I did wonder, as Island Blog 100 moved closer, what I would choose to write about – where my fingers would take me, what tale I would give life to. It seemed such a big number and worth due attention.
Then the subject chose itself and not in a way I would have guessed, nor wanted.
But, my dear, I tell myself, in that gentle motherly tone, such is life.
One moment Sula is running along beside me, or, more likely, way out front, or miles behind and busy being her completely independent self, and the next, broken in the road. I wasn’t sure if I would go into that bit, and yet, I cannot, nor will I, hide from the truth of anything. As a……now, what’s that word they use to describe me in reviews of Island Wife…….? ah, yes, ‘cosseted’……. young woman, I saw little of the nasty side of life or death, for my parents protected me, protected all of us from things unsightly, the stuff of nightmares. I would have done the same for my own children, given half a chance and with no access to the blood and guts of hill farming, but that is not how it was for them, and, because I was there too, with eyes open for the looking, I saw it as well.
With hindsight, I am glad they did see it, for the alternative is not the truth, not balanced, not real and it just makes the inevitable, inevitable. One day, they will see, we all do, and the earlier the circle of life and death and life again is accepted, the better our hearts and minds can deal with it.
The response to pictures and words about Sula on Facebook pages, the messages by card, letter and phone, words of compassion and genuine sadness – all those mouths full of memories spilling into our ears, are helping a great deal. We don’t know until something crashes into our lives and breaks it, what any of it meant to those we meet on our journey.
This is the Life after the Death.
The first Life bit we take for granted. However thankful we may be on a daily basis for the gifts we are given, the lovers, friends, partners, children, pets, we don’t spend a lot of time second-guessing their life span. We just live it out, honestly, realistically, focusing on the little add-ons such as what to put in a child’s pack lunch and whether or not the gym kit is clean for Tuesday. We can be careless with our goodbye’s and our hallos. We can be snappy and regret it, but not say so. We are caught up with concerns over our own footwork on the hamster wheel, and we can miss times we should never miss. But, we are human. We are frail. We get it wrong, we get it right, but mostly we fall somewhere in the middle and we do okay, although it often takes someone else to remind us of that, so filled we are with self-doubt.
I know I looked after her that day, as I always did when the sailor went to sea, you see, and left her in my care. Yes, at times I moaned about being tied. Yes, I was raging with her when she climbed out the car window, because it was too hot, or took off in a different direction, costing me time and emptying me of puff; when she refused to come to my whistle, and sat down in the middle of the road, her favourite place to sit. Yes I snapped at her when she followed me around the house, up the stairs, down again, into the kitchen, out again, and all because a bluebottle had flown overhead. One slight buzz and she was off, pushing through any number of garden barricades and out onto the road, where, oddly, she felt quite safe once more and all the drivers passing by had to stop because she would not step aside for any size of vehicle.
Then the inevitable happened. I knew she was dead immediately and held her, talking softly, even though she could hear nothing by then. I lifted her through the gate and cleaned up the road and the sun shone and nobody came, no drivers, no walkers as if everyone knew this was our time to be alone. There was not a mark on her body, not even a graze. I closed her eyes, and covered her with a sheet, and then I sat for a while looking out across the sea-loch, where the gulls wheeled and cried above a jagged line of spume and kelp, the markers of a new tide bringing new life.