I gently placed the two sets of wooden beads on the coffin. It was difficult to see through my tears but I held my hand over the beads, feeling the varnished timber of my father’s coffin underneath my hand, the smooth roundness of the beads and inhaling the sweet scent from the nearby flowers. I knew the eyes of the people gathered to farewell him were on me, but I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t feel anything but pain in my heart.
When I was handed the brown wooden beads some three months before, I didn’t contemplate the journey they would go on, and the journey they would take me on. Nor did I expect to have such an attachment to this handmade, with love, set of brown beads. The beads were gifted to me for good luck and strength. They stayed on my wrist through good times, sad times and lonely times. I wore them on holiday to Bali – even with the threat that the wooden beads would not be allowed back in the county.
Her name was Ibu Jero and she was a high priestess and spiritual healer. She had come to my hotel in Bail at my request to conduct a chakra balancing on me. I wanted a bit of Eat, Pray, Love thrown into this family holiday. Her hands rested on my wrists when we first met as she spoke softly to me. “You have 100 beads of love” she said as she referred to the beads wrapped around my wrist. I nervously dismissed her comment and we went to my room. It was when she started to channel a spirit that I realised I had gotten more than I paid for, and much more than I bargained on getting. The skeptic in me was loud and unforgiving, but it would seem, rather convincingly, that the spirit Ibu was channeling was in fact my long dead mother, who passed away at 42 years of age, some 23 years before. Apparently, I have not dealt fully with my mother’s death and I needed to let her go. There were suggestions of conducting a ritual in her honour and consciously letting go of her. Rather shaken and disturbed by all of this, I had to sit with it for a while.
So sitting with it a few days later, I recalled Ibu’s comment about “100 beads of love” and out of nothing more than curiosity, I counted the number of beads on my wrist. Five counts later, just to be sure, I sat there stunned at the realisation that there were in fact, exactly 100 beads. Exactly 100!
I had a feeling that the beads were central to whatever was unfolding for me. I had a feeling that it was with the beads, my beads, I would let go of my mother. I could never imagine just how that might come to being.
Out of blue, I received a phone call to tell me my father was sick, very sick indeed, with a life expectancy of 6 months to 2 years. I made my Dad a set of beads to give to him the next time I saw him. I’d made a decision that when the time came for Dad to go, that I would give my beads to him to take to his first love, and mine, my Mum.
Only one week later, the worst of phone calls came. On that same day my father died, with my solace being that I had made it to his bedside in time to say goodbye to him. I gave him the beads I’d made him, and placed them on his left wrist, four times around. I then put my beads in his hand and asked that he take them and give them to Mum. I was sobbing, he was sobbing. He was struggling to accept that his life in this body was coming to an end. A few hours later, my beautiful Dad took his last breath, a set of beads on his left wrist and a set of beads in his right hand, my hands over both of his, my heart aching.
That’s how I ended up standing over my father’s coffin placing two sets of beads with him, to be cremated alongside his body. The grief and shock at losing my 65 year old Dad to cancer one week after he was diagnosed was indescribable. I had no idea of the journey these beads would take me on, nor the stories they would create, or the lessons they would facilitate. I go back to that feeling I had in Bali, that feeling that it was with my beads that I would let go of my mother. I could never have imagined that that would involve losing my father.
“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi