Monday, November 03, 2003

All Saints' Day

Yesterday was All Saints Day and yesterday was the day my brother's mother-in-law passed away. We all knew this was going to happen because she was very ill and she could hardly recognise anyone by the end of it.

I am not close to her although she lived with my brother for the last nine months. But strangely enough, her death had quite an impact on me. Her death clued me in on a few things.

1) The fragility of life
2) The idea of loss of a loved one
3) The importance of children

Death has always been a very abstract concept to me. It was something that happened to old people and pets. I never thought much about it until this year actually. Earlier in the year, when we were in the midst of the SARS crisis, it was brought home by the doctor who was our age and died 6 months before his wedding. That came about the same time as Daniel and I fussing over the minute details of our wedding and it put things into perspective. It made us consider what it would be like to lose one another, it made us realise what should be important to us was the marriage and not the wedding. What drove the point home further was the last act of the doctor's fiance before he died. She went home and put on her wedding ring and made sure that he was cremated with his on. A simple act that echoed resoundingly in my head.

Yesterday, I thought about it again. My sister-in-law had lost her mother, my nephew and my niece had lost their grandmother. I could not imagine that for myself-no matter how much I get annoyed with my parents, I cannot imagine the world without them. Now my sister-in-law has to live in that world. I feel bad for her. It was only a few months earlier that she had to fear losing her husband- my brother to brain tumour and surgery. Now this. And it doesn't end here. Her father is in an equally bad state and I have a suspicion, would not be allowed to attend the funeral. How does one get through it?

I asked Daniel the same question last night. How would I ever get over his death should it happen- TOUCH WOOD!- ? His reply was that he would want me to remarry. I cannot wrap my head around that thought and that was the thought that I fell asleep to.

I woke up this morning, with the same thought, wondering how Threez, my sister-in-law would get through the day. I know the presence of my brother and the kids would help. Which brings me to the idea of kids.

Daniel said a while back that he could only imagine having one child. My friend who is the only child said that the responsibilities of being an only child were huge. I saw that too, with Threez and her mom. Even though she was not the only child, her brother was a continent away and in cognito most of the time. The burden on Threez's shoulder was a heavy one, but she had no choice but to do it. The responsibility of our parents lay solely on the shoulders of us- their children. It is a responsibility that we are expected to fulfil and I am glad to have been brought up to see it as a right my parents deserve and one that I will carry out.

But what happens if you are ill and have no one there to help? Threez's mom spent her last days in a hospice and it must have been lonely, with only a few hours of reprieve when there were visitors. Imagine staying there, and having no visitors. How would one have the will to live?

I do not want to have children so that there will be someone to take care of me when I am old. That is too selfish a reason. I want to have children because there will be something of me that lives on beyond my prescribed 70-80 years.

It's not as selfish and self effacing as it sounds. I have seen how much my nephew Bruce has learnt from her. He spoke more at 2 1/2 than his little sister does. He knows all the names of the train stations because his grandmother taught him so. She taught him songs that he sings by heart and knows how to differentiate the leaves by shape because of her. I see her in my sister in law- the dedication she has to the family and to the children, I have seen Threez sitting cross legged in the floor of her room, bouncing ideas off her and listening to the wisdom that comes only with age and experience. I have seen the maid cooking pork chops for the family the way she used to do it, to carry on a simple tradition. In all these people, lives a little bit of her and if she never had kids, all of this would have died with her. And I would never have learnt quiet courage from her, as she faced her last days, in pain, but refusing treatment because she was at peace with facing her last days and she spent those days, not in a cloudy drug induced world, but with her grandchildren.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed...

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.

She fought the good fight and I think there was no better day than All Saints Day to "from her labors rest" and heaven is richer with one more saint.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 10:03

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