Tuesday, 1 April 2014
1 April 2013, which was also Easter Monday, was the blackest day of my life, because it was the day that my dear mother, Mary Doreen Shuker, passed away. Today, exactly one year later, has been for me a time of reflection, looking back over what has been a traumatic, life-shattering year of grief, loss, and irrevocable change, but also looking ahead, to whatever the future may hold for me, and to whatever I may accomplish in honour of my mother, and in fulfilment of her most cherished hopes, dreams, and ambitions for me. God bless you, little Mom – thank you for all the happiness, goodness, and love that you have always brought into my life.
A YEAR AGO TODAY
Can it be just a year ago today since you passed from my life, my little Mom?
Sometimes it seems but a heartbeat away, other times a thousand lives, a thousand worlds, from where I am now.
People try to show sympathy and understanding when they learn that you have gone, but they have no concept of the true nature of my loss - the immeasurable breadth and limitless depth of the black chasm created in my life and within my heart by your passing. Yes, I have indeed lost my mother - a loss that in itself would be all but unbearable. But I have also lost my best friend, my ever-present housemate, my constant travelling companion, my most trusted confidante, my number one supporter, and my entire family. You were all of those persons, Mom, and so much more besides. Is it any wonder why I grieve without ending, why my life is now but a paltry, meaningless existence, a mere shadow of its former state, why I look only to the past for happiness and security now, and to the future with only loneliness and fear?
I never cried as a child, because I'd never give the school bully, the playground tormentor, the satisfaction of seeing my tears. Instead, I'd save them all, each one a precious pearl of emotion, only to be released in my darkest of all hours some day. Well that day and that hour finally came, a year ago today, the hour in which I lost you, Mom. The tears flowed, and have continued to flow ever since - every tear that I've ever saved throughout my life, torrents of tears that even now after a year of unbroken outpouring continue in unabated profusion, threatening to drown my very being in their salty, burning despair, or to carry me away, borne upon a veritable ocean of tears to who knows where.
I know that your fondest and most fervent wish for me would be that I should make something of my life, do something worthwhile with it, and, most of all, enjoy it, not fill it with grief and sadness. I cannot change the past and bring you back - I would if I could, in an instant, you know that, Mom, but I can't. What I can do, though, is change the future, my future at least, if I choose to do so. You were always so proud of me when you were here, and I can still make you so now. Indeed, it is knowing all of this that has given me a reason, the only reason, to continue day by day through this first year, and it will do so again in those that follow. You sacrificed so much for me, and loved me too much for me to let you down, to betray your faith and your trust in me, and so my books and my articles and my blog posts continue, as you would want and would hope for.
As for me: I am still granted some fleeting but all-the-more-precious moments with you in my dreams, when once again we are together, happy and contented in each other's company as we always were. I still see you in thousands of fondly-recalled memories at home and in millions of happy remembrances within my mind, which help to dispel the ever-present loneliness pervading my world indoors, and bring to me your welcome company to counter the cloud of invisibility that seems to separate me from everyone else whenever I venture forth into the world outdoors.
How truly blessed I am, Mom, to have shared my life with you as my mother for 53 wonderful, happy years, to have been loved unconditionally by someone who was so proud of me and who genuinely thought of me as special, wonderful even. Few people are ever so lucky. I shall always remember that, especially when at my lowest ebb.
This first year of being without you, of being alone in this world, knowing that wherever I look, whichever street I walk along, whatever shop I walk into, I shall never see you again, shall never hear your voice speaking to me again, shall never see your face in the crowd looking for mine again, has been the worst time of my life. Nothing else ever will, ever could, be as devastating, but I shall miss you always, all the days of my life. I now stand on the brink of entering my second year alone, and I can only pray that acceptance will at last be mine, that grief will lift and give me a measure of release, of peace, and that I shall be worthy of you, Mom, that I shall go on to achieve all that you have ever hoped and dreamed for me.
God bless you, little Mom. Please always stay beside me where you always used to be when here, please always give me hope and encouragement as you always used to do when here, and, above all else, please always love me as you always did when here. If you will do these, I will do the rest – this I promise you, Mom, with all my heart and with all my love, always.
All photographs are (c) Dr Karl Shuker
Sunday, 23 February 2014
I saw this beautiful illustration online today, and felt its winter wolf inspire me, impel me, to compose the following lines in its honour.
White wolf of winter, of starlight and icicle,
Padding softly through the silver trees in blue frozen haze,
Its chilling breath swirling, curling, a smoke of sudden snowflakes,
Its frosted fur sparking and shimmering in pale, pellucid scintillation,
Its azure eyes imparting a glacial gleam of cool frigid fire.
It turns and gazes at me as I stand before its mesmerising presence,
Resistance is futile, is fickle, submission is solace, is all.
I never suspected that death would be so subtle, so silent.
But then the bright sun filters down from the treetops,
Down through the branches to where we both stand.
And the winter wolf vanishes -
A spectre swept past-ward,
A dream dreamed and done with,
A shadow extinguished,
A vision discounted.
