Like many people, I find myself in situations and circumstances in which it appears only one way is possible, and it’s the way that’s hard, undesirable or requires loss. Recently, I heard three people speak about what they’ve been facing in the last eight weeks, and I was reminded there is never only one way. Even in the worst of situations something else is always possible and frequently it’s the miraculous. In listening to their stories I was also reminded that we rarely know what people are really dealing with, even those closest to us, in fact, maybe especially those people.
The first, a woman in her 50s, who I’ll call Anne, spoke about a close friend who is facing the end of her life due to cancer. On a previous occasion, Anne had spoken about her friend and her illness, and how she had asked Anne to go ahead of her and prepare a new house for her in another state on a beautiful beach in which she would spend the last period of her life.
She had given Anne a blank cheque book, and Anne had spoken about the unexpected joys and surprises of furnishing a house for her friend’s last days. Fast forward a few months, in which the friend and her husband moved to the new home, and Anne spoke about what had happened recently.
Just before Christmas, the friend’s husband accidentally drowned. Now, her friend asked Anne to arrange the funeral. And that’s what Anne did. She and her friend talked about what they wanted for the day, and her friend asked that it be an occasion for laughter and weeping, and that people be free to be however they are, be free to express themselves in whatever way they cared to. And the day came and Anne brought her friend from the hospital, frail and bereaved, and they had the most magnificent day in celebration of her husband’s life and the self-expression of all.
The second, a woman in her 30s, who I’ll call Kate, had previously spoken about her mother who was suffering from cancer and facing the end of her life. Now she spoke of what had happened in the last eight weeks.
In that time, she and her family had been shocked to learn her father had also contracted cancer. Around the same time, Kate learned she was expecting her first child and being aware of her mother’s situation, she established she was having a baby girl and was able to tell her mother of her granddaughter-to-be before her mother passed away. As she spoke of her family’s closeness and the waves of grief she was experiencing at her mother’s death, Kate stood straight and tall and beautiful and put her hand on her belly and said she will make sure her daughter knows who Kate’s mother was.
The third, a woman in her 60s, who I’ll call Simone spoke about a situation that had occurred in her birth family. She and her siblings were dividing up a property or bequest. The eldest had earlier wanted a larger portion than the other siblings because of some circumstance, but had subsequently dropped his demand. Just recently, Simone said, he had resumed his previous position and was again wanting a larger portion than the others.
Fast forward to last week, and something shifted. Simone said one of her younger brothers who I’ll call Peter had unexpectedly come forward and told the eldest he could have what he wanted and that he, Peter, would give it to him from his share. Suddenly, the eldest brother realised what he’d been doing. “You can’t do that, it’s unfair,” he told Peter. And right then and there, he dropped his request for unequal shares for good.
Image: A Sentimental Journey, 1971 by Nobuyoshi Araki