Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just another beautiful day in paradise...

It was warming up already, heat rising to chase away the last of the early morning chill, as I listened to the cicadas winding up and caught the scent of night ginger still lingering on the breeze. I sat by the pool, one knee drawn upward, while the other leg dangled in the water. Nibbling on the end of my pen, I contemplated what to write in the card, sighing dramatically when nothing immediately came to mind. Surely I had something to say. I wrote words after all and was even paid for them, but I found myself at a loss, feeling hopelessly inadequate as I pondered the dilemma. I'd lived in a lot of places, in different parts of the world over the years. Sampled different cultures and picked up enough of the local languages to skate by, and had my eyes opened wide to the many varied rituals and customs. Some, were difficult to understand, others were similar to what I'd grown up with and yet others still, completely dumbfounded me. And here my quandary lay... Death and how it was dealt with, or rather not, especially here in the States, left me with more questions than it did answers. How did people grieve or even begin to grasp that their loved ones were truly gone, when they were dead, buried or cremated, all within a matters of days, then life once again resumed as normal? Whoever was left behind, had a handful of cards, an arm full of still fresh flowers and an expectation of fortitude despite their loss. It seemed rather callus to me and left me feeling very disturbed. While I understood the logistics of the problem, especially when it came to such a huge country and the difficulty of loved ones faced with sudden travel and expense. It also seemed terribly quick and final. I shook my head in despair and thought back to the rituals of home. My grandmothers funeral stood out in my mind, the week long tangi, where loved ones and friends gathered to mourn and pay their respects at the family Marae at Te Kopua. Where everyone slept side by side on mattresses on the floor of the meeting house, the coffin at the pride of place, open for the mourners to grieve and share their stories of love and friendship with all. I remember the haunting cries of the karanga, the song of welcome as visitors came and gathered outside the marae waiting for the women to call them across the threshold. I remember the feasting, the communal sharing of food, the singing, the prayers, the laughter, the stories, the tears and the comfort and support offered and taken. I remember even a Maori Princess, who came and gave her last farewell and grieved for the end of an era. My grandmothers heritage was one of pride, of mana, for she came from the last line of the king makers. By the time her body was laid to rest and the last feast, a huge hangi partaken of, by the time the last of the visitors had packed up their families and their vehicles and set off for home, you understood that she was gone. There wouldn't be any more cuddles or smiles, her soft words feather light upon my skin, would no longer caress me. I'd watched grown men fall to their knees beside her casket and bleed their tears and sorrow of anguish at her passing, watched as they kissed her cold dead cheeks and said their goodbyes. Watched as they found their solace as the days of mourning passed until they found acceptance and peace, knowing she was at peace. My grandfather Matiaha was like a mighty tree that stood alone in the forest and never was it more so than when he lost her. I watched him say the words and even smile at times as he stood with the other men, but it never touched his eyes. The light in heart had extinguished. He accepted she was gone, but he mourned the loss till the end of his days. I turned back to the plain white card in my hand and thought about offering words of comfort for someone I didn't know, who'd be buried by the time the card reached the recipient and frowned. It really shouldn't be so difficult, 'sincerest condolences for your loss...' And then a poem came to mind, one I remembered from long ago, though I'd no idea of whom the author was. I wrote the words, added my love and thoughts and sealed the card in an envelope. Just another beautiful day in paradise, as one light winked out, another shone bright. Memory; I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one. I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done. I'd like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways, Of happy times and laughing times, and bright and sunny days. I'd like the tears of those who grieve to dry before the sun, of happy memories that I leave behind, when my life is done. -Author Unknown

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