What we leave behind

Grief is very hard to estimate; its effects when it comes up and if we ever really get past it. I had drafted this post after the passing of two very impactful people but somehow the words refused to move from my head to my fingers. So this is me finally letting it out. Inspired by hopefully the last loss of the year and another great woman gone.

First, we buried a real African princess. I can’t call myself a writer if I don’t write about her. I know her through family and slowly discovered how deep the connections went. One of the many things that make her story so interesting is in writing the eulogy, her family’s biggest struggle was to write it out without her late husband. Granted, in their generation love started young and lasted their whole lives, theirs spread beyond their marriage and children. They had impact after impact and literally one can’t commemorate them separately.

Every time my mother reminisced about her, the toughness and strength would come up and she would remind us to be strong women as well.

The number of times that I did interact with this princess, you would not forget her. She had a presence that I have met very few with, her husband being one of these few. It’s interesting that I remember so vividly considering how young I was when I first met her. Even earlier down the timeline is my parents’ interactions with her. She came from the same village as my maternal grandmother and so as small as the world was back then, my parents were beneficiaries of their personalities. My mother was always in awe of her, would praise how tough she was, that she was small in stature but no one would try and mess with her. Every time my mother reminisced about her, the toughness and strength would come up and she would remind us to be strong women as well.

In her eulogy, we heard of the milestones she made, going to The Alliance School that then became a family tradition, her further education in India- the first woman in the region I think to have gone to university. This is the 1930’s so that is not a small thing. My mother, being my biggest source of information, shared that this was an inspiration to many families, that women and Africans could do those white people things and excel. They planted schools and she was a PE teacher so one would not interact with her without ending up getting fit somehow. My mum’s jokes don’t come out the same in writing.

She lived a full and contented life, no glory or trappings of vanity weighed her down. She ruled her family with strength and the fruits thereof are very visible. Even in her departure, it was a show of strength through years of illness. Still, her presence never weakened in its impact.

Loss number two was a lesson in friendship.

This one was a close friend, the matchmaker of many marriages just through his friendliness. His funeral was packed more with friends than actual family and tears all around. One shared how he randomly checked up on her and just happened to talk her out of a suicide attempt just before she found out she was pregnant. He was a big brother to so many people and every story is how his presence somehow helped people through a hard time. I’m no exception.

He loved to say, ‘It is what it is’ and ‘tomorrow we live to fight another day’ and always, always was a giant ball of positivity.

I met him when I was going through a very confusing space. He would never ask the tough questions that made me feel less of a person or even more depressed, he was just there for me. And when I finally got my feet on the ground and got into the workplace, he would annoyingly play devil’s advocate through office drama and I would get myself back on the horse on push on. He loved to say, ‘It is what it is’ and ‘tomorrow we live to fight another day’ and always, always was a giant ball of positivity.

At a memorial hang out, one friend remarked that Tony would never say a bad word about anyone. And truly, I cannot think up a time that he did. He was always understanding, literally full of grace to everyone to get them heard and understood. How many of us can have that said of us? He always called. Just because. Just to say hi. Remembered every birthday, I don’t understand how because he literally knew the whole world. He really cared. The world is so much darker without him.

Whew! Today, in writing this I have made it past Tony. I always stop there.

And finally the last loss of the year.

Let’s just start with stunning. She was stunning. Also a family connection, she was that person who enjoyed life that we all need to have one of no matter how you meet them. She was also super humble, from her eulogy she worked in the banking sector from the 70’s and this is not a small detail because in the 70s women didn’t even have bank accounts. There’s more to the story than I can give you right now but for sure, she was not a small deal.

I loved how friendly she was and the life of the party and her outfits. Woman!!! This lady would look really good all the time, and I mean all the time. No flamboyant makeup, just a beautiful fit, colourful, sleek, I mean just the right outfit. And she was bright and smiling and just made one enjoy her company. I would say that she was just present in every moment and in every life.

These three people did more than move through life as so many of us do. I’m sure they had many rough days, they felt the hurt and disappointments but what they left behind them was so much more than another tale of life’s troubles. They leave strength, friendship, presence. Their goodness was not hidden, yes they were humble but that didn’t mean they didn’t take pride in themselves, they did.

I had one more loss actually, before all these. It was a life that didn’t get their chance to start. I thought I was prepared but a loss is a loss. Grief still leaves the question: was it a boy or a girl? could I have saved them? did I do something wrong to deserve it? I would have been holding them by now, would I be doing it right?

The biggest lesson from all this is how little control we have in life really. No matter what we tell ourselves, the things we do think we control are just to soothe us from the inevitability of disappointment. Grief has told me this year to just do it, whatever it is I’m worried about, scared of, avoiding, just do it. Other good things will come and we will enjoy them. Whatever happens, we will be okay. I am okay now, doesn’t mean in the same way but I am okay for sure.

So, new resolutions: just be present, be strong and be a good friend. The rest are details.

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