As close as we remember them to be...
I often dream of my mother. In most cases, she is not the central character of the dream, she is merely there. In all of these dreams, she is still young, as I knew when I lived back home, and indeed she is still living in the house in which I grew up, even though this has long since left my family's hands. She appears just so in these dreams, I presume, because this is how I remember her.
Many years ago, my uncle. who was also my godfather, passed away. Since I was in Japan and could not attend the funeral. I instead sent my condolences by letter, Being unaccustomed to writing such letters, I sat for a long time staring at a blank page before I finally realised I should just write what I felt, for no one could fault me for that. I had an idea of what I wanted to say, but was struggling with how to express it.
There had been a short interval, between the time of his death and the time at which I had been notified of it, when he had still been alive to me, but in reality lost to the world. I wanted my aunt to try and imagine such a time, and imagine it lasting forever. I wanted her to understand what I had come to learn from living away from those that I loved. And that was that the people we care about are only as far away as we remember them to be.
Sometimes a thought, a noise, a smell, a melody or a spoken word will trigger a memory of that person we long to be with, and for the briefest of moments we fool ourselves into thinking that they are in the room with us. But if we choose not to let that moment end, if we hang on to that memory, it is just as if the person is still with us, rather than somewhere else. And this can be true even if that person is no longer in the same room, or no longer of this world.
In all the years I lived alone in Japan, I never felt alone, because I knew I had a family somewhere, even if that somewhere was not close by. I wanted my aunt to be able to feel that her husband was still with her, even if he was not physically close by.
Many months later, when I did finally get home to visit her, my aunt thanked my tearfully for the comfort my letter gave her.
It has been the same with my mother. In the years that I lived far away from her, she was never far from my heart. And today, as we mark ten years since she left this world, that has not changed. As I wrote on the card attached to the flowers I placed on her grave at her burial;
"Distance never came between us; Death will not keep us apart: You are always a part of me."
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