There’s a piano piece called “Le Départ,” “The Departure.” by Alexandra Streliski, a pianist and composer from Montreal.
One commenter of the YouTube video I have placed below said, “This music describes eternity.”
When I stand at the window in the cupola of my blog and gaze out over the tall grass meadow down to the stream and the woods beyond, I think of those I have known who have departed this life before me.
When my grandmother was in her sixties, I remember her sitting in a chair in the living room and saying wistfully, “All my friends are dead.” I’ve never forgotten that. It is one of the reasons I value my friendships so closely. I haven’t forgotten my grandmother; I haven’t forgotten either of them, nor any of my family members that have gone on ahead of me.
Often, near the end, the dying enter a process of departure, still here and already there. I often wondered where my mother Emma’s soul or spirit went in her final stage of dementia. Sometimes I actually sensed her hovering around – usually her former bright and cheerful self getting up in the morning, yellow sunshine streaming through her bedroom windows, and having things to attend to around the house, her toy poodles to feed, or clothes to choose and lay out to wear for a luncheon with her friends, or telling me something. It was as if she got up out of her body and came around every now and then. And this I experienced only in the last two weeks of her life. Maybe, too, it was my letting go, a clearing.
Caregiving doesn’t end with the passing of the cared for. Suddenly, there’s this person standing in your midst, and it’s you. It’s like meeting someone who’s departed on a long journey and has now returned unexpectedly. You have to get to know yourself again; for, although caregivers are repeatedly reminded by the observers to take care of ourselves, take time for ourselves, we don’t. There really isn’t time. So, you begin a new relationship with yourself. And, then, of course, there’s the family to contend with, who may have found fault with everything you did caregiving in their absence, and the paperwork and finances — all the fallout. It takes four years to regain normalcy, say most former caregivers. I am finding it so.
Of course, there’s the grieving. There is no set limit to the length of time for grieving. Some say the second year is harder than the first. Thus so in my experience. Realistically, you never stop grieving the departed; the process just changes. You never stop caring.
Some of my friends have passed on. I miss them very much. I wish I could pick up the phone or turn to them and say something. When I think of them, is that like posting a thought on the wall of the universe, and somewhere they’ll pick it up? I miss many friends whom I presume are still living. The winds of change over the years drove us apart. I have forgotten none of them. Some I connect with on Facebook after years gusting by like lifetimes. It’s like, “So, hey, how’re ya doing in this lifetime?” It’s very cool. A happy reconnecting.
As I read your article the View from the Cupola, I listened to your music. Most of the time when I want to listen to music that is posted in a blog, I get “Prohibited! The music rights are not registered with the GEMA.” It was nice to find out that this was not the case with your article. It is a beautiful piece of music and it speaks of days gone by, of friends that we will not meet again in this life, on this planet. Yet, they are not forgotten.
Living in Europe, I have learned and I am still learning to carry an extra burden and that is the burden of being so far away from dear friends that live in the USA. Each time I go home and see them I know it could be the last time. I have shed many tears because of a phone call received that has informed me that a dear friend is no longer among us.
And then my involvement here in the European way of life where again I have people, dear friends, who have opened their hearts to me and made me a part of their family. When we are disconnected by death, it hurts, even though I know I will see them again.
I like your V – View from the Cupola because it reminds me of my own view from my Cupola. It is a bittersweet view mixed with tears and joy. It is a view that says, everything changes, nothing remains the same.
Thank you. Your article inspired me to think.
Patricia, I feel the same tug as you — California or Delaware. I grew up in this area but lived my whole adult life, nearly 30 years, in Southern California and it feels like home to me. I have many friends there. But I have friends here in Delaware, too, and am established here in town. Definitely two different ways of life — that of small town vs. big city Los Angeles.
So, for now, it is what it is. And as Sara Snider put it on Susan Scott’s post about dreams being an unfinished symphony, it’s in the process, the playing of the notes.
If I were more mobile, I think it would ease my dilemma. I have a friend who grew up in this town but lives in L.A. Yet, he is ubiquitous, there but often here.
I hope this makes sense. I am rather distracted at the moment because the cable guy is here — fixing, no less, a splitter on my phone lines.
Wow, that piano piece is so incredibly beautiful and inspiring, I love it.
This post resonated with me. My partner’s father passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer, and we’ve been dealing with some of the issues you’ve described here. My own grandmother passed away earlier this month, and that song brings tears to my eyes when I think about her. I like the idea that thinking of those who have gone before us is like posting a thought on the universe. Maybe somehow, somewhere, the ripple of such an act will reach them.
I agree, Sara, that hopefully the ripple of our thoughts will reach them.
This minimalist music that Alexandra Strelinski and others compose is defined as “melancholy and light,” and it seems to resonate with lifetime departures. (I think I may include this thought, expanded, in my “Y” post.)
I’m sorry for your and your partner’s losses of your loved ones. The good news is that they are released from their suffering. I like to think those gone ahead are still around me. I know you must miss your grandmother very much. Who knows, she may be looking over our shoulder and listening to the music, too.
“Although caregivers are repeatedly reminded by the observers to take care of ourselves, take time for ourselves, we don’t.” So very true. I don’t know if I mentioned that I work for the Alzheimer Society, but this is one of the things we work on with the caregivers we try to support. For the longest time our family caregiver education series has closed with the “self-care” session, but we find that if participants skip any session, this will be it. Many of our staff now dispense with this session altogether, building self-care exercises and “homework” into every other topic instead. We refer to “building resilience” rather than “self-care,” because (a) it’s less patronizing, and (b) it seems to resonate more with caregivers.
I love how you phrased this: “You have to get to know yourself again.” So many bereaved caregivers struggle with that loss of identity after so many years of shelving so many aspects of themselves. They struggle with leaving the support groups that have nurtured and bolstered them on their journey, and yet to stay immersed is to stand still–and that’s a poor way to live.
Four years to regain normalcy. That’s a long time, but then there are a lot of pieces to pick up and contemplate. And, as you say, the grieving is never over. It just changes, becomes easier to carry, perhaps. My own mother died more than twenty-years ago, but every so often a fragment of memory will trip me up and the tears find me again.
Such a beautiful post, Samantha.
You put the caregiver experience and aftermath so well, Kern. Good for you, working for the Alzheimer’s Society and that you incorporate self care into the caregivers’ sessions. Building resilience was a major thing I learned from caring for my mother. That has stayed with me. There was really a lot for me to deal with after my mother died — largely, financial considerations, which I am still working with.
It suddenly gets quiet after the loved one dies and the support groups leave. This is why I feel so fortunate to have met my “Roo” friends, among them Susan Scott, whom I met online a month before my mother’s passing and who still remain my friends. My hospice bereavement counselor continued to visit me monthly for a year after my mother died, and now, three years later, she and our hospice nurse and I are still friends and have lunch or dinner together occasionally.
Thanks for providing insight from your perspective. Hopefully some will read what we’ve both said here, and it will help them.
Awww Dear Carol, what gentle terms you use to express what so many fear: death. I believe as you do. The spirit is becoming accustomed to leaving the body. Today I spoke to a friend, from as far back as high school. We also worked together and have been close, I believe, many lifetimes. Her younger sister, has been actually dying of many ailments and has dementia. It breaks my heart. My younger brothers died fast. Margaret has suffered losing her sister all this time and Diane must be in a medical facility. The time my other family members, with long term illnesses, came to mind. Shorty thereafter I read your post. It reminded me of what I believe. That is that the spirit is in and out, preparing to leave? A fetus needs to have the spirit enter and leave preparing for birth? I don’t have all the answers, yet I believe a loving God would give our bodies time to adjust to this or the other side. Thank you for your thoughts. I actually feel relieved that it makes sense and someone else may agree. I go with what makes sense. And yes, I feel many around me. Thank you so much for sharing your understandings with all of who ponder life after life.
Life after life. Yes, to be pondered. Apparently this phenomenon of the spirit’s being here and already there is quite common, so I have read; but I didn’t know about while my mother was in that process.
It’s quite an experience to watch someone’s long, slow, decline and dying. I never thought I could face it — always avoided it — but when put into the situation, wow, what consciousness raising and a growing (evolutionary) experience.
If my sharing helps others, then this journey I have experienced is good.
Thank you, Marsha.
Your writing is just beautiful. Bless your Grandmother, my heart ached for her when I read the line about her friends’ passing.
“Often, near the end, the dying enter a process of departure, still here and already there. ” This is so true, and such a perfect way of describing it.
Fee | Wee White Hoose
Scottish Mythology and Folklore A-Z
Yes, Fee, my grandmother made her remark back in the 1940s, when people didn’t live as long. But, she, herself, had a good, long life living with and surrounded by family. It’s interesting, though, what bits of conversation little kids hear, when you think they’re not listening, and remember.
Since experiencing my mother’s being here and already there, I have read about this phenomenon and that it’s quite common. Intriguing.
Thanks for your compliment on my writing. It means a lot to me, coming from such an accomplished and beautiful writer as you are.
I listened to the piano piece as I read you piece and the music made me feel as if I was at the beach resting on a wave enjoying the rolling back and forth. Very soothing. It is difficult to go through the caregiving process no matter how involved in actual caregiving we are. The trauma, the judgment, the stress, and the sadness still are there. Mom has been gone going on eight years and I still feel as if I’m recovering… becoming ME…allowed to be me.
In fact, I lost a very good and dear high school friend due to breast cancer a few years ago. Her sister and I have become good friends so we celebrate on her sister’s birthday… remembering her. In fact, my “W” is in memory of the fun my friend and I had while in high school. She is still with me, in my heart.
But caring does not die with the person. Their spirit still surrounds us and encourages us to pick ourselves up to move in new directions and make new connections. I think we are doing that. You left a very beautiful post. Now, I may go play the music again. Hugs…. Gwynn
You are doing a great job becoming yourself, Gwynn. And I do recall your telling us about celebrating your friend’s b’day every year with her sister. That’s a wonderful thing to do.
Yes, as you say, their spirit remains with us and the gift they give us to take our lives in new directions is an honor.
Thank you for your compliment on my post, and I hope you were able to enjoy Alexandra Streliski’s piece again. Not dancy, but as you say, soothing, meditative.
Thank you Samantha for this and the music which I’m listening to as I type. The music is very beautiful, lyrical, reaching for the stars and bringing the light back. (I wanted to play it again but I don’t know what happened .. please double check because it’s now on a different you tube setting – and my apologies if I am the cause of changing the setting).
My husband’s father Graham died at 97 many years ago, and it was a sadness to him that many of his friends had died along the way.
I especially wanted to remark about the new relationship that one makes with one’s self. I’m thinking of a sort of vacuum when a loved one for whom one has cared so long, is no longer there, and the void is ever present. But slowly the one left behind, catches up and uncovers the neglected parts of one’s self; and new discoveries are made. Samantha, you will always keep growing and reaching for the stars – and bring your light back to us.
I recognizing the urgency of setting everything in place for my next life, my transition from this lifetime and for the rest of this lifetime. I don’t know why this came out first in my reply to you, Susan; but it’s been on my mind and obviously of imminence. So, that’s where I am on my path.
The vacuum of being left behind by those who have died is similar, I find, to the empty next syndrome. It was really hard for me when my daughter, Kellie, moved out. But, now I have two granddaughters. I call them all The Three Kellies.
As for returning the YouTube video, they all end by showing other videos you might like. But there’s a little return/replay symbol in the lower left corner that you touch or click on and the video replays. Alexandra Streliski’s album “Pianoscope” is really nice. It’s just her, solo, playing her minimalist piano compositions. I first heard her music in a movie and from that, found her album.
Interesting, thoughtful times. Thanks.
There is a lot to think about in this post. Sensing the spirit of someone that is still alive, loss and old friendships, caring for the carer. You describe it all so well.
Yes, a contemplative overview, Ida. The conditions connecting the facets of the whole. An awareness I gained through being caregiver to my mother. I think you can relate.
Nice to see you here. Thanks.