What happens when someone leaves?
To those left behind, there will be a period of remembering and reflection. News of her passing is no different.
She was larger than life, beyond her physicality. The volatility of her words and actions left indelible prints upon the lives of those around her. I was only young when I first experienced the brunt of her anger, harsh words lashed. I felt uncertain of how I should approach her life, the same for her passing now.
She suffered much in her life – a female child born into a poor family within a conservative 1930s society. Tasked with the care of siblings with her own needs and desires unmet, she ruled with an iron fist, and expressed her frustrations in angry outbursts of injustice.
She was unafraid to say what she meant, her words sometimes mean and cruel. She responded to her harsh world like a wounded soldier determined to live; her means of survival is her armour of disregard for anyone’s opinions of her, offensive and unapologetic to the end.
Perhaps this is why I was the subject of her envy, for the opportunities I was afforded. Another female child like her, I was unafraid to speak my mind, unmoved by others’ opinions. Her derision poured upon my so-called privilege, followed by dismissal of any success. Her best praise was to liken me to a chili padi which is “small but lethal”.
My adult interactions with her though infrequent were less fraught, and far less intimidating. I did sense a certain respect begrudgingly bestowed then, or maybe it was just wishful thinking.
An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation. ~ William James
But she is gone. And as the “old guards” gradually retreat from the family, I realise I am one of the next generation who may inherit the mantle of “old guard”. What will the young say of us? What is their experience of me? Has there been a shift to greater autonomy, acceptance, and grace? Will there be far more vulnerability expressed, and less need for defensive offensives? What does her life represent?
It is difficult to process the emotional ambivalence for her passing, and a sudden awareness of what it means in the larger picture of family and society.
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