Poppies In The Wind

Jules’ mother died on Monday afternoon. Louisa. That was her name. She had another massive stroke and it killed her almost instantly.

Jules was with her when it happened.

I wasn’t. I was out at a café near the hospital trying to get some decent coffee. And some freshly squeezed juice for Jules.

Like many people I find the hospital experience difficult. The constant drone of the monitors, the dinner trolleys, meds trolleys scraping on worn out floors; the poker faced doctors checking stats and saying nothing. A sense of stasis slips in if you let it. A sense of panic.

I was dawdling when Louisa died. There was this little girl, about three years old, walking with her Mum and she was chatting away as some little girls do about anything and everything. I admire that about little kids, how they see the world so visually, what is right before their eyes hasn’t yet been clouded by cynicism or weariness – and they notice it all as if they are cataloguing everything.

The little girl had on a hot pink dress. It was gorgeous, made from a kind of embossed velvet patterned with flowers. She also had on fabulous knee high boots in black with huge pink polka dots. She was happy in her dress and her boots chatting away to her Mum. I could see it. At that moment she was ready to face the world. I dawdled so I could watch the little girl.

As I crossed the road into the hospital grounds I saw a bee on one of the poppies growing by the entrance. How marvellous it must be to spend your days weaving in and out of colour, supping on sun-warmed nectar. At one with the earth and the sky. That bee, contented as it was, made me cry because it made me think of Louisa and the poppies in her garden. How unanticipated they were. Those poppies changed my view of her.

When I got back to her room Louisa was dead. The room was bustling with nurses and the hospital chaplain. I was impressed that he came straight away. I felt bad that I had dawdled but death is such a private thing that maybe it was best I wasn’t there at the actual moment of her passing.

Jules was holding her mother’s hand, white-faced and crying in that silent manner that heralds real grief. The nurses and chaplain were asking her questions and she looked at me in that way she has where she says I don’t know what to do, so I took over and answered all the questions.

I couldn’t stop looking at Louisa’s face, how beautiful she was. How much Jules looked like her. I’d never noticed her whole face before because I’d always concentrated on the thin, judgemental line of her mouth. When I saw how beautiful she was I felt a wave of pointlessness wash over me – how pointless all that judgement and acrimony and self righteousness is.

I hate you because you’re gay or a greenie or a conservative or a socialist. I hate you because you didn’t go to the right schools or drive the right car or work in the right office. I hate you because you have less money than me and you are happier than I am. I hate you because you make me question my belief system and my method of judgement, and that is all I have.

I cried then. Great, blinding tears and snot, plenty of snot. I always wonder how people manage to look so glamorous when they cry in the movies because I look like I’ve been dipped in a bucket of slime and dragged through a hedge backwards.

I was crying for Jules and Louisa and probably a little bit for myself, but mostly for this life, this life that oftentimes makes us treat each other so badly for an indeterminate length of time and for reasons that are often so ill-defined and forgettable that if we were to break the reasons down into their individual parts they would be so petty, so insignificant that if we were to utter them aloud we would turn to dust.

I could see that Jules was getting upset that I was crying but I couldn’t stop. The whole thing was just so sad. All that wasted time. All those years. With that little gust of hope blowing through at the end, bolstering for an instant, but evanescent nonetheless.

Sometimes when sorrow comes the best thing to do is not speak at all. The room cleared and it was just Louisa and us. Jules and I held each other then, softly weeping.

Out the window the sun was shining. The sky was clear of clouds – a blue wash. I saw the poppies in the flowerbeds, their long, stubbly stalks bending almost to the ground in the wind. All together. Like they were bowing. Like they were saying goodbye.

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30 thoughts on “Poppies In The Wind

  1. Oh, Selma. So sad, all of it. The one part that isn’t sad is that Louisa welcomed her daughter back into her life, as little of it as there was left to live. It’s almost as if she were waiting to do that. Needed to do that. And once Jules was there with her, she could relax, and let go. Imagine how much worse it would have been otherwise. But even so, I know Jules, and you for her, can’t help but to weep for all the stupid lost time. I’m glad you were there to hold her.

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    1. I’m really glad about that part too, Patti. It has made such a difference to Jules’ state of mind. Now she doesn’t need to live with regret which as we all know is very damaging. I am glad I was there too.

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  2. How terribly sad Selma – I am so glad she was with her mother at the end and had a few days with her, where they got on. It must be a big shock to the system, for Jules and for you – take care and big hugs from me.

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    1. It is a shock, Gabe. It all happened so quickly. But in a strange kind of way I can see Jules is at peace with it. Thank God she got here in time and was able to see her Mum before she passed away. I am so relieved.

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  3. Even when death is expected, there is something that shocks us, and grief hits right inside our soul. I am so glad they, Jules and Louisa, were together at the end and that Jules will have good memories to paint over the past. Bless you, Selma, for bringing us this story about forgiveness…

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    1. You are so right Adeeyoyo. There is something so elementally shocking about the act of death. That moment where someone is there and then they’re gone is a difficult thing to fathom. Thank you for reading this. I am SO glad forgiveness came into it.

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  4. Lovely story, Selma.
    “how pointless all that judgement and acrimony and self righteousness is.”
    So true, and as thankful Jules is to having been there for the reconciliation, it is instructive to think of all the poor survivors who do not make it in time to receive their benediction.

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  5. Sending hugs to you and Jules. Now the healing can really begin.

    I found it interesting that Jule’s mother appeared beautiful to you, after death. I’ve never actually seen a deceased person, have always avoided it. But Joe has shared that they don’t look the same as if something has left them and their face. Perhaps for this woman, the ugly parts of her personality were erased as she slipped into the next world. Perhaps it was the only time that was possible.

    I loved the story about the little girl all dolled up and the bee. Beautiful.

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    1. It was interesting to me too, G. I don’t know what it was (will have to think about it) but I couldn’t help but notice her. It was almost as if I didn’t really look at her properly before because everything was coloured by the way I felt about her. It was a very odd thing.

      The little girl was gorgeous. So cute. So full of life. She made my day!

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  6. i’m so sorry to learn of Louisa’s death. from the last story i’d hoped some miracle would happen. at the end sometimes miracles are the only last hope (and so often that hope is dashed). still, i think what you came away with is important. and what you contributed also. i am so proud of you. i know that’s the kind of thing a mother says. but i know why it comes to mind, because not only were you there for your friend but also you were there for yourself, and for all of us who read this very touching story. bless you. it shines a light on something essential, something that is often easy to forget amidst the clatter of everyday life. that we are indeed privileged to know and respect others, to love them, to forgive them. because this life really isnt forever for anyone.

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    1. I’m sorry she didn’t make it too, Tipota. I had hoped for a complete mending of the relationship between Jules and her Mum. But I know Jules did get a lot from the reconciliation and so did I. I feel quite blessed to have witnessed all this even though at times it was stressful.

      Your comment is really quite beautiful. You are beautiful. Thank you for saying that!!

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  7. “ill-defined and forgettable that if we were to break the reasons down into their individual parts they would be so petty, so insignificant that if we were to utter them aloud we would turn to dust” – your insight and writing astonishes me, Selma.

    Hope you get to spend sometime with your friend away from the aftermath of these sad events before she has to go back home

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    1. Thanks, Bluebee. That really means a lot to me. We are going to have a nice weekend together because Jules’ hubby and kids are here. I don’t know how long they are staying but it is SO good to see them!

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  8. Oh Selma, I find it hard to write anything here. I’m so gad Jules was with her, for herself, and her mum. She is so lucky to have you. You wrote this so so beautifully, truthfully I’m quite speechless. It’s hard to comment sufficiently, but I felt it.
    Sending lots of love to you both x

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    1. Deborah, it is very hard to comment on a subject like this. I find it hard too – there just don’t seem to be enough words. Thank you so much for reading. And for the love ♥

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  9. Selma,

    God is good, everything happens for a reason. Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. Sorry to hear about Jule’s mother, but take comfort in the fact that she is in a better place. 🙂

    I will send you, Jules, and everyone my prayers and keep you in my thoughts.

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  10. Hey Selma, sad news here today. Your timing at the cafe was probably good, that you got back to Jules when you did was just right … that you were with her thru all this was wonderful … that she came home when she did was important. I guess what I’m saying is, everything happens in it’s own time. Sending you warm thoughts.

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    1. You are so right, Susan. Everything does happen in its own time and we must just go with the flow of it. Thank you for your beautiful warm thoughts. I am very grateful !!

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  11. I’m glad you were there for her, and glad she got the chance to see her mum before she passed. You’re right it’s much better to go without regrets.on either side. Even if it wasn’t a total reconciliation, at least there was some.

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    1. Some is better than none at all. I hope so, anyway. I hope Jules can live her life now without wondering ‘what if.’ That would be a happy ending for me….

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  12. Oh Selma. This post was so painfully beautiful it brought tears to my eyes and chills to my arms. I am sorry for Jules loss. But I am happy she was able to reconcile with her mother before her passing.

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  13. How beautiful, your document of this. Really, all the snot too. Why does it take moments like this to remind us to be kinder; to love one another?

    My thoughts are with Jules; I’m sure she’ll be okay because she could reconcile with her mother, that they were together when Louisa left this world

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    1. I’m glad they were together at the end – that thought has cheered me a lot. I don’t know why it takes moments like these to remind us to be kinder to one another. We really shouldn’t need to be reminded.

      And yes, when you’re doing the ‘ugly cry’ (as my son, Nick calls it) there is going to be snot 😆

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