Life and Living, Other Stuff

Time passes. The sun will continue to rise.

It’s long overdue, this blog. Long overdue. At the very latest, I’d resolved to post this on the 27th July, exactly two months after my last on 27th May. But it’s past midnight now. Today is 28th. (Oops I see now that my last one was on 29th. This date confusion can happen in a pandemic).

Let me precis as best I can, to retain your attention, my blog notes that have waited in the wings for the months of June and July, my thoughts on this life, this crazy life.

But before that, I want to share my most recent thought I have which is this:

On Sunday past, the 26th July, at exactly 2pm, I was one of many faces looking back at myself on screen on a Zoom call as we gathered around the world to celebrate my aunt (my mother’s sister and last surviving sibling) and uncle’s 70th wedding anniversary. And I knew that when it was my turn to say something, I would fall apart.

And so of course I did.

I started off rather well, commenting on how utterly marvelous they looked, but particularly my aunt (who turned 93 last month) sitting regally in her little Zoom ‘box,’ her face and eyes bright, her hair left two- toned as I’d never seen, her voice strong and clear. She could have been the Queen. Next to her, as if almost not a separate individual but more like a conjoined twin, was her husband, now 97. We call him a saint.  I’ve seldom seen one without the other.

It was the music and slide presentation of family photographs that came before that prompted the tears to stream down my cheeks. The reams of photos their daughters had collected and collated which showed their lives together, the background track, “You’ll never walk alone” played on instruments by their own children and grandchildren and another track I cannot think of right now. Music fills our family.

And then it was my turn. I barely managed a single coherent sentence when I crumpled completely, totally overwhelmed with emotion. What was there to say? Congratulations on living your lives together, committing to each other through 70 years of challenges of life and being there to the end? On staying alive?

I was trying so hard to finish commenting. I wanted to express my wonder on an extraordinary couple, on how I treasured them as role models seldom seen today for such a large clan of grandchildren and great grandchildren, but before long, my aunt butted in.

‘Listen my girl’, she said, ‘there are to be no tears here. In our home, I always said that if you want to cry, you can cry but not in here. In here we only have smiles.’

Well that sure bolted me upright. I took off my glasses, wiped my wet face and tried to gather myself. As we all had to on that Zoom call. I was not the only one who was in tears.

And then they sang, these two, special people in my life. She with a steady clear voice, with no accompaniment, just the soft movement of her hand indicating the beat and showing him when to join in. He joined in on cue, always abiding her instructions as was his trademark, his voice not quite so strong but an anchor nonetheless.  ‘Thanks for the memories…’

But what was it then that made me weep so? No-one had died. There they were, celebrating their lives. “Well, we are just so lucky’ she kept replying to all of us who marveled and mazel tov’d them over their lives.

And perhaps it was just that. The element of ‘luck’ which seems to be the only thing that we cling to, have gratitude for in a world that is just so completely insane. It was in that moment of naked emotion that I felt an extraordinary appreciation of my simple existence. And the life I’d shared with many others in the blocks. My own parents, my sister, my cousins.

They are still alive!

And I am still alive.

Does this sound puerile and too simple? Perhaps. But there it is.

Because at the same time, don’t we all know that this life is threatened and as tenuous as a leaky little boat, bobbing along in the stormy ocean.

And every day that I exist I’m becoming more aware of this. (Okay, some days I’m a little less contemplative and read a book and drink coffee and lie on the couch for a few hours, though not nearly enough). Despite the utter insignificance of my own significance, it’s only this. I’m alive on this planet for this day.

How then do we exist on each day?

Simple rules it seems. Gratitude for able bodies and minds, love for those closest (because, really? no-one else matters), and constant charity.

And if you forget these, watch the sun rise, walk on the mountain or dip into the ocean.

In the middle of July, I wrote some cryptic notes for myself:

One of these inspired by Liz Gilbert was to ‘Do something different until something better comes along,’ None of the others seemed important enough to repeat here. But somehow this little line must have stuck since never before have I considered swimming in the middle of winter.

Taking the gap to see my parents after the end of June deadline for my new book, it was there that I first dipped into the sea (stripped down quickly into my underwear, thank heavens they were pretty decent that day) and since then, I long for the immersion into cold salt water. It helps that it has felt like the middle of summer.

The pictures here tell it better than I can:

But since this feels like a catch- up blog (for myself, to record my own diary, rather than to entertain you though of course I hope, in some ways at least that it does), let me comment on thoughts in June.

June was marked by birthdays and death days, in between many working days. In our close and extended families, there are number of us who are celebrated in the first 10 days of June. But this June, there were also two deaths which were significant to me.

One was Elsa Joubert, prolific and award- winning writer who, though not personally significant to me, I had the fortune to meet and in fact played an important part in the story I am writing. (I cannot wait to tell you more about this but not in this blog).

The other was my darling friend Sharon, I’ve mentioned before to you. Sharon died in the early hours of her birthday on 21st June.  She turned 54. The same age I turned just 11 days before. On that evening, the clouds looked like this.IMG_5357

But the reason I want to show you the clouds and not talk about her is because someone told me a strange thing around the time she died. And the thing was that there was a particular person who, though she didn’t know Sharon well at all, felt that she should come to see her, just before she died, so that she could explain to her that now was the time she needed to accept Jesus as her saviour if she wanted to get to heaven. You see, the thing is that Sharon was Jewish. And it struck me that if this person thought that she wouldn’t get to heaven, where did she think she’d go when she left this earth?

I’m glad I don’t have to say more about this to you here now. Because I think you will understand my sentiments. I was mad. If people continue to find reasons to discriminate against each other based upon the way they look or what they believe in and prefer prejudice to peace and hatred where there can be love, we’re in a sorry state.

As I recall, one of the titles of my earlier blogs was, ‘Are you ready to imagine a different world?’

Enough said.

At the end of June, I wrote a sentimental little bit to myself about it being the end of the first half of the strangest year I’ve yet to experience, about sunrises and other things. And as I wrote, I suddenly remembered with tears streaming down my cheeks,  something I sang many years ago. A little group of uniformed school children in a little junior school in the middle of Parkview while the sun streamed into the music room and teacher sat behind the piano. Music does that to me.

Do you remember that world?

Do you know this one? Sing it softly to yourself as you read the words if you know it. Even if your voice is not clear and you want to weep. I see now looking it up online that the title is actually, Fill the World with Love and it’s from Goodbye Mr Chips. I thought it was a hymn, called “in the morning of my life.’ Maybe it is too.

In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise.
At a moment in my life when the world is new.
And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me,
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

(Chorus)
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love my whole life through

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine,
At a moment in my life when the sky is blue.
And the blessing I shall ask shall remain unchanging.
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through

(Chorus)

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset,
At a moment in my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only God can answer.
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

I didn’t intend being quite so sentimental when I started this blog in fits and starts over the last two months.

That’s the lovely thing about this blog. I never quite know where it’s going but I love the journey.

Much like life.

Be strong, be brave,

With so much love,

xxx

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Time passes. The sun will continue to rise.”

  1. Hi Niki,

    Such a beautiful blog.Was feeling rather down these last few days! Lotsa love Jennifer Mc Calgan

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