It’s 12.13 a.m. so really I should be asleep.
But I made the real bad decision of doing some life admin and going through my personal emails to clear them, all the way from the back. Started with my ‘Personal’ tag (yes I file my personal emails) and suddenly remembered that people used to email their loved ones updates about their lives and travels.
Reading past emails was fun, except when it got to the part where they started to document my father’s descent into illness and eventually death. And then emails started popping up about estate management. The real niggly part about death is when there is administrative work.
Anyway. Tearing up started giving way to full-on, body-shaking sobbing. Which to be honest I haven’t done in years. I used to be a huge crier – and I still do at 99% of shows I watch and like 50% of commercials – but when it comes to IRL personal stuff, I haven’t cried in years.
I like to think I’ve picked up my grief, placed it carefully in a box, and covered it up, storing it in an attic where no one goes except when one really goes looking for the past. It’s good this way – most days I walk around the house, knowing the box is in the attic but understanding it needs to sit there, gathering dust; and some days I can climb up the ladder and open the box if I want to, dust be damned.
But on the days you least suspect it, your attic collapses into your house and the box cracks open and dust is everywhere like ashes and also the box is alive and full of tentacles and coming for you and then slapping you in the face. That’s what it feels like.
It’s just been Qing Ming Jie so I just visited the columbarium. But while it was good to have that dedicated time thinking about our shared loss and what we still have in our shared lives, it was still routine, a part of the life we now lead. We light joss sticks and talk about my niece; we walk into the air-conditioned segment of the columbarium (cos that’s what mum paid for) and we notice the newcomers; and we talk about those who have died young.
But you see it doesn’t really work when your calendar locks in a date for grief. The box refuses to open. It’s just life – so much of the rituals of death are about life.
I haven’t really thought about my grief in any considered way for a long time. I wanna say it’s a feeling I always remember, but it really isn’t. But every time I get caught off guard by it, I always realise how much of it still lives within me. Maybe not suppressed, but dormant.
Guess it’s time to change my metaphor. It’s more an active volcano, a rupture in the earth – plus the ash part still works. Nothing to do now but sleep, volcano, sleep.