Recently I was trying to describe to someone why I think it’s important for our society to be more open in talking about death and dying. I described my desire to bring wholeness to life’s circle of births and unions by helping to make death just as natural a part of our thoughts and conversations.
I used terms like ‘normalise’ and ‘day to day.’ However something about the idea of that fell flat for me and I wondered why. I realised it’s because, although grief has brought me a lot of pain and sorrow over the years, it’s been a very precious experience too that’s been anything but ordinary.
For one, it’s given me a bittersweet sense of the world which I’ve often expressed through poetry. Whatever the results might read like to a literary pair of eyes, the creation of that poetry has been a touching and beautiful process I would not have foregone. To imagine normalising that experience or making it routine is missing something vitally important – which feels like more than just an irony given the subject matter.
It reminded me of some feedback I once received about one of my poems, the theme of which was flying. A kind reviewer described the way the words take the reader flying along beside the writer until a couple of clunky lines at the end bring both back down to earth.
‘Before that, you ‘soar with poem – and who wants to come down?’
Sometimes I have soared in my grief – been touched by the cold biting wind of it as much as by its numbing chill. But in the feeling and rawness of that bite I have come alive. And who wants to come down from life?
I do still, very much, want to help take some of the fear and loneliness away from the experience of grief if I can, by making it a topic people do not shy away from talking or hearing about.
But I also now strongly believe we should leave space within loss and bereavement to soar – so that we can also appreciate the heights and depths and poetry which encountering death can bring us closer to.
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Paragliding at Annecy 4/9/2010
The breeze that whistles past, the view
Of lake and cloud and hill and coloured hue
In time suspended, captured on the wing
The human birds in flight and glory sing.
Gestures to the wing tip, tweaks and turns
Now grace again that on the beat returns.
Down, down then up but always down,
So must the birds return to level ground.