I have been surrounded by death a lot recently, loved ones pass so suddenly leaving us floundering in the aftermath. Life is fleeting at the best of times, temporal, and time so cruel it makes a mockery of us because we think we have enough of it to make the most of life with loved ones. And yet, there is no occasion like death to bring us all together; Sod’s law.

My stepmother died recently, and a memorial gathering was held in her honour at the home of friends she grew up with. It was held in the beautiful Peak District which is as long a drive as ever there was and the traffic heinous but on arrival we were surrounded by much love so the time taken to get there was all the more worth it; you know what they say about journeys and destinations. People I’d never met, strangers seems a cold term to use here, so people I’d never met filled me with memories I wasn’t part of making. These are the people who knew my father long before I was born, knew him by his initials which also spells out a name. He passed in 2015, but being around the familiarity of his memories brought the mourning of him every year around the anniversary of his death full circle and made it a lot less sorrowful, it kindled the bond that remains. The stories were as wild and cheeky as I’d known my father to be, it gave me a peak into the life he lived of which I was not part. His life was big and full and fun and these stories warmed ever so soothingly. These stories are the makings of a person and their lineage because in them I could see myself, my nephews and nieces, my siblings… each train weaving new strands of metaphors for our lives.

Barely a week after this memorial a dear aunt died so suddenly after a very brief illness. I was sitting at my desk at work on a Tuesday morning still umming and aahing about whether I would have the chance to see her after work having been to see her the week before, and I got the call. 10:05am. I was caught between letting the news sink in and pressing send on an email I was working on. And in that way life can be a reel of moments flashing through, I was reminded of the every memory with my aunt; summers spent with my cousins, her presence at family gatherings, and her full and beautiful laugh. At the funeral, I was again surrounded by family I’d never met or lost touch with because of the demands of life. I was flooded by the many memories shared with my cousins growing up and the depth of the loss was even more pronounced because of the connections of these shared memories. Her final moment with me is a happy one, formed the week before when I reminded her of a song she’d taught us over twenty-five years ago which for some reason, I still remember and now will never forget because of the joy it brought her. it made her laugh that full signature laughter of hers that creased her eyes and rumbled on. We shared stories until it was time to leave, 4 hours later, neither of us the wiser that it would be the last time I saw her alive.

Death makes everything ephemeral; it pokes at our fears and makes us question everything about life. So fleeting and precious, like reaching out for the streaks as they whizz on by but we hope to hold on to. And in these moments surrounded by family no matter the relationship you are reminded of those formative memories, and you promise to do better and be better in memory of the loved one who has given you the chance to come together.

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