There’s a rose bush in the garden that mum loved very much. It’s a tall rose, a sort of sugar pink in colour, and she could see it from her bedroom window when she was sitting up in bed. It’s an old rose but every summer it would flower profusely. ‘This old rose keeps on going,’ she would say. When she was in the care home, I’d cut a few blooms and take them into her.
This year, for the first time ever, it hasn’t flowered once. It can’t be the drought because the other roses have flowered. It still has green leaves, but no buds. Now I’m about to leave the house, and there’ll be no further connexion, it felt like the rose has stopped bothering to make the effort to flower. A bit like a reverse Beauty and the Beast. Initially, I felt sad. It seemed to signify the ending of an era. But now I feel Ok about it. Now I really feel I’m allowed to move on.
It’s not the only symbolic – or superstitious, if you prefer – indication that it’s the right time to leave. It’s an old adage that a robin in the garden is the spirit of someone who’s died. Actually, there’s always been a robin in the garden, I remember dad used to talk to one, but it’s also true that the last few years robins have nested close to the house in the guttering at the top of a drainpipe. It’s a safe, sheltered place to nest, out of the reach of predatory birds and prowling cats. Last year, as I was afraid their nest would be washed away after heavy rain, I covered the tempting gutter with a piece of mesh. This year, they built their nest on top of the mesh! So, they are very much resident in the garden.
And once, when I was on the phone in the living room, talking to someone about grief and death, I looked up and saw a robin had hopped right through the back of the house and into the living room. ‘Did it seem to be looking around, checking out how things were?’ asked my pal on the other end of the phone line.
‘Well, yes it did, rather,’ I had to admit. My friend was convinced: it was the spirit of one of my parents come to see me.
Then there are the feathers. Everyone knows that, if a white feather floats down beside you, that means you’ve had a visit from a departed soul. Several times now, I’ve found some of the most downy soft, pristine white feathers scattered all over the lawn.
So, whether or not other people take this seriously, it’s made me feel that although I’m leaving the house, I’m not abandoning it. It’s the right time to go and somehow, I’m receiving permission, receiving a Blessing, if you like. As much as my parents were happy here and I want to honour that, my work here is done.
Funnily enough, as I was typing this, the new owner knocked on the door to say hallo. We went out in the garden and I showed her some of things I’ve planted. Her mother has just died and we talked about how difficult it is to let go of things that once meant something to our parents. In fact, she admired a couple of pieces of furniture which I don’t want and said I’d be more than happy to leave behind. So, I do hope the new people will also be happy here.
What I’ve got to do is make sure I’m packed up and ready to leave! At the moment I’m surrounded by chaos! There’s a lot to do, but at least most of it is my own stuff. If I decide to throw it out, that’s my choice, I don’t have to burdened by guilt or some vague sense of responsibility to the past. And my current concern is: will everything I am keeping fit into the storage space that I’ve booked to use while I’m settling on the next phase of my life!