I now move into the vastness stage.
The vastness stage sounds like something from Glastonbury, the place where all the prog rockers go to strut their stuff.
In fact, it is the moment that I look at this thing and see the size of it. It is much, much bigger than I had suspected. I had a moment of terror last night, looking at the bigness. I thought of TS: ‘I shall show you fear in a handful of dust.’
It was not that I was in denial. I had looked reality hard in its basilisk eye. I understood very well the fact of death, the fact of absence, the space left behind. I knew all that.
But somewhere, in the back on my mind, a voice hummed from my practical self, from my Britishness, from the culture itself. The song this voice sang was very plain. It said: this happens to everyone. Everyone’s mother dies. I think I made a category error. I muddled up usual with small. It’s also to do with age. Eighty-one is a pretty good age. The great span was achieved; the race was run. There was none of that jarring tragedy of a person cut off in their prime. So there was a natural order to the thing.
It’s the paradox of death. It’s so normal. And yet, it is oceanic and odd and shocking and wrong. So, there was a moment when I looked onto the vast spaces, and felt fear.
I find it amazing that such a little person could leave such a great gap. She was tiny, like a little bird by the end.
That is what I am contemplating now. It came as a bit of a surprise. I have to stare at the vastness and accept it. I remember that I carry vastness inside me, since I, like all humans, am made of stardust. I love that fact and never cease to be astounded by it. A gentleman was talking about it on the World Service a couple of days ago. I like to think that humans came from stars and will, in a metaphorical way, go back to stars. The depth of the absence is like the depth of the universe. I go outside and look at the night sky and imagine all the Dear Departeds twinkling down on me. There’s quite a party, going on up there.
I don’t know where people go when they don’t exist in the world any more. For the moment, I’m going to put them in the sky. (Sometimes I give them to the hills; sometimes they live in the woods; sometimes they exist still for me in the wind.) Just now, they are stars, shining down from the infinite spaces. They are gentle and beautiful and merry, and a very, very long way away.
I have no star pictures, so here is a hedge and a hill and a wall instead: