Grey-black against the sky, broad-winged, long-necked and legs trailing like sticks, the heron beats over the long remembered wood.  The house, its windows misted by neglect and the leaves of spring spreading into the peeling wooden frames, seems solid enough from the outside.  Inside the smell of disorder and decay expose the loss of routine, the continuity that held sway for nearly sixty years and ceased some time ago.

Cold, dark north-easterly rain held the backdrop of the previous day when the coffin was lowered into the ground, woven bamboo bright against the newly dug earth.  Maybe she did not want such a cradle at the end, perhaps preferring the deep mahogany gloom and Victorian brass handles. Its brightness eased the path to her resting place and held her empty body in a gentleness that reflected her final days.  The eldest grandchild stood tall in the church she occasionally took him to as a child; he read his poem
 ‘When I knew you were leaving us,
my memory spun in a hiss of gravel,
rustled through the trees, ….’

His voice uncovering the years as he read on, his eyes revealing the light of childhood, and the eyes of the congregation wet with the recognition of time passing.

When I last saw her the shock of her withered face, sparse hair, and eyes that seemed to have watered down the blue to a greying incomprehension, had disappeared and was replaced by the understanding that what lay in the bed was the body of a human not long before its passing.  To sit there by her bed in silence and watch the flitting of such a murmuration of thoughts: shaping, pulling apart and then reshaping, enabled communication that could not be tethered to words or rationality.  Fingers delve into the past as if searching in mud for something that had been lost and find that all that has gone before no longer has any form.  Just to be there was enough and to say goodbye to the person who brought you into the earth, brings an end to it all.  In the opening of those eyes there is recognition and in their closing there is also liberation; in a gesture of thanks and the quiet turning away - a new freedom. 

Life has its own movement in its circular form with time measured in years, a small part is an individual existence.  As the winter holds old bones and frail bodies allowing the opportunity for some to gently take their leave, and spring begins the transition from sleep to an awakening, there is an ancient rhythm.  To watch this closely, observing the falling of leaves and the emerging of delicate green shoots, is to learn to be part of this movement; not to be a casual observer, nor to be some commentator – explaining away all that has gone before in a comfortable phrase or glib statement.  To be aware of the deep pulse of life and death and watch the response of emotion without the sense of what should be felt, is to be connected.  And after all this, is it possible to be alive to death?