The day that Norah died was filled with life. It’s hard to reconcile the notion that Norah’s last day with us was anything other than despair, but it really was filled with life and love. As a family we have always found ways to infuse life with soul and intimacy absent of religious liturgy. We take our strength and beliefs from life, and Norah’s death reflected this; it was a day to live, to celebrate, to love, to sing. We chose to celebrate Norah’s place in our family with a hand fasting ceremony, we crafted a new cord for Norah in bright orange and yellow and added it our family cord that found its origin at our wedding ceremony back in July 2015.
Together as a family, we held each other and wrapped each ribbon around our hands, joining Norah’s cord to ours, and cementing her place in the centre of our family. The words we exchanged reflected the promises we made to each other, with the reminder that it is not the physical cord, but what it represents, that holds us together.
These are the hands that will love you and cherish you, and with the slightest touch comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when grief or fear fills your mind.
These are the hands that will, countless times, wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sadness and tears of joy.
There are the hands that hold your family together as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
These are the hands that made you, and complete you, now and forever.
The remainder of Norah’s last day with us was one of familial love and warmth, we held Norah close and filled her last hours with us with love. As one, we read Norah the last of her picture books, we laughed along with the Short Stories of the Alphabet, we hitched a lift on the tale of the humpback whale, and we sailed in and out of weeks and over a year and joined Norah’s Wild Rumpus. The stories came to an end and Norah was still with us, ever present in the arms of her family. She was still breathing, and so were we, so we sang. We sang of love and beauty, of life and soul, we sang until our voices cracked and we couldn’t fight the grief off any longer.
When Norah took her last breath, the music stopped, and so did we. Because as much as we can choose to hold on to the life and love of Norah’s last day, it was still exactly that, Norah’s last day.
And so the music ended, and in the moment I was sure that would be the very last music I would ever hear. I could never laugh along with children’s stories, or see the colour in the world, or sing of love and soul ever again. I stopped breathing when Norah died, and I was sure I would never breathe again. The problem with that of course, is that I really didn’t have a choice.
Slowly but surely I became aware of my breathing again, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, without purpose or intent. I held on to my daughter’s body, she was gone, and we were still breathing.
We believe in life, and beauty, and now. Our beliefs don’t extend past our last breath, so when Norah left us, it was hard to take any comfort in anything. It was easy to think that our world was over, and that our souls had dissipated along with Norah. Slowly though, over the last eight months, we have learnt to sing to again, we see colour and beauty; we laugh along with stories, and read at Norah’s graveside often. Our beliefs still don’t extend past our last breath, but we find fragments of Norah’s soul everywhere we look. This weekend, we found ourselves dancing along to Billie Holiday’s “I’ll be seeing you” in the kitchen. In a moment of spontaneous pure joy, we danced, we sang, we held each other, and we smiled. We held on to a fragment of Norah’s soul in that moment.
We can’t find pure joy in every part of our lives without Norah. But when they appear, we can grab hold of those fleeting moments and connect with our daughter. Moments like these heal us momentarily, and provide us with warmth, life, and soul in which to carry forward. No matter how lost, lonely, and dark life can feel, it isn’t the physical cord that holds us together. Norah will always fill the space between each breath, each song, every story, and every ounce of life we have from here.