Feel-good moment lightens a dark year

Nothing quite fixes the mind on the big question – the meaning of life – than two momentous events that for a short time at least make us stop our daily routine. The death of a close one and the birth of a dear one.

This past year for me there have been too many of the former.  Five deaths, five funerals, five gaping holes left behind. Some deaths too untimely, others painfully awaited.

By middle age most of us have experienced the loss of someone close, a parent or a friend, but we are never quite prepared when it happens.  This year for me a kind of routine developed each time the bad news arrived.  I just sat in solemn silence for a long time.  If death has a “friend”, it would have to be silence.  It’s what people tend to do when confronted with such harsh news: withdraw, shed tears and think. Think about the joyful times spent with her, the “good old days” spent with him.

For those closest, calendar markings such as Christmases and birthdays become painful reminders of who is not there to share the celebration.

So 2014 is a year I personally am happy to see close. But not before it had the most beautiful of endings.  The joyful news: “Zia (Auntie), it’s a boy and we’ve called him Alessio Luke”. That other event that stops us in our tracks for a bit – the birth of a new member of the family, this one a great nephew.  He’s the first of the next generation in our family.  Not sure if he’s “Gen Z” but at any event, it has been 17 years since the last birth in our family. Even that now 17-year-old young man stopped and stared in awe at the beauty of this tiny new life. Held him ever so gently in his arms.  Such a precious parcel.

 What is it about babies that you  just want to keep looking at them and “ooh” and “ahh” at the slightest of expressions.  “Can I have a turn at nursing him?” And so he was passed around members of the family who gathered in numbers to see this most anticipated of babies.
My mother is now a great-grandmother.  She, more than any of us, wanted to see this new life in her lifetime. She cried when I showed her the iPhone image her grandson had sent and she showed me a piece of paper with three boys names for the newborn that she’d come up with months earlier.  Suggestions she’d kept to herself because she didn’t want to impose.  Among the three names was “Elisio”, a name she came across while reading the Bible.  She brought that piece of paper to the hospital to show her grandson that he had chosen a good name.  Sadly, another two of Alessio’s great grandmothers died just a few months earlier.

The name Luke was long reserved as the middle name for this baby.  It was the name of his uncle who died as a teenager in a terrible accident.  They miss him so much.

Huddled together in a small hospital room we shared the joy of this new arrival – kisses and congratulations among the first-time parents, new uncles, first-time grandparents and, of course, the new 84-year-old great-grandmother.

Sleeping baby Alessio, like all newborns, had an aura about him, a magnetic field that drew us to want to hold him and stare and smile – such a feel-good moment.

I am so glad 2014 has ended this way.  There will probably be more sad occasions in 2015 but for now I will swim in the joy of this new life and put aside difficult thoughts on that bigger question – the meaning of life.

Josephine Cafagna is a writer and communications consultant.

This article was published in The Saturday Age on 3 January 2015

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