother remembers him saying…
“Each of us is broken, but we are all, each of us, equally blessed.”
When I heard those words I felt something shift within. Such wise words
I have always felt we each have our cross to carry (some more than others) and through doing the work on ourselves, we learn to carry those crosses with bravery, dignity, strength, love or compassion. But when I heard those words, I felt a sense of release – and even healing. I understood – I am not the only one who has ever felt ‘broken’ or inadequate as a result of life’s experiences – we all feel ‘broken’ – we are not alone in our own brokenness – but the truth is – we are also blessed – in equal measure. I have learned to see the gift or the lesson in these experiences that can potentially break us – but Eric’s words told me – we are all connected in this way. We all have something that makes us feel we are not worthy in some way, yet we are missing the many ways we are blessed.
Father Gavin Foster had asked us to look for the personal Gift from Eric and there it was – beautifully expressed by Eric. Looking back on these few weeks, I want to say ‘yes I can see the gifts’ and I want to share them because they offer stepping stones of light through the darkness of pain.
The little gifts of human love and compassion, the wisdom and ‘grandmotherly’ care from Grace in a time when I felt alone, wishing I had family around me to help me comfort Toni – or just be there for Toni. The gift of new family, and new friendships with the people we met at the Service (Eric did like to bring people together).
The love in which you, my friends and family, have all held Toni and Eric’s family. My own spirituality has been deepened and strengthened – my own connection to Spirit – I have felt my own mum and gran close to me – and Eric too – all helping me help our precious girl.
We will never stop loving Eric or mourning his loss, but I know I will be holding his wise words in my heart for a lifetime. I will cherish his smile, and be thankful for the gift of love and happiness he gave to my daughter. I will cherish and care for Eric’s parents in any way I can – they are our family – joined at the heart through Toni and Eric. A soul contract – a promise. Family is the ultimate gift after all.
We are all so broken dear Eric, but we are so blessed to have your light shine so bright in our lives.