Thinking about life and death and its mysteries. On June 30, 2012 we received news from England about the sudden death of my first cousin Andrea Clarke. She is the daughter of my Uncle Michael and Aunt Beryl, Michael being the younger brother of my mother.
I wish I could say more about Andrea – being that she is my first cousin and we share 1/2
of our ancestral genes. But we grew up on different sides of the pond and across a continent. I first met Andrea in 1965 when I had a trip to England, courteous of a gift from my parents, on my high school graduation and just before I joined the Oblate order at the novitiate in Arnprior. I stayed with my grandparents at Waite House, but I spent a lot of time a few blocks away with Michael and Beryl and their three kids. Andrea would have been only 4 or 5 years old at that time – a most beautiful little girl with lots of freckles.
When I was in Peru I had the opportunity to buy a lovely cotton dress with embroidery from a woman’s co-op in Monsefu, supported by the Newfoundland Mercy sisters. I returned to England in 1980 – what turned out to be my swansong from the Oblate order – and again met Andrea but now a darling and most attractive young woman. When I visited the home Andrea came down the stairs wearing this dress from Peru.
Then years later I again met Andrea when she came to Canada – possibly in 1995 at the time of my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Michael had come over and Andrea joined him with her two young daughters, Kate and Grace.
So that was how much I knew Andrea, other than a few conversations by telephone. I knew she was at the top of the world, in a new relationship, with two lovely adult daughters independent and doing well, and Andrea was herself a high school teacher in Dewsbury – doing well but with some frustrations about the system.
Andrea was at home with her daughter Grace when she suffered a major aneurism – at the age of 51 – and while there was an attempt with surgery to save her, it was just too much. She died at the hospital in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Andrea was listed as a “donor”, something that was important to her, so those organs which could be used for others were taken. Six different recipients have had their lives improved by this ultimate gift from Andrea.
For the family in England this is beyond tragic – sudden, unexpected, cruel, …. almost too much to bear. For those of us who are distant because of an ocean and a continent, the news is no less shocking. We grieve this loss – and we wonder about the existence which we share.
I am left again perplexed by the finality of it all, the really brief journey that each of us has on this planet. Is that all there is? Why would this not be enough? It is a privilege to be part of this creation, to share the consciousness that we human’s have because of how we have evolved. We share in an energy that is truly cosmic and we return to this energy in ways we describe with metaphors and song.
We “are the result of the love of thousands” – more than of just thousands of human ancestors but the millions of lives whose air we breathe daily and whose atomic carbon particles come together with water to form our bodies. In my memory I hold dear my little cousin Andrea – the first of our generation on the English side to complete her journey.