How death defined me

Death define

To those of you who subscribe by email, apologies.  You are getting two emails today.  It’s a necessity.  I just can’t keep this inside.

I am not a serial follower of blogs.  Blogs are, for me, a source of information.  That thousands, nay millions, of people blog is fortuitous for an insatiably curious mind like mine.  I just plug in what I want to find out about and voila, there it is.  As I have only used the internet as a tool, it never really occurred to me to actually follow a blog religiously.  That was until I came across Edenland.

Eden is pretty massive in the blogging world.  Her blog is individual, about her experience of living life on life’s terms and quite often it isn’t pretty.  I may have mentioned her before, but I love reading her blog because, well, she is raw.  She writes in a way that strips herself bare – honest, unapologetic, so very human.  She shows a bravery I have not had the courage to find in my own writing.  I care too much what people think.  It is limiting, and diminutive.  I hate that.

I have a morning ritual.  I drop Master J off at school, then toddle off for a coffee and muffin.  This is the time I read, catch up on stuff, get to be outside of the house.  Today, I used this time to catch up on a couple of Eden’s posts.  I was reading this one when a lump caught in my throat.  Tears sprang to my eyes and I had to get up and leave.  These words (which are not her own, but of poetry slam champion, Buddy Wakefield) took me completely and utterly by surprise:

Cemeteries are the world’s way of not letting go.”

I have an obsession with death.  I think that’s obvious.  I talk about it a lot.  Ever since my first husband died when I was 25, death, not him, has been on my mind almost every day.  Mr G died by drowning whilst scuba diving.  I had to drive 2 hours to identify the body.  It was shit.  The whole way down there I cried whilst my mom cradled me in her arms having to perform comfort that no mother should have to provide. I just kept groaning “Please don’t let it be true.  Please let it be a mistake.” And my mom just stroked my hair each time I said it.  For two hours straight.

His body was in the police station.  I still to this day do not know why.  An attempt was made to resuscitate him in hospital, so why he was moved to the station is beyond me.  We walked into a cold sparse room.  In the centre was a steel table and on it lay his body.  Sand was in his hair and around his body.  I had to touch him.  He was so cold.  My mother was crying, and my dad was holding her.  I noticed some blood at the back of his head.  I was not expecting this and was shocked.  There was a policeman in the room and I wanted to scream at him to get out.  I didn’t.  But I wish I had.  I just sat staring at Mr G, knowing that my life would never be the same.

Days later it was his funeral.  I insisted on him being dressed in his favourite tracksuit and not a suit.  He hated suits.  Prior to the funeral I was given the opportunity to ‘view’ him in his coffin.  What a fucking idiot term.  Who the fuck views their dead relative?  You sit with them, love them one last time, but you’re not there with popcorn and candyfloss to fucking view them.  Anyway, I sat with him.

He had had an autopsy done, though you couldn’t tell with the correct placement of the satin cover over his head and his tracksuit.  I had to touch him.  I lifted the lids of his eyes.  They were opaque, no longer blue, the life completely gone.  I then traced the incision mark down his chest, gently going down his body.  We had flown our school minister in for the funeral and he sat in the background, quietly watching.  I can only imagine what he must have thought.  Death.  It does strange things to us.

I grew up that day.  And I grew up again when my mom died 4 years ago.  Except there has been no moving on with her death.  After Mr G died, I found amazing love, different love and, yes, better love with Mr C, but there was no one to replace my mom.  My grief and subsequent depression hacks at me every day.  The truth is one day is good, but then the next it is fucking awful.  It is only by the grace of the school run that I make it out of bed.

Cemeteries are the world’s way of not letting go. It is true.  Except neither Mr G nor my mom have a cemetery.  Mr G had one, but I never visited it.  He was cremated and popped into a wall of rememberance.  I took Miss J there once, but I hated it.  To see him reduced to a box in a wall was simply too much.  Then his mom removed him when Mr C and I married and left for the UK.  She had someone dig a whole in the garden at the flats where she lived and popped him in there.  She has since moved.

