Thursday, April 29, 2010

Small offerings.

I'm in respite at the moment, as you'll know if you're reading shortly after writing.  If you get my meaning.  This place is a sort of dual-purpose respite care/hospice/hospital overflow facility.  Two days ago, I got a new neighbour, for her last journey.  A couple of hours ago, her next journey began.  It's been really nice.

I'm not mentioning her name, simply because I'm not fully across her family's traditions in this respect, and with many Aboriginal families and peoples it is considered taboo to use a person's name for a time after they have died.  This is tricky if, for example, you might share their name.

Anyway, she was very old, an elder in the local Noongar community; Noongars being the more original inhabitants of this part of Australia before the European invaders arrived.  It's been a busy couple of days here in the hallways and out in our shared courtyard spaces, with scores of people coming to pay their respects.

Here's one of the things that struck me as especially beautiful:  we have little whiteboards outside our rooms, where we can write our names, or stuff like what we'd prefer visitors to do if we're asleep.....stuff like that.  Mine is blank.  Next door's was covered very early in her stay with messages from kids.  Grandkids and other younger relatives all leaving messages of love, speaking of how they'll miss her, expressing hope that she'll have a peaceful sleep and asking her to say hello to 'everyone' when she goes.  Entirely unselfconscious and real about what was, is, happening.  Not something you'd traditionally expect to see with the white folks around here.

It's been noisy, sure, but 20 people organising cups of tea in a lino-floored room across the hallway always will be.  But despite this, the vibe has been peaceful and lovely.  There was an hour or so of people working the phones just after my neighbour went (in her sleep) and even this was soft and real.  Now, it's just people milling about in various stages of emotion, a bit of laughter here and there, and good stuff generally.

I never got to meet her, but given the way Noongar families are name-wise I am pretty certain I have worked with a couple of her relatives - probably grandkids.  Doesn't matter.

I'm just writing to share thanks for her coming, and passing, and for this wonderful (if noisy) moment of life today.

So thanks, lady whose name I know.  May your spirit find home easily.

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