I held her close to my chest – breathing slowly, breathing deeply. Desperately trying to create a memory I could hold on to. Her inhale aligned with my exhale, and I knew I would never quite understand. Breathing seemed so easy – it seemed too fickle to have such control over someone’s existence. I knew my nan was going to die, so I clung to the rhythm of her chest, as though there were answers in the simplicity of her movements.
And there were. But the answers didn’t make me feel any more knowledgeable, they just assisted in painting a picture. They helped things fit together. Somehow death helped life make more sense. It was easier to piece together the progressions through which we are all moving.
Everything around us is ageing – physically. Everything, eventually, must submit to this reality. We are made of stardust and dirt, and other beautifully mundane collections of atoms. This very physical part of us must simply adhere to the laws of nature – just as leaves move through the air, taking themselves to the earth to break down.
Our bodies get weaker, but we’re not just the skin that holds us. We are more than that. We are breath and mind and other things we can’t precisely explain. This non physical part of us seems to be drawn to connection. If we didn’t build relationships, we could grow, live, and pass away, completely disconnected from one another.
But love exists.
I had watched her love wrap around things, and sit in between places no one else was comfortable enough to go. It was the mark she left in this place. Where the rest of us drew lines around where we would walk, she merely pushed new formations into the earth, and let the gravel mould itself around where she’d been. This was what I held while counting her breaths. Love was all I saw as every other part of her was fading. Love is the thing that still remains when all of our cells pack up and go home.
I understand death is a part of life, and in some ways I understand nothing at all. I’m just picking up pieces along the way. And the love I collect in my hands, I hold out. Hoping there’s no end.
(Banner and thumbnail images taken from Cool Grannies by Marieke van Grinsven used without permission, yet)