Last year Julian's big sister, Mandy died and we were all crushed for a while. Life goes on and we are functioning again but we privately still observe the gaping hole that remains. Mandy was a little person in stature, but she took up a lot of room in life. She was the big sister who was there for everyone around her. In between being wife and mother and teacher and psychotherapist, she managed to stay interested in everyone and everything. Lately she claimed back some ground for herself too, until cancer really stuffed up those plans. Life really can be that unfair. I owe Mandy a lot. Without saying much, she showed me that it was ok to be myself, and that it was pointless to try and fix everything, and that life had to be lived. She was the sort of person who knew how to shine a light on a path so you could see. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't perfect, but she was better for all that. She was comfortable in her own skin, imperfections and all, and she let us know that we could be too. The only exception would have been if I had hurt her brother.... in which case I would have been in a lot of trouble. Tiger sister.
Anyway, back to the gaping hole. I showed Mandy all my first (bad) pots. She was massively encouraging of these early efforts and I miss that enthusiasm. It was as if she understood that these pots were coming from somewhere important, and that she knew there were a lot more to come. They didn't need to be good. They just had to be made. So I miss her for that, and I miss her when I see something she would have liked, which is pretty much all the time. I am angry that she can't see it too. Now I have to see it for both of us. I owe her that much.
So this weekend, nine months since Mandy died, we all went to the Deben to scatter her ashes. Tenderly her husband and daughters poured her ashes into little paper boats and she floated away on the outgoing tide with roses picked from her garden. I had been dreading it. I had been getting to a place where I could live with the gaping hole. The paper boats with Mandy in them floating away ripped it all open again. How can anyone that vibrant die? She had so much left to do. This is the worst part of it. She didn't want to go. There is no answer to this. Death doesn't wait until we are finished with living.
So for Mandy, and everyone else who is forced to get off this train before the last stop, don't forget to get living and appreciate every single precious moment of it. If you get stuck in a traffic jam from hell, smile at the person next to you and think of something nice or just remind yourself how everything can always be so much worse, and be grateful for that. Be a bit good, be a bit bad and have as much fun as you can. Try and make some difference and have an opinion. Finally, love the people around you. And in my case, make more pots. Mandy, its so unfair you are not alive to do all those things, but we will make sure you are never gone.