When mom got sick, it was agreed that we would hold onto her ashes until dad passed and then scatter them together.  Not sure how that will play out – he is with someone else now.  I have a part of her in a medicine bottle on my dressing table – dad brought it over for me a couple of years ago.  I often wonder what part of her it is that I have.  I hope it is her heart.  I wonder if by separating her ashes, I have somehow prevented her from moving on to who knows where.  But then I remember I do not believe in an afterlife, so I feel better about keeping her on my dressing table.

And now I am studying death.  I have studied death rituals of varying cultures.  I obsess with death.  It’s possible by obsessing with death, I don’t live.  I want to write a book on how to die well.  There’s plenty of crap about how to live well, but nothing how to prepare for death.  It comes to us all and we are so fucking unprepared.  We are unprepared for when we are left behind and for when it finally comes to call for us.  I am a control freak.  I hate being unprepared.

Death has defined my life.  I had no idea.

Much love,

SHW Signature




10 thoughts on “How death defined me

  1. Edenland has that effect on me too, Sarah. I don’t know how you would go through the horror of losing your first husband without it defining your life. I don’t know how. But I love that you are so connected to what is in your heart. i love that you find words to express all these thoughts, confusions, epiphanies. I love that you share your guts with us. You make me feel like I am not the only emotional, spiritual, thoughtful person out there, calling out ‘WTF?!’ into the ether. I love when Sarah’s heart writes.
    And I am glad you found Mr C
    I found my own Mr C after losing my first husband. But I didn’t lose mine to death, I lost him to another woman who was carrying his baby. Maybe you lose some, you win some.
    Arohanui, Sarah! Please don’t apologise for more posts, I can’t get enough!


  2. A heartfelt moving post Sarah. Firstly, Edenland moves me so much. She is amazing and raw and brave and her posts stay with me the rest of the day if not longer. I think you should write a book about death. I know death has definitely changed me. When my 2 year old daughter drowned I thought I would die. It was only the care of my other 3 kids that kept me going. I have alot of memories about holding my child in the hospital emergency room when she was dead, then at the morgue again which was my least favourite. I found some peace at the viewing but touching her, she felt cold and hard like a frozen no.20 chicken and her hair looked longer!
    I do love everything you write Sarah, so keep putting yourself out there x


    1. Oh Karen, thank you so much for sharing this and I am so so sorry for your agonising loss. I believe that of all the losses in the world, losing a child must be the worst. It is just not the natural order of things for our children to die before us. I have no idea how a mom (or dad) is meant to get past that. I have found it incredible how death has defined me, how can it not as it must have you too. BTW I read that hair growth occurs even after death (not massively, but it does still continue for a short while). Thanks for your kind words about my blog Karen. Take care my friend xx


  3. I read that post by Edenland too and it had a profound effect on me. I’m not even sure why as I haven’t lost anyone very close to me, apart from my grandparents. My husband is a Study of Religion and Modern History teacher and he’s done a lot of study on different cultures and the ways they deal with death and we’ve had many conversations about how we get it so wrong here in the west. There is a wonderful book I read a few years ago called “The Tibetan Book of Dying” or “The Book of the Dead”. Don’t know if you’ve read it but I would highly recommend it if you haven’t. And yes, there probably need to be more books about this subject. I would definitely read yours Sarah. Your writing always moves me. xx


  4. My life has been punctuated by death and dying due to having a terminal illness. I’ve been with many people as they’ve died, and I’m currently writing a book about death, dying and bereavement and my experiences in palliative care. I’m studying to be a ‘death’ or ‘soul’ midwife and am too quite besotted with dying and death, particularly after my own dying experience when I was 21, and again t 30. I’m incredibly blessed to be in the position I am today; living a life of kindness and compassion. Blessings to you 🙂


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