Since the election starter gun was fired, politics has dominated my reading and thoughts. Then something happened. Something quite devastating and debilitating. A woman who has been a mother figure to me for 38 years died on Tuesday 12 November at 11.30am.
Her name is Rosa Wright. Death does not extinguish one’s identity so I still refer to her in the present tense within the context of who she is. I blogged about her last year here. She was a month off turning 100 in January this year.
In the days following her death, I find myself coming out with cliches like, ‘It is an end of an era’ and ‘death is so final’ and ‘it is so definitive’. Being devoid of originality must be a trait of grief or, perhaps, there is nothing new about death because it is a certainty like paying taxes (unless you are Google). Millions of people experience a bereavement every day around the world but it still feels like a lonely experience when it happens to you.
There is a subjectivity about death. It is an intensely personal experience. No one else had the experience which you had with the deceased. Your responses, both, physically and mentally are shaped by the very own relationship which you had with the dearly departed one.
In grieving, we seem to bring together other feelings and emotions into the process. In my case, it is the despair over losing a mother figure from the time I came to the UK as an immigrant with no ties. While I have made numerous ties since then, she was the bedrock. My experience with Rosa is tied into my immigrant being.
I met Rosa in 1981 when I arrived in the UK as a foreign student and moved into a hostel called the ‘Christian Alliance Centre’ where she worked as the warden. The hostel was full of students like me, British and foreign. Most of us had left home for the first time and needed someone to lean on. Rosa and I carried on being close through the decades after I moved out. She attended my wedding, took on my daughter as her grand daughter and helped me raise Maelo.
Rosa was well ahead of her time and believed in female emancipation. She encouraged me to try new things and made Maelo believe that there was no limit to what she could do.
In many ways we provided Rosa with a family because she never got married. Her life was devoted to the Church. Rosa was the epitome of Christian faith and an ambassador for living one’s life with consideration, kindness and understanding. She was my family in an age where ‘family’ is still defined in terms of blood ties. We broke the old fashioned mould.
She told me off when I was being silly. I challenged her for being ‘old fashioned’. We loved each other through the 38 years. Now she is gone and I have to redefine my life. I expect that things will seem uncertain for a little while before a new normal resumes, whatever that will be.
I alluded earlier in this blog post about my deep interest in politics and being reminded about what matters in life. Drawing upon Rosa’s legacy, I would like to think that those who bear responsibility for exerting power over our lives will do so with moral conscience. I wonder whether this can ever be personally reconciled, though, within politics with the all party hunger to put personal electability first over personal accountability?
What do people want to be known for on their death bed? What legacy do they want to leave behind? Fake news and empty promises? I hope not.