By Anne Gleeson
September 11th 2001 is a day the world stopped and was forever altered by an act of terrorism which unfolded before us as we were glued to our televisions watching the horror of the event and its aftermath. This was a day were many said the world had lost its innocence and it is a day we would never forget.
I remember September 11th for that reason and pause to reflect on the dreadful atrocities that were committed but fast forward six years to September 2007 and another event unfolded which resulted in my world tilting on its axis and a day I will always mourn and never forget. My best friend and sister Carmel finished fighting the fight of her life.
A dear friend Louise lost her brother on this day and our grief around Sept 11th is shared.
On 11th September 2007 at 5.00am she slipped quietly away after many weeks of suffering, pain and misdiagnosis. She was admitted to hospital on July 24th and during her illness she had only seven days at home with her loved daughters.
I was present, with her daughters at the time of her passing, and although this was unspeakably difficult I would not have had it any other way. As I left the hospital on that morning and made my way to Hamilton to tell Mum and Dad, I saw a couple of people I knew on their way to work. They tooted the car horn and waved to me as I crossed the road and I wondered “how the world could keep on going while this tragedy had just occurred.”
Carmel could always see the humour in any situation and her hospitalisation and decline were no exception. Many times we laughed about what was happening and the things they were doing to her. Yes she had moments of despair and “why is this happening to me” but she accepted her fate with faith and dignity. There was nothing romantic about her death and the grief we all felt is as bitter as the drugs they used in her treatment.
Rumi eulogised death as
When you see
My corpse is being carried
Don’t cry for my leaving
I’m not leaving
I’m arriving at eternal love”
Her death however was not a cause for rejoicing because she was arriving at eternal love it was a cause of fear and sadness and disconnection. Death is always shrouded in mystery because as a society we never talk about it and as individuals we never think about it. We celebrate birth and the milestones of youth and adulthood. We (sometimes) appreciate the wisdom and experience of a mature, aged life and celebrate these milestones. However, we keep away from thoughts of death; in fact we are known to not talk about death. We pretend it does not exist and are surprised when it visits those close to us. Her illness made us talk about death and what was before her and for this I am grateful.
Dad passed away 11 years ago and lamented Carmel’s passing till he arrived at eternal love. Mum is still with us but because of another world crisis, the Corona – 19 pandemic I am unable to be with her and support her through the grief she feels particularly on September 11.
I miss my wonderful sister and friend and think about her every single day. I lament the pain experienced by her two daughters who have had to make their way without a mother’s guiding hand: I lament the sadness that she will never know her grandchildren and I lament the pain experienced by all who knew and loved her.
However although her death makes me feel very sad, when I think of her I remember many happy times, times of joy and laughter and friendship and bonds of sisterhood. Thank you, my lovely one, for being the sister you were and will continue to be.