there’s no difference between life and death

man in black jacket standing in front of grave
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The rattle of the final gasp

Mirrors screams from baby’s lungs,

From birth to death we cry

And love and sleep

But when the deathbed calls

And ghostly shrouds of hospital gowns

Cloak our bodies like the blankets

Wrapped around us on our birthday.

Tears are spilled on both days,

The day we come and then

The day we drift back into nothingness.

I have just finished listening to the audiobook by Richard E Grant. He has written it about the death of his wife and it has really touched me in so many ways. I think that I have been affected by it so much because I have not experienced the death of a close family member, so it all feels so scary- and possible.

Richard and his wife were about the same age as my parents, and I’m a similar age to their daughter, so that also made it hit home just a little more. I haven’t spoken to my mu in several years, and yet I haven’t really thought about how I would feel if the worst should happen to her. Reading this book has given me a bit of perspective in that respect.

The book is so touching because you can hear how much Richard adored his wife, and it’s heartbreaking to listen to that pain. And yet, the end feels so much like birth. There are all the practical things to deal with, like paperwork, there are deep emotions and there is pain.

And I like to think that we go back to the same place we came from before birth.

A bit of a ramble, I know, but hearing someone talk about death always sparks so many thoughts and questions in my own mind. It becomes like a little conversation with myself, babbling on about things that nobody else would understand.

Much Love

Rachel xx

death on the hospital ward

two person doing surgery inside room
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The smell of disinfectant hangs, heavy

As doctors drift by, angels in white coats

Stethoscopes draped on shoulders like

The wires that leave their patients arms.

The quietness presses down on us,

A little family unit, waiting for

The inevitable, the gentle rhythmic beep

To fade to nothing as she slips away,

You’d hardly notice, it’s so understated,

I don’t know what I had expected,

To see her soul leaving through her mouth?

But no, she’s gone in much the same way as she came.

I was reading about somebody who lost their dad when they were young and they could vividly remember going to the hospital before he died and seeing him lying in the bed with a tube coming out of his mouth.

It immediately made me remember being about five or six years old and visiting my great aunt in hospital a few days before she died. I still feel a little bit traumatised from that experience as she looked so unlike herself, the aunt who used to be so full of life and fun.

Hospitals are horrible places at the best of times, but that was the only time I had been in a place where people were really sick. I still don’t think I’m very good at acknowledging death and how it will even come to me one day, but I remember really getting it in that moment and it terrified me.

I’m sure that if I were to go and visit somebody who was about to die now, I would have a much easier time, but since reading my book this morning, I’ve been replaying that visit all afternoon.

Death comes to us all, but it will never fail to be both frightening and, I suppose to a certain extent, quite beautiful and liberating.

Much Love

Rachel xx

sudden death

a walkway inside the cemetery
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That moment when the breath is gone

And souls released to who knows where,

But think about the ones still left behind,

Struggling through the daily grind.

The shock, the utter breathless pain

That drives the living to something near insane.

A woman that I work with lost her father last week and it has sparked off some really deep conversations in our department and among my own family members.

We were called into the office on Monday morning and told that she wouldn’t be in because there had been an accident and her father had died very suddenly. We all stood very quietly as we digested the news, each probably thinking about our own parents and how we would feel if we were in such an awful situation.

It’s the suddenness that bothers me and it’s led me to think about whether I would prefer to see someone die of an illness and be able to prepare for the inevitable; or to lose someone quickly and not have to see any suffering, but to conversely have to navigate that shock.

One of the team have spoken to her and she says that she feels like she is dreaming, like it’s not real. And that’s what those very sudden losses do to us. We very suddenly need to grapple with those thoughts about mortality and that is really uncomfortable for humans.

I am one of those people that have both a sick fascination with death, and also feel terrified of it. I feel like a child that knows it’s scary to stick their hand in the flame, but feels desperate to do it anyway. I want to reach out and touch death so that I can finally understand what it’s all about.

Faith helps, but it doesn’t take away all of the fear because it is faith; we can’t blindly believe something is going to be one way when we have no tangible truth. And that means that we don’t have a bloody clue and that’s terrifying.

Does death hurt? Do the lights just go out and that’s the end of everything? Do we get to meet up with old friends and family like it’s a big nightclub in the sky? Who knows? But one thing I do know is that I have spent a lot of time thinking about these questions this week.

Much Love

Rachel xx

on not knowing when the end will come

yellow and black wooden cabinet
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We all need a finish line to aim for,

A chalky line across the grass, and tape

To break our way through with our arms held high.

Without that line we’ll keep on running,

Swimming to exhaustion in a pointless circle.

We need to know how long we have, and yet we don’t;

We drift through life without a clue,

It could be twenty years from now, it could be

Crossing over one wrong road at one wrong time,

Never to have time to say goodbye.

I’m reading a book about a woman who has cancer and she is trying to come to terms with the fact that she is going to die young. She is dealing with something that many of us won’t have to worry ourselves with; although there are many of us who will have time to think about death as we get older.

My grandmothers died in two very different ways and I have spent a lot of that last decade thinking which I would rather. One died of cancer and although it’s horrid, we all got the chance to make peace with the fact that she was going to go.

On the other hand, my other grandmother just went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. It seemed like quite a lovely way to go, but it was a terrible shock for all of us. However, is that a terrible way to go when you are so much younger? To not know that the end is near? To not live your last day in a way that is fitting?

We all fight with the idea of death at some time and I guess that I’m worrying that I might be halfway now. Or perhaps I’m even further forward. I went to school with a girl who died in her sleep when she was seventeen so it doesn’t just happen to eighty year olds.

And then there are the goodbyes. Don’t we all need to say goodbye, no matter what the relationship? Even if it’s the man on the checkout at your local supermarket; it would feel wrong not to say goodbye and thank you for your company.

So, just in case it’s ever too late, thank you for your company.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

proud to be british?

gray concrete castle with flag on top under blue sky
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A flag of scarlet and of royal blue,

A union of the jacks

That whistles in the Easter wind

Preceded by those crimson coats

And Nimrod played by regal men

Who dedicated life and limb

To the majesty of them.

We felt ashamed but under Spring like sun

We felt that bubble slowly burst

And something tinged with glowing pride

Filled the hearts of all of us.

Sorry to harp on about the royal family again, but I did sit and watch the funeral today because I felt like I wanted to reflect on the life of somebody who has served this country for so many years. And it was a very moving service and all the pomp and ceremony that goes with it just fills my heart with pride for this country.

I know that we have a past that we should question in many ways, but we do have a history that is so rich in tradition and history is something that should be treasured and remembered. Even the bad bits. Because they’re the bits we learn from and we grow from there, as human beings.

I felt that anyone watching in another country would look at what was done today and they would think that Britain should be proud. Just the band playing on the lawn was magical to watch.

The Queen was also superb. I don’t know how she held her composure as well as she did. She cut an awfully lonely figure as she sat on her own in the chapel and I kind of hope that her children make sure she has a few whiskies tonight.

And I’m not normally one to openly cry at funerals of people I don’t know but when I first saw the Queen in her car my heart broke a little bit. But the part that was most poignant for me was when Nimrod was being played and the cameras panned over to the walls of the castle and the staff had all filed out from the rooms and the kitchens and stood with their heads bowed for the coffin. It was so touching that even they were included and that they really seemed to respect the man who had been their boss for so long.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

the funeral

angelic statue and sunset scenery
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All in midnight black and shades of white

That hide the curves of aching flesh

That sobs with anger and with bitterness

For what was lost with that final breath.

It’s just a wooden box that lies in state,

For all the congregation to

Ponder on, the memories that they still have

Of that man that left this world like smoke

Curling in a catlike paw, that drifts into

The ether while we stand and cry

In this world of solidity, of science

And of needing to know how it works,

But these are days when we all know

The answers are unreachable, a thing we cannot grasp.

There is lots of talk about the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh at the moment because it is going to be held tomorrow afternoon. I don’t know why but the death seems to have really struck a chord with me, possibly just because he has always been there and it feels a little like we’re all losing a grandfather.

However, it has also made me think a lot about grief in my own life and the funerals of both of my grandmothers. The first of which I was heavily pregnant with my son at the time.

We knew that she was going to die because she had terminal cancer and she knew that I was pregnant with her first great grandchild so it was sad for her that she was going to miss that event. The last words that she said to me as I leaned over and kissed her on my last visit was ‘look after that boy for me.’ I ended up naming him Noah Gene because her name was Jean.

The day of the funeral was horrible and it was the first one that I had ever been to. I think the hormones were playing havoc with my emotions and there was one moment when I just couldn’t hold onto the tears.

The car carrying the coffin had arrived at the house and the coffin was draped with the Union Jack because she did a lot of work for the British Legion. It was quite regal, in a way.

The back of the car was opened and my dad’s sister stepped forward and just threw herself onto the coffin, sobbing uncontrollably. I had never seen an adult in my life, totally lose control in that way. I come from a family that is very stiff upper lip and it was almost frightening to see.

It will stay with me forever, that day. And I think that it’s not entirely bad. Even those parts that felt shocking at the time, were just proof of how much someone was loved. I hope that the royals get to celebrate the life of their grandfather this weekend. I have a feeling they may be the reserved type.

Much Love

Rachel xx