We are on a journey of remembrance, following the same vacation plan we've followed every year in order to visit my mother--except that this year, my mother is no more. I promised to give you a chance to 'walk with me', so here it is.
One feature of any journey of remembrance is that life keeps flowing on, current events impinging upon the time set aside for remembering the departed. This became clear at the end of 2009, when we travelled to Wales for the anniversary of my father's death and to scatter his ashes in the Aeron River. A big crisis erupted in the village, replete with lies, adultery and betrayal, sweeping up a lot of the energy we planned to devote to mourning Dad.
This time, the eruption is being far more intense. We flew into Heathrow Airport on the morning of the referendum. Of course, we were utterly exhausted from the journey and there was no prospect of staying up all night to follow the results--only Gibraltar had declared by the time we tumbled into bed. I peeled my eyes open at eight next morning and turned on the computer only to get a horrible shock--Britain had voted Leave. My mind was spinning with the insanity of quitting the single market, turning our backs on Europe, crashing the economy, degrading the pound, splitting the UK, losing Scotland, jeopardising the Good Friday accord and giving up our ability to live, work and travel freely in twenty-seven countries. Facebook immediately revealed that my siblings, cousins and nieces were just as upset.
In the two days that have followed, the horror has only deepened. Both major parties are falling apart. Scotland is calling for a second referendum on independence. The Prime Minister is resigning, leaving us to be governed by the extreme right of the Tory party. A Polish cultural centre was vandalized. British Muslims and Sikhs are being attacked with cries of, "Get out, we voted Leave!" (Leave the Commonwealth? The World?). The Remainers are calling the Leavers Fascists and the Leavers are calling the Remainers whiny millennials who make poor losers. But the millennials grew up as Europeans and have never known any other reality. The other EU countries are telling us to hurry up with the divorce and yet we seem to have no leadership at all, no plan B, no way forward.
For me, so many emotions are mingling together. It was enough to be dealing with the death of my mother--now my motherland is in crisis. I'm losing my identity as a European. I love my family very much and don't want them to be stuck in an impoverished and divided country with a right wing government. And as my cousin and 'big brother' Garry said, my parents would be really sad. They would be sad not just because they would care what kind of a country and world their grandchildren will live in, but also because they were Francophile, widely travelled, global in perspective and raised us to have broad minds and wide horizons. They did not expect us to live in a Little England where foreigners are unwelcome.
With all these emotions tumbling within me, we went for a walