How writing a stranger’s memoirs taught me to live fully and love unapologetically
08/02/2019 | It’s with a heavy heart to say that Adele passed away on Monday, 04 February 2019. No more cancer, no more pain. Sending much love to the Abraham Family and Adele’s friends.
It's not the easiest question to ask someone you barely know, then again,
I was here to write her memoirs. If she wasn't dying I wouldn't be sitting
in her room at the rest home, where the walls had the personality of a non-existent Summer, which perfectly complimented the passive mood lighting overhead.
She is a friend’s Mum, someone I knew of only by name until three weeks ago. How do you earn the trust of a stranger to allow you insight into their life, maybe into memories their loved ones didn't even know about? The answer is to have compassion without pity, to listen with curiosity and to write with the intention of giving them a genuine voice.
They say that no parent should have to bury their child, yet as an adult and seeing your parent in pain is just as hard. Nothing prepares you, and you have to find your own way through it. My friend knows this too well.
Death is a part of life
She wasn't in the room when I asked her Mum that question, it felt too raw, insensitive even. I think her Mum knew it was coming, because her expression had changed. You know the kind Mums have when they're about to school you on life.
Isn’t cancer a bitch?
“Have you made peace with it, you know, with the fact that you are dying?” Sigh. “I have and that's because I know there's a better place for me. Where I won't be in pain anymore.” She knew that when she passed, the pain will end for her, yet for those she leaves behind a different pain will take her place.
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. And eventually acceptance.
The stages of grief isn't linear, and often you will jump from one stage
to another. Like a never ending, cruel game of Hopscotch.
“Death is a part of life, just don’t wait until the end to appreciate what you have.”
What I understand about
grief and loss
My grandparents passed away a month of each other. I went home to see my grandmother not long before she passed, and I knew in my heart this was the last time we would see each other in this world. As sad as I was, she had lived a good life and I didn't want her to suffer by holding on.
When I think of grief and loss, I always remember my friend Corinne.
Two months shy of her 22nd birthday, she was gone in the blink of an eye. The human form isn’t designed to take on a bus. Even though it was a freak accident, it took me years to make sense of why I couldn't get over her loss. Just as everything was falling into place, she was gone. It wasn't fair.
I was a mess at her funeral, one of the few times I allowed other people to see me cry like that. Every part of my body ached with melancholy. When it was time to say goodbye at the church, I stood before her Mum and all I could offer was a hug. How do you comfort a mother who lost her only child, especially as a young adult?
Grief and loss. Corinne pops into my head now and then, usually when I’m on a long, solo road trip. On my thirtieth birthday, and how we would have celebrated if she was alive. She was in my thoughts on my wedding day. In the days when all I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry. As much as it makes me sad to know she isn’t around, I smile when I remember her and the impact she made in the few short years she was my friend.
The final chapter is just the beginning
In my years as a graphic designer, I’m used to crazy deadlines - though writing memoirs is a different kind of deadline. She had her eyes closed as I read the first draft, while her daughter sat next to me, hanging on every word.
There was a nervousness in my tone because how do you comfort someone, when at the same time your words are confronting them with their impending mortality? As I finished, she let out a loud sigh. She frowned because of the pain, then smiled. We spent the rest of the session laughing about my friend’s childhood antics. We chose to laugh because if we didn’t, it would only remind us why we were all in that room together.
When I finish the last paragraph and read it to her, we’re going to celebrate with M&Ms and bagpipes music. Although my friend did tell me that her Mum is also diabetic, but hey, yolo. Maybe we could even have a party and invite some of the other guests and teach them the six step.
By writing a stranger’s memoirs, I was reminded that my time in this body is finite and it’s up to me to make the most of this life. Let’s not wait until the end of it to be grateful for what we have - let us live fully and love unapologetically. She taught me to forgive the past and be hopeful for the future.
Thank you for everything Adele.
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently based in New Zealand. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.