We’ve packed our bags for a trip overseas. As I packed, I knew that within a few days I would have to say goodbye to Clea, yet again, because she can no longer travel with us; only in our hearts.
It is the goodbyes that I find so difficult. I hate leaving her behind. I have had to leave her behind in a cemetery for 166 weeks now and I still can’t come to terms with the fact that this is how it is.
Even watching television – it is not people dying that upsets me; it is people having to say goodbye.
I helped my mother move my father to a nursing home about two weeks ago. I didn’t think it would be so difficult, after all he has dementia and only knows us for, maybe, one per cent of the time. But the drive to the nursing home reminded me of the times that I have had to steel myself to go through the motions of doing things that I really didn’t want to do. It was like the drive to Clea’s funeral. The drive that you never want to be making but you know that you have to.
As I told my mother that day, there is only one leaving that I could not steel myself for and that was leaving my daughter in a morgue. I could not prepare myself for that. Leaving my father in the safe environment of a nursing home for his own benefit and for the benefit of my mother was not so hard really. My mother thinks her life has been destroyed at 75 years of age; mine was destroyed at the age of 43. There are many goodbyes left.
I can hardly write this as leaving my daughter upsets me so much.
Tomorrow, once again, four of us will catch a taxi to the airport and board an aeroplane to a country that is far removed from our own. We will escape the Christmas cheer, the New Year’s Eve glitz and Clea’s 10th birthday. We escape because it is a little bit easier this way. In this way, we do not have to explain to people why we do not like Christmas; why we cannot wish them a happy New Year; and, why we prefer to celebrate Clea’s birthday alone.
These trips are always a reminder that once five of us boarded an aeroplane but only four returned. It is difficult to say we are going on a ‘holiday’ as we went on a holiday that time as well.
Clea loved travelling. There is a poster on the wall above where I sit to write which Clea has called ‘Clea Salavert 2009 A Map of Where I Have Been – oil pastels, textas, pencils on paper’. She has not been to the places she has written on her map – Melbourne, Hobart, Tasmania. She forgot to write where she really had been – Singapore, Japan, Holland, Spain, and finally Samoa. And now, we go to places which I know she would have loved to visit.
I wanted my free-spirited child to travel as much as I have done and as much as her father has done. So, we take her brothers and teach them what it is like to lose yourself in another world.
Instead of packing Clea’s clothes today, I went to the cemetery with my flowers, rose petals, chocolate coins from Santa, a sparkler and tiny glittering love hearts to sprinkle on her grave. I wished my daughter a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a Happy Birthday.
Then I waved and said ‘see ya’ like she always said to me and walked away wondering when.
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience …
T S Eliot – The Waste Land, V What the Thunder Said