The snow keeps on falling as I retrace homeward,
The winter wolf's footprints my lone steadfast guide,
I still hear its howling, its heartbeat, all round me,
I still feel its cool chilling breath on my face,
And know that one day it will come, it will find me.
And I shall be there, shall be waiting anew.
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Life is for the living, and death is for the dying. But what is there for those whose living has no life, and for whom dying is not death but release?
WEARY OF LIFE
Weary of life,
Of shrugging off the darkened drapes of melancholy,
Settling like a shroud of grief upon my shoulders,
Like a veil around my face,
Like a mask around my mind.
Weary of life,
Of shaking from my memory the dusty webs of sorrow,
Woven by the spiders in the chasms of my soul,
In the ashes of my future,
In the sunsets of my past.
Weary of life,
Of gazing at the broken, empty dream that once had lived,
That once had brought the light of love, of hope, to me,
Lost now, all over, dead and done for,
Lost now, 'midst the stillness of my tomb.
Wednesday, 23 October 2013
This morning, I visited the newly-completed gravestone of my mother, Mary Doreen Shuker (1921-2013), which has taken 6 months to prepare. Standing there in the solitude of the cemetery, it all still seemed so unreal, that the vibrant little lady always so full of life, of living, and of love was gone, her time in this world marked only by the stone and grave there before me, beautiful and elegant though they were, just like she had always been. Come the closing of December, I shall not grieve the passing of 2013, but I shall forever grieve the passing within it of my mother, whose light is gone from my world until that joyous day when we will be reunited forever. The following lines are ones that I wrote yesterday evening, after I'd previously attempted to visit Mom's grave a few hours earlier, only to discover to my dismay that the cemetery had already closed.
THE CHAINED GATES
This afternoon at around 4.10 pm I received a phone call from the memorial stone masons informing me that Mom's gravestone with her inscription was at last complete and in place upon her grave. The weather wasn't good, so I decided not to visit straight away, but then at around 4.50 pm it improved and the sun came out. So I psyched myself up to be ready, then got the car out and drove to the cemetery, only to find that it was locked. It turns out that from October to April it closes at 4.30 pm, instead of at 7.00 pm as it does for the rest of the year. I didn't know that.
Standing there, outside the cemetery with its chained gates separating me from Mom's grave, was heavily symbolic for me - it is after all a representation of the real situation that I endure every day. I stand in this life, and Mom in the next, so I am separated from her by the great divide of death, the chained gates through which I cannot pass while still alive. Seeing those gates brought it all home to me so much. Of course, I know that I have only to wait until tomorrow to be able to walk through the unchained cemetery gates and be with Mom's mortal self at her grave, whereas I have to wait for the rest of my life before I can transcend death to be with her in spiritual immortality.
Her gravestone was the last thing that I could organise for Mom, and I hope that it is elegant and beautiful, just as she always was. Mom never liked the taking of flowers to graves, as they soon fade and die, or are stolen by others, so I've instructed that a pair of multicoloured bouquets be engraved onto her gravestone, so that she will always have flowers that will never fade, never die, and never be stolen.
Visting her completed grave for the first time will in a sense mark the final footstep in my own personal Via Dolorosa, the sorrowful path that I have trodden for the past 29 weeks since she passed away while everything associated with her funeral and burial was being organised by me for her and was then being carried out, stage by stage. My grief will not be abated by my visit, but there is nothing more that I can do for her now in a direct, physical way, except to make something of what is left of my life - something good, something worthwhile - if I can, as I know how much she would want me to do that, and also to ensure that her name and memory live on, as my personal tribute to a truly wonderful mother and the best person I shall ever know.
Mom is at peace; may my visit to her final resting place on Earth bring me, if still too early for peace yet, at least some degree of acceptance, of understanding regarding our mortality in this present world, in this present life, and also some reaffirment of hope that there is a new life and an everlasting reunion with those we love beyond it, beyond those chained gates that stand before us all during our time here.
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
I saw the above picture earlier tonight while browsing online, and its strange, melancholic beauty drew from me the following lines, which echo the solitude of my own existence.
THE STAG OF HEAVEN
Gently, calmly, in stately silence,
The hart of Heaven, the celestial stag,
Steps forward through the graveyard of my life.
Its leafy coat, grass-green amid the moonlight,
Flows like forest waves upon the lake,
And glows like living foxfire in my eyes.
Its antlers bear the promised buds of future years,
The dreams that may be mine in other days,
And I can only wait and hope and pray.
It passes from my sight, the land is dark,
No phosphorescent glimmer, the waters still and cold,
And I? Alone once more, as ever it shall be.
Saturday, 22 June 2013
Photograph by Andy Paciorek
Who can say what the future holds? We can only hope that we will be equal to its challenge.
THE ROAD OF LIFE
The road of life has many turnings,
And where they lead is usually hidden from view.
So we must have faith that, wherever it may be,
The sun is shining,
The grass is fresh and green,
And life still holds some purpose, some meaning, in store.
Otherwise we may just as well sink to our knees -
Alone and adrift by the wayside,
Watching our dreams shatter and perish on the stony ground,
Weeping impotent tears of sorrow, desolation,
Willing our days to darken, disintegrate, dwindle into dust -