Friday, May 26, 2023

Letting go... and its opposite

Garn Fawr - the big cairn - near to Strumble Head

Some subjects are too big for blogging.  

For weeks - months, in truth - I've been in a sort of Sargasso Sea with my writing; thoughts swirling and circling as I ponder not so much what to say as how (and where) to start. Until the other day my son asked me if I had a subject in mind and I replied without hesitation, 'letting go': a response that hints at a desire to simplify and pare back to what's essential, important... immediate.

My father-in-law is dying.  

Five weeks ago he suffered a stroke of sorts, or at least that's the simplest way to describe it.  He's with us thanks only to tubes and the consummate care of his nurses. Occasional moments of lucidity are contextualised by his living in a delerium-induced world of hallucinations and fears. The prolongation of his life is undignified and not what he would want; the pain palpable to all who love(d) him...

We are selling our former family home.

And about time too in my view, but not in Jane's, who's taken eighteen months to come around to the emotional and physical connections its sale will sever.  In terms of sentiment, I guess I'd cashed out early, but it's never that simple. We invest more than money in bricks and mortar despite our obsession with prices, equity and putative property ladders...  

My son will soon be leaving.

In September, exam results allowing, my youngest boy will go to university — the same one I attended forty years ago; studying the same subject too.  How life turns in circles I thought... Except I'm bereft at the prospect of his leaving; willing the wheel of his life to spin, yet yearning for a friction that would slow it just a little... 

I'm getting older and feel it keenly.

Not so much in my body as my view of the future. When I left home at eighteen, my mid-twenties seemed an age away, retirement beyond any imaginable horizon. Now life's skyline feels closer and more focused; its infinite possibilities for the first time closing in. This is not a bad thing, nor one that I fear, but it involves making choices, not the least of which is the release of pretence as well as possessions...

We are here but an instant.

This week I went with Jane to Strumble Head, as elemental a place as any I know: the ocean, the wind, the neolithic hill fort and the spring squill on the path...  Standing on its ancient rocks, you can see the curve of the earth and sense the juxtaposition of time's eternity and flux in every surge of the tide...

More than ever I'm determined.

Intent on navigating a course through the flotsam and jetsam of life's Sargasso Sea that I began with.  To do so, I've realised, requires not a bucket list or some egotistical attempt at immortality — but a delicate balance of love and loss, of caution and creativity, of holding on and letting go...

As I said, some subjects are too big for blogging.


  1. Well said, Mark. I've read that grief is the unwanted souvenir of love. When we lose the things we love, a person, an ability, a thing - grief is there to help us not to forget, but to let go.

  2. My mother retained her mental health right until she died. The body was letting her down but she was as sharp as a tack. She would have hated to be kept alive as you describe the case of your father in law.
    You are undergoing a number of changes all in one time set....and are handling it with your usual blend of practicality and sensitivity. Good luck with it all.

  3. I wrote about the exact same thing a few days ago, even talking about the balance to be sought between letting go and still living a few dreams.

  4. Hari OM
    Having been so recently through similar, you have my full understanding. Like you, I have the ability to loosen off the sentimentality - not without a twinge or to be unkind, but simply in acceptance of the simple truth of life. It must end. If we are able to simplify it and narrow it down to the essentials and gain the best of what remains from that action, then let it be so. To anchor ourselves too heavily in what was is to deny something of the possibility still to come. I wish you and your family warmest regards as you navigate the ending of one life, and the burgeoning of others. YAM xx

  5. A subject too big for blogging, maybe.
    But those words about balance sum it up just perfectly.
    I am so sorry to hear of your father-in-law's misery and wish we as a society could manage the end of life stage better.
    All the best,

  6. Beautiful words Mark - you have more or less encompassed all the things which as we age begin to impinge on our thoughts - thoughts too big to write about - sometimes even too big to contemplate. I have gone through two very happy marriages and both deaths - how one thinks about them just can't be put into words. Thinking of you at what is a very difficult time.

  7. A very big topic, indeed. You've done well in clarifying the swirling thoughts that come during these times. Life is full of sea changes and navigation takes intention and patience.

  8. thecontemplativecat here. So profound and true. You wrote it well.

  9. Letting go of others is difficult.
    Letting go yourself is strength

  10. Two old friends took me to lunch today. Old as in a former life time. I'm the oldest of us and I think they wanted to see how one downsizes from a five bedroom house to a sitting room. They looked uncomfortable until I asked them to sit down, and then we were our old selves for the next hour.

  11. Many changes in your life. Let go with sadness and relief. Look forward with curiosity.

  12. I had this thought the other day and spoke about it to my daughter. It seemed to me that up until a certain age it was all gathering things in life and after a certain age it was all about letting it all go. I feel that now at 77 I am gradually letting things go, some I am happy with and some I am sad about. There is nothing I can do about it so I am having to come to terms with the idea that that is what life is all about.
    I as you know recently lost Tom and my dear Rupert and now have four more old cats to go. My health is not good regarding arthritis and not being able to walk without pain but i still have the car and can drive but no doubt there will come a time when the car will go.
    I try to make up for all this by being grateful for the things that i still have and great kids.

  13. Emotionally we are hamstrung by everything about us. Every decision takes us to an edge but one thing is true the more you get rid of the less you feel incumbered. Life is for living and as we grow older there are less years to live.

  14. This sounds a bit religious, but when I imagine death I think of the loss of consciousness of course, and I cannot imagine being thrown back into the pot as part of the universal consciousness that continues in the material world. Ok, I had better stop thinking now.

  15. This time last year my father was dying. The last few weeks were truly horrible for him and us and letting go of the bad memories is not proving to be easy. I feel for you.

  16. Yes, too big. I couldnt form words after my husband died six months ago. So many changes at one time, so hard. You expressed it so well. I hope things clarify for you.

  17. Loss and grief are never easy, especially when they are compounded. I don't know if you like poetry but I love this poem about loss.