Going full circle (Anjulie-ism, made up phrase): To be born and to die on the same date
Because my dad passed away when I was 11 years old, I started working backwards, from my own deathbed. I started making decisions based on what I would regret, at the end of my life, rather than glancing forwards and ‘doing life’ that way.
I’ve always pictured myself old and dying in a bed, reviewing my life and for a long time now, I’ve known that I would regret the things I didn’t do, more than the things I did. I often wonder what I will regret from the deathbed, it helps me to make decisions today.
I know that I’ll never look back on my life and think “I wish I worked longer hours” or “I wish I saved more money”. It’s the stuff that you do in life and the friends and family you do it with, it’s the people you touch, the deeds you do and the memories you make – that’s what matters and that’s what’s going to count the most at the very end. I know that I will regret not being able to raise my children, but I’ve not had any control over that.
I’ve often thought that a good day to die, would be on my birthday. Death is so messy, but I think there’s a real neatness in dying on your birthday. I actually don’t like my birthday very much (it’s near to Christmas, lots of my friends live very far away, everyone has children – all reasons which mean it’s difficult to celebrate a me-day), but I do get to hear from lots of people I wouldn’t otherwise, so that would be nice for them, to squish-in that final departing message, if I were to pop my clogs. Apparently Shakespeare was born and died on the same date. Ingrid Bergman too. I’ve been talking about it to James for years: I’ve coined the phrase “going full circle”. I think it’s really special. Summer went full circle. Summer was born, she lived for a short time and then she died, all on the same day. It was a couple of weeks after where I gasped and realised “she went full circle!” It was a bizarrely proud moment. (In the list I made entitled “Summer was the best because…” the last entry reads “she went full circle”. You can see this in the Processing Grief section of this website, in the photograph for exercise 7).
Thoughts of the deathbed are why James and I have always travelled so much. I know I would kick myself (although that may be difficult if I really were on my deathbed) for having not seen this beautiful world. For having wasted time being a cog in the machine, having had a monotonous existence and not ventured out in an attempt to see and do it all. So we’ve travelled, a lot. We’ve made so many round-trips. We’ve watched the northern lights from glass igloos in Finland, walked the great wall of China, camped in the Wadi Rum desert, hiked in Patagonia, taken a train through the rocky mountains in Canada, road-tripped New Zealand (twice), watched the sun rise in Cambodia and sun set in Mauritius. We got engaged in Florence, snorkelled on our honeymoon in the Maldives, island hopped in Croatia, hot-air ballooned in Capaddocia, learned to cook in Vietnam, floated in the Dead Sea, got chased by monkeys in Bali, cycled over the golden gate bridge in San Francisco, skied with friends in Tignes, stayed on a boat in Palma, watched shows in New York, taken a gondola in Venice and had dinner in the Eiffel Tower (I list all this, so that you can know, in part, who we were before all of this, before and during all the previous baby loss). We’ve done so much. We’ve done the time-consuming, money-saving thing. Viewing so many natural beauties, but we’ve been unable to do what’s supposed to be the easiest and most natural thing in the world: having a healthy child.
Travel is such a big part of our identity, it’s actually the theme we used for our pregnancy announcement for Summer. No baby scans, just our dining room world map, with a couple of pieces of paper stuck on: Next Destination? Parenthood! Arrival: July 2020. I loved that baby reveal.
It’s been disappointing not being able to travel during Covid, to get away from all this sadness and ‘achieve’ something during this lost time, but in all honesty, we can’t think of a place or a person we want to see now. We’ve been ok, cooped up in our building site of a home. Me especially, I’m fine holed up in my ball of grief. I’m quite used to it now. A while ago, my friend V bought me a locket with the inscription:
Not all those who travel, are lost.
When I received it, I thought “yes, I love this sentiment, so true!” – we travel because we love it, not because we’re in search of anything. Now we’re stuck at home and I feel lost. When we next travel, we’ll be lost, trying to fill the void. My locket has remained empty, I should think of something to put in it. Writing about it, it’s just reminded me about a time when I was younger, at school and upset, missing my dad. A temporary teacher (sadly, I don’t even remember her name) bought me a locket as a way to remember him. I always held a wish in that locket: “Dad, when I pass my GCSE’s, I will do it for you!” (those decent GCSE’s got me into university, where I met James), perhaps I should do the same with this locket.
For the longest time, I thought that on my deathbed I would look back and remember one particular sunrise. I thought that I would travel back in time to when James and I stood, holding hands, on the edge of a volcanic crater in Hawaii, waiting for the new day. It was cold and miserable, dark and abandoned. But then the sun began to rise and Ed Sheeran’s, I See Fire, started playing on my iPod, just as the sky turned from pitch black to liquid gold. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I think differently now. If I’m ever fortunate enough to die the way I’d like, very old and in a comfy bed, able to summon the last thing I see: I hope it will be Summer. Please be Summer.