silence

This post is not about silence in the usual sense.

It is not about the silence of libraries and waiting rooms, broken only by the occasional cough or the shuffling about of things and people.

Neither is it about the silence of the oppressed or marginalised.

It is not even about the silence of mid-night or early morning, when the streets are empty and the air is still.

As I write this, it is almost seven weeks since my grandma passed away. I will schedule this post to publish at more or less the seven-week mark.

I’m not sure why exactly it’s taken me this long to write about this. It’s not really that it’s been hard to talk about (especially after reading Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes). Part of it is simply that I didn’t have the time, energy or words.

But I know if I don’t write this, these thoughts will just continue to swirl around in my head indefinitely, waiting for an outlet. So, I suppose, this post is about my silence of the last seven weeks — the silence of loss. Continue reading

lessons from the crematorium

This month’s book club selection was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. The book club I joined alternates between fiction and non-fiction every month, and I originally thought I would be skipping a lot of the non-fiction months, but I was really intrigued by this book. (To be fair, I joined not very long ago, so there have only been two non-fiction months for me so far, so I guess I’m sitting at 50% participation on non-fiction.)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was first published in 2015, and was apparently a New York Times bestseller, so maybe a lot of people already know about it (?) If you don’t, it’s basically about Doughty’s experience with working in the funeral (or death) industry — mostly about her time working at a crematorium.

But the book wasn’t just written to tell us what it’s like working at a crematorium and to describe dead bodies to us. Doughty also seems to be fascinated by rituals surrounding death, and with people’s beliefs and thoughts about death and dying. It’s something that will happen to everyone but people don’t really talk about it, don’t really understand it. Continue reading

meditations – last days

I’ve still been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, still been carrying it around with me everywhere I go (I always take a book wherever I go – well, almost everywhere). A colleague (now, sadly, ex-colleague) commented the other week, when she saw me walking around at work with it, that she thought I was holding the Bible. I joked to her that it basically was like a bible to me.

Continue reading

the pigeon

When I walk to my usual bus stop, I always walk along a street that passes under the freeway – or, rather, the freeway passes above the street. Underneath the freeway, the concrete is covered in bird droppings, and you just know there are always pigeons around somewhere nearby.

Yesterday morning, when I was walking this very same route, there was a pigeon lying on the concrete off to the side of the footpath, right under the freeway. It only took one glance to know that it was dead.

Later that day, in the staff tea room, I was reading a copy of National Geographic that someone had brought in and left at the table. There was an interesting little feature article about death and how it’s defined. It quoted some medical definition that referred to the cessation of either brain activity or heart function, but also touched on the spiritual significance of death, and how this could create another definition altogether.

It having been a busy morning, and me having read the article quickly because I was only on a short break, I did not immediately connect the pigeon and the content of the article. And you might ask “But why would you? It’s just a pigeon!” but I should tell you that I have a kind of fondness for pigeons. Not the kind of fondness that one might have for puppies or kittens, but more of a kind of sympathetic fondness for these simple creatures.

The thing that struck me the most the first time I saw this poor pigeon, was how peaceful it seemed. It did not look like it had been attacked and killed, and no scavengers had yet come to claim its flesh.

Only tonight, when I walked past it again (someone had moved it aside, further out of the way, but I assume it was the same pigeon), did I think of that article again. The way that the pigeon was lying there, its wings folded in close to its body, made me think how perfectly it would fit into my cupped hands. I imagined the warmth emanating from its body, the gentle rhythm of its heartbeat, and a soft coo rising from deep in its throat.

I slowed my pace momentarily, marvelling at how its body was still so intact (although who knows what has happened beneath the feathers smoothed over its body). It very well could have just been asleep – in an odd place and an unusual position, but asleep nonetheless. I thought of that article again, and wondered if it really might still be alive, in the sense that it wasn’t dead, based on the technicalities of the definition(s).

It was a humbling experience found in an unexpected place.