It only seems fitting today on the eve of Samhain to share my favourite picture book with you all. ‘Death Duck and the Tulip’ by Wolf Erlbruch. The picture book explores death, and introduces us to the notion that death is with us all.
The reason I love this book is it does not rescue us from the notion of death, it does not try to paint a pretty picture, it allows the readers emotions to be evoked and for us to think about our own existence and experiences of loss. (I even based my thesis on it.)
I am a woman that is passionate about making space for the more challenging subjects in life to be explored, given a platform that feels safe and that people can hear and witness the truth of what loss means and not be disillusioned by what is deemed as the right response by society.
Being a woman without children carries a great deal of loss and I do feel a death of a life I will never have resonate through me.
My early to mid 30’s I spent almost paralysed by a feeling I did not understand, overwrought with an emotion that seemed unfathomable. Why was I feeling so lost, why was I feeling like I was getting left behind, why was I feeling the light had gone and all I could see what darkness, no path, no direction, just wall to wall inky blackness that reached immeasurable depths. It ran through me, through my heart, my soul, my energy and my very being.
Death was following me but I had no idea.
May 2017 I turned around and I saw death and she invited herself in.
(Now just to get this straight, I was not dying, but there was a real felt sense of loss I was experiencing, just it was not known or being named.)
In that May I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, overnight I went from being a very fit and active woman, doing the career I had dreamed of, and just about to launch a illustration business, to a woman who could not walk, stand light, have the energy to hold my head up or commune with anyone for more than a few minutes before being dragged into a state of brain fog and cognitive numbness. I could no longer write, let alone draw, I was a ghost of who I used to be, my body had given out I became invisible to the world, obsolete, I was no longer a functioning part of the society.
This was the time that death walked in, and I finally acknowledge her.
I grieved for the life I had had, I grieved for the life I would never have.
I could no longer shove down or suppress the feelings that lay deep within about being a woman who cannot have children.
It was time to have a relationship with death, it was time to acknowledge her existence, it was time to make peace and let her join me in my life.
Now this may sound strange and like it was easy, but this was not, the path has been full of many ups and down and cavernous holes that I have clattered into and hit the bottom with a almighty thud. Having to gain the gusto and the energy to pull myself out again.
Pregnancy announcements rendered me flat on the ground, at times surrounded in a pool of my own tears. Times away with friends, watching them with their children, hearing them share stories with each other about their children a invisible bond they had and all the time I grieved as I felt I faded into the background.
All the time death was holding my hand.
I know this sounds macabre, but in facing the grief I was experiencing, I was no longer hiding, the emotions, they were free to rise and fall within me.
I was feeling, I was alive and although death was with me, I was no longer rendered numb by my unknown grieving, it was out there, it was breathing the air, it was being given light and being seen and felt in all its heartfelt sadness and the joyfulness of me letting it go.
Death Duck and the Tulip is a wonderful example of speaking and sharing with the world what can be seen as the harshness of life, but what lays nestled deep and secure in the narrative is a beautiful relationship, one that is born, of understanding, one of being seen, being witnessed and feeling validated in life through the presence of death.
For all the grief we feel, which there are many complex layers; I hold close to my heart that it has brought me to this present moment. On this path I met Kadi, we created Anotherhood and through Anotherhood I feel I have found my voice once again, connected with so many amazing woman and found what lights up my soul.
Being true to me and letting my voice be heard and myself be seen for the woman I am that is driven by the worth of life, the preciousness of life an that we are all valid, we all have a place and we deserve every single moment, inch, molecule of time that we exist on this planet.
We are gifted this life, but as I like to say life was gifted us.