So I’m back from my trip home to Israel, and find that even people who did know why I went are still capable of thinking it must have been lovely.
I guess they’re imagining some super meaningful time with my family, sitting around and looking at photos of my mum and sharing beautiful memories. We didn’t do that, and I can’t actually imagine us as a family doing that sort of thing. Also, there was no time. There was stuff that had to be done, and I was only there for a short visit. That’s the way it goes when you live in a different country – you can’t just take your time and do things in a meaningful way, you have to get things done in the short time you’re there, so you have to operate at a fast and ruthless pace. There’s no time for getting all emotional. There is paperwork to deal with, to make sure that your family can carry on with the procedure of getting the will approved and getting the bank to transfer the funds and all that whilst you are 2000 miles away.
Someone asked me how the memorial service went (short answer: survived it) and then said: so apart from that, you just had a holiday? Oh yes, sure, a fabulous holiday, holding back the weeping so that I could deal with the bank and the lawyer and… yes, lovely, thanks.
Before I went I remember someone kindly wishing me that my trip home would be full of all the things I need to be able to grieve and remember and celebrate my mother’s life – ha ha ha… excuse the hollow laugh, it was a nice thing to wish me but oh, how far from the reality of my visit.
No, the things that I need to be able to grieve and to remember and celebrate my mum’s life – those things I’m a lot more likely to get here, in my own space, where I can take my time and ponder and cry and… all the stuff that there just wasn’t time for when I was there. Even at the memorial service there wasn’t the space for anything meaningful. I went to mum’s grave and came back without having shed a single tear – the atmosphere just wasn’t conducive to that, everyone was being chatty as though we’re out for a picnic or something. Chat chat chat chat, now let’s do this reading and now let’s recite this prayer and back to Chat chat chat…
I cried later, alone with my husband in the evening. There was no time to cry at the cemetery. No space for emotions. We’ve never been good at expressing emotions in our family. I’m the one who does feelings, but somehow I can’t do that with my brother, not after all these decades of not doing it – it would feel a bit like taking your clothes off in the middle of a busy street. No, we just don’t do feelings in our family, so I do feelings when I’m apart from the family. And we don’t do meaningful prayers in our culture, we recite whatever the prayer book says we’re supposed to recite… I’m so unused to that now, I’m used to prayer as real communication with God, in my own words, straight out of my heart – not repeating some formula that someone else wrote a zillion years ago.
And I’m very unused to the concept of chatting right up to the moment that the prayers start and then carrying on chatting as soon as the last “amen” is said.
Anyway, I’m not sure there was a point to this rambling, just that no, I didn’t have a lovely time, or a holiday, or a meaningful grieving experience. I had a crazy three weeks of being rushed off my feet trying to sort out bureaucracy so that my mother’s will can be dealt with in my absence, and in between there were some nice bits here and there. And I came back exhausted, not just because of the rushing around but also because of not having the space to deal with the emotional impact of visiting my mother’s grave and of visiting the place that was her home and getting used to her not being there.
Meaningful? Lovely? None of the above. Exhausting? Yes, very.
But thanks be to God, I survived this, and managed to do what was essential, and now I can take my time and recover, and do the weeping that I need to do as and when I need to.
Life is not a bowl of cherries.