|my mother and my grand-daughter two years ago|
My mother died nearly five months ago now, peacefully at home and after a long illness, and it has taken this long for the initial sense of loss to pass; the paperwork to be processed and the division of belongings, bequests and gifts to be made.
Today I called in to collect the last items before the house goes on sale. Books, pictures, unmatched crockery, glass bowls and vases; holy statues and pictures; the usual accumulation that remains after 48 years of living in the same house. Those items of sentimentality and personal taste that none of us wants and no-one can bear to throw away. Indeed it was a dying wish that nothing was thrown away.
My father also died at home, five years ago, and I have to say that I have never gone into the house without being aware of his presence. To the point that sometimes I used to pray for him to go. But the truth is, that my mum didn't want him to go and she certainly outranked me. I was reminded that when they went shopping she would often 'park' my dad in a cafe until she was ready. Perhaps he had been waiting somewhere similar, drinking celestial coffee and slipping a sly smoke, all this time.
Certainly today, as I wandered through the rooms checking drawers and dressers; tops of wardrobes and understairs cupboards, I wasn't aware of either of them. After all the prevaricating and putting off of this moment I felt that the family home was an empty house. I wondered if I was doing it right; although I wasn't sure what 'it' was.
Then this line, the last line, from 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen came into my head 'nothing really matters'. And it was quite embarassing really; I mean, we were all Queen fans but 'nothing really matters'? At a time like this?
But it wouldn't go away. 'Nothing really matters'
I began to realise that it was true. The house was just a house. The family home was the presence of the people and events that has filled it over these last years; good, bad and indifferent. The times we had spent growing up; growing together - and apart - and then together again; the leavings and the coming back. This wasn't in the bricks and mortar - this was a 'no thing' - insubstantial; atmospheric and impossible to pin down to one place. These 'no things' we have already taken as bequests - we all carry with us now; in our own way; in our own lives; in our own family - they are free of the redbrick terraced house in Liverpool.
I have spent years trying to live a life that is not based on possessions and today I really understood.
It really isn't the 'things' - the stuff - that matter. It's the 'no-things' - the 'no-things' really matter. What we do with what our parents taught us; what we taught each other; what we know and what we wish we didn't know. It has all 'left the building' and if it really matters then it will stay wherever it has set up home and it will become part of another legacy.
My mum called me to several death-bed promises; some I have already broken and I think that's ok. At the end she became afraid of that last act of letting go - but now she has gone I don't think she cares about what she thought she cared about. So some of these boxed up items will be going to the charity shops and some will be going to the rubbish tip and a few, a very few, will be going home with me. Not because of a promise but because I have a use for them or I just like them and that will be ok too - because what I will really take; what really matters is 'no-thing'.
Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen