I’m sure that some of you are acquainted with the following quote from Oliver Sacks, neurologist and man of science, best known perhaps for his book The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat but also for Awakenings, which became a film starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams. His words are in a sense a farewell, encouraging us not to fear our journey into the beyond and I find them deeply moving.
“There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate—the genetic and neural fate—of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
I too have often thought of the fact that we are all unique, that when we leave this world we are leaving behind a library, a storehouse of experiences, of knowledge that can only be retained in minimum part if we have written, if we have shared our thoughts with others. Throughout our lives we create a universe within us, and I find it difficult to accept the fact that when we die, it all disappears. Somehow particles of that universe continue to move around us in their orbits, for the mind that created them has left its imprint on us and on our environment.
It was April in 1993. After several months of living in another dimension, of no longer being aware of her grandchildren or of the blossoming daffodils, my mother left this world. I sat outside the door that opened onto the garden and felt she was still there. Perhaps more than ever. I watched a bat swoop around, joined by a smaller one, chasing mosquitoes. In the trees by the gate I could hear the nightingale trill its song, ever quicker until it burst into a rhapsodic finale. The breeze blew softly and every so often I seemed to hear the notes of a Mozart symphony, the only music that kept her company till the end. It will be long before I can get myself to listen to her Mozart again, for the two seem to be one.
As I sit there I too seem to lose my physical being and merge with my surroundings. Yes, my mother loved and was loved, and her love is not something that can simply disappear.