Friday, 18 September 2015

134. Celebrating my aunt = celebrating life

There is a general consensus that my newly sprouted curls are a Good Thing.

They are invariably welcomed with cheerful delight.

"Elk nadeel heeft zijn voordeel!" my Dutch friend observed, which amounts to Every cloud has a silver lining.

Silver lining? It's a veritable silver Halo-of-Hair, expanding week by week. At this rate, I'll be sanctified by Christmas.

Going round with HoH is like having a companion with me at all times, someone rather separate from myself, living a life that's entirely her own.

Goodness me! I see what you mean! How marvellous! say those of you who've kept up with my blog posts, especially the hairy ones.

Is she yours?! Not adopted or anything, or ordered from the hairdresser? ask those who haven't.

HoH and I went to Holland last week.

It was our third visit together, but this time was different. This was not just visiting two sisters and the odd friend, who have been well up to date not only with my own progress but also with HoH's birth and growth.

This was a proper family gathering, teeming with assorted cousins and cousins-once-removed. I hadn't quite anticipated how poignant that would be. Years (even decades) could go by without meeting some of these relatives, but then we suddenly kept seeing each other. There were three funerals in the space of a year: my uncle, my aunt, my mother.

How wonderful, therefore, to gather in celebration of my mother's last remaining sibling, my wonderful aunt.

It was 60 years since she entered a Franciscan convent. There we all were, in our cheerful outfits and not a handkerchief in sight except to wipe away tears of joy at the beauty of life.

Perhaps it was not surprising that I got so much attention, with everyone asking the How are you question and exclaiming over HoH.

Yes, I'm fine now. (Let's not dwell on the ongoing tiredness.)
Yes, I'm back into the swing of things.
No, I've never had curls before; no, it's not a perm; and yes, isn't it amazing?

It startles me to think that it's only been 15 months since I last met these lovely relatives, at my mother's funeral. I still had my old hair then, it was less than a fortnight after my mastectomy, and I still had all the chemotherapy and hair loss and radiotherapy and hair growth to come.

Blimey. No wonder HoH got such happy attention.

With my aunt at her celebration last week

15 months ago, at my mother's funeral

But the real attention should not got to my hair.

This blog post's title should go to my aunt.

She has had such a difficult year mourning the loss of three of her siblings. My sisters and I were not alone in having lost our mother. Almost all my cousins lost a parent in the same year. Aunt helped us all with the wisdom of the prayers she wrote in thanksgiving for her life, parts of which I've translated freely:

Let this be a day of meeting each other truly
With the tides of life in the background,
where happiness and sadness, fortune and misfortune colour our lives
constantly, like ebbing and flooding.

Life is giving and receiving.
It does not pass without pain and sadness.
I believe that everything that happens has a place and a meaning in the wholeness of my life.
I believe that life is:
To be and to become who you are
Letting others be and become who they are.
Trusting, whatever happens.

God's love is given through people, a gift as constant as the tides.
I have learnt that love is the only thing that counts.

Dear Lord, let us hear Your voice in the rustling waters of all our doings.
And teach us to accommodate the ebbing and the flooding.
Let us be formed and ripened by the grooves and channels that have shaped our lives.

My aunt as a novice in 1955

Amen to that.