My aunt has died. She was ready to go. I haven't seen her for many years, but she was present in my thoughts, and my Mum and I often talked about her on the phone. Aunt Lydia had a tough life, she was twice widowed and lost both of her sons. My late Dad was her adored little brother.
In the last couple of years, she was a wheelchair user, and carers visited her daily to help with basic things. She was a chatty little lady, and enjoyed sitting in her wheelchair outside her home and greeting friends and neighbours. She never complained.
My Mum talked to her last Sunday, just two days before she died. She knew she was dying and accepted it with dignity and calmness.
I am not religious. I wish I were, it might have been much easier to believe that one day I will meet all my dear family and friends in the after-life. But there are too many questions which I have and nobody can answer.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to believe that when we are gone, my darling son Sash will be free of his inner pain and torment, and will be able to talk?! Will our friends' daughter Ellie run happily through the fields, something she can never do in this life?! For what sins of their parents were they punished in this life? I could never understand how the church can explain the suffering of children. Never.
A Russian priest once told me never to go to a Catholic church, as it a house of devil. Well, my husband is a Catholic, my older son too. Does it mean that when we die, and if the heaven exists, we all go to our separate heavens? Is there a Russian Orthodox heaven, a Catholic heaven, a CoE heaven and so on? And if we are to be separated for the eternity, then I would rather not believe in this cruelty.
I don't go to the service, I feel like an impostor. Everything inside me screams "You don't belong". Yet I love visiting old churches, especially when they are empty.
There is a little old church in Perranuthnoe, called the church of St Piran and St Michael. There I found a copy of an old prayer, which touched me by its simplicity. The church looks over a rugged coast and the village below. There are millions of pebbles on the beach, and there are pebbles in a bowl by the prayer.
I do not know how to pray,
I do not know what to say.
I do not have much time.
This pebble that I hold is
something of what I have
something of my time
something of myself
that I leave before the Lord.
This pebble stands for
my prayer that I continue to offer
even as I leave this place
(a prayer of French origin)
My aunt was comforted by her belief in her later life. I do hope that she is now somewhere there, with her Mum and her younger brother, hugging her sons and grandchildren.
Rest in peace, auntie Lida.