Landisa: How community saved me after my mother died

Tosca Ferndale
Tosca Ferndale

I used to love being a lone ranger. There was definitely a mitigated risk in doing things by myself and for myself. Perpetual burnout and hard lows became a part of my yearly rhythms – and the small pockets of community I kept around me became a crutch I used as and when absolutely necessary. Small community equated to smaller risk.

My mother’s death was a shock. Despite her being in and out of hospital, we always thought she would somehow make it. On May 5, before my marketing exam, I got the call that reminded me of my mortality and hers. What ensued was an existential crisis. Being faced with the fickleness of life, and the fragility of moments, I somehow became uncertain of whether anything I held dear or believed was true – or worth it.

The beauty of this was the light that shone in the midst of the deep darkness. I remember a group of people surrounding me like a wall of fire, warming the cold nights. One of my friends literally moved into my flat, and exclaimed "I am here!" Many of my friends sent flowers and packages, and comforted me by just listening and being present. When you lose someone you rarely know what you are feeling, and the ebbs and flows of joy and deep sadness are real.

It was in community that I found an articulation for this rollercoaster of emotion. It was in community that words were pieced together, from cries of help, tears of mourning, to the joy that buds from reminiscing on a life lived. The lone ranger in me was warmed by the radical love of a community and the commitment of those willing to brave the dark nights with me.

Her funeral was beautiful.

My best friend’s parents did the ceremony, and she came to hold my hand. In retrospect, the people who came made it a celebration of life, rather than a mourning of loss. The laughter, light and warmth that broke into my mother’s living room as we snacked and shared our favourite stories of her is how I will remember her. Community did that – it weaved a nest around my family to cushion the blow of loss.

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