I didn’t realize before how great is the disturbance in the universe when someone dies. So many have been affected by the death of an elderly woman in Ottawa – many of my friends, even ones who’d never met her, even ones I hardly ever see, are expressing shock and sympathy. (It’s hard for me to write ‘an elderly woman.’ She never admitted she was old and looked askance at other old people. She would not like me calling her elderly. But Mum, you were 89!)
Today my dear friend Ken took me to the Art Gallery to see the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera show, and then to lunch. He listened while I talked and talked, which was exactly what I needed. “Be kind to yourself,” he said, as have many others.
So I went to the Y this afternoon, not to work out but to sit in the steam room and be warm. The city has been inundated with snow; waiting for the streetcar meant being splattered every time a car went by. It’s beautiful where there are no cars, like my backyard; slushy and horrible where there are.
Despite the thoughtful kindness of friends – and both kids, who called today just to find out how I am – I do feel kicked in the gut today. I haven’t even begun to deal with this. We had a great but also strained relationship, my mother and I. This isn’t one of those situations where a daughter howls with grief because the one person who supported and loved her unconditionally has gone. Not the case here; much more complicated than that.
And yet as I watched “A Late Quartet” on Christmas Eve, all I wanted was to tell Mum about it – imagine, a movie about a string quartet! – and to discuss Beethoven and Opus 131. We would alert each other when something good was on the radio or TV; we watched “The Choir” together, sometimes on the phone watching at the same time, talking about what the choirmaster Gareth was doing with his latest group of singers. She adored Gareth. I have spectacular loved ones and friends, but there is no one to fill that particular space – the space of two genetically linked people discussing a British documentary about a man who shows non-singers the joy of music. Who will dance to Randy Bachman with me on Saturday nights, long distance?
Well, I’ll just dance and remember.
On the reality front, we are trying to make arrangements for various things that need to be done, most importantly to book a place for a January celebration of her life – but it’s the week between Xmas and New Year’s, and absolutely nothing is open. No one is in. I also have to book a parathyroid ultrasound for myself – a tiny but worrying blip on the horizon – and those offices are closed too. The world shuts down this week. Except for shopping.
Frida Kahlo was hard to take today. Her life is out there, every bit of it – her abortion, blood dripping down her legs, her accident and miscarriages, her tortured love for Diego. I wanted her to do some meditation and learn to let it go. Let it go, Frida! But her suffering was who she was and how she made a living. She became an icon of suffering. A hard way to live.
People are sending me the most beautiful notes of comfort and condolence. The one that made me cry this evening was from my friend and student Ginette, who wrote about her own mother’s death, about honesty and grief. At the end, she wrote, “Thank you Sylvia, Beth’s mum. Everyone who needs to know has your right room number. Rest in Peace.”
Thank you, friends, for sending such comfort. And special thanks to Patsy, whose Xmas gift provided a lot of very good chocolate. That helps too.