The unthinkable has happened. My mother is dead.
And yet, a casual glance down my high street reveals that the world spins on regardless. So what does it mean, this worst thing that could have happened?
It is obvious and proper that life must go on; in the face of any ‘things will never be the same’ speeches, this hard fact remains, and go on it will whether I accept it or no. I do not feel as if I have ever been in danger of not accepting it, not really, but, without a rule book, I am unsure of the next step.
There are certain comforting pieces of knowledge: the memories which remain, the legacy enshrined in grandchildren, the facets of life I now enjoy, both in terms of relative position and personality. These things are comfort, but are they meaning?
It would be too insensitive of me to delve in any deep way into the grief of other close to my mother, and in any case much of it would be subjective. I can appreciate the feelings of my siblings, if anyone has an idea of how they feel, it is I, and vice versa. This again is some comfort, in a way which is not perverse but affectionate. For them, I can offer support and my own thoughts. My father, for whom I know the time has been and will be hardest, has feelings of his own I cannot hope to truly understand. Again, I can offer what small help there is, but I fear only time will help to ease the burden he now bears, though it will never erase it.
Part of the way I have come to understand the world is to accept that without human eyes to see it, there is no right and wrong, no moral absolutes; as Hamlet put it ‘there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so’. There is no inherent meaning to anything, there is only what happens, and what doesn’t happen. What happened to my mother carries no cosmic significance, only the vicissitudes of uncaring nature.
This is not to say there is no human meaning. No, the curse of intellectual freedom dictates that we must create our own meaning; our very biology demands it. A person or a group of people do this so automatically that for many they fail to perceive they are doing it, and attribute their meaning or their morality to someone or something else. You do it whenever you cheer for the All Blacks, whenever you feel saddened by news of a child’s death, whenever your favourite song makes you smile. The meaning of everything is a human standard, applied to the actions and inactions of a universe which has not capacity to care either way.
So, to come full circle, what does it mean to me? It is trite to say that I have had a wakeup call? That I must now live each day with renewed vigour and purpose. Certainly this is an aspect I have gained, but it is far from the whole. Perhaps a respect for those I care about, a determination to avoid taking people for granted? Again, this is something I have resolved to do. But again, I feel there may be something else, something like a newfound appreciation for who my mother was, her spirit, her attitude, the way she lived her life, and everything that meant for me and those who knew her. An admiration of her loyalty to her family, her willingness to sacrifice her time and energy to make others better off, to make them smile or learn or play.
The fact that she did this all as a matter of course makes it all the more admirable. She never even considered there was another way to be. Perhaps this is what it means to be a mother. I will never know for sure, but it seeps into my thoughts, my seeming need to try and process what has happened and make something of it, whatever that may be. It has been a little over two months, so I must allow myself time to sort through all this. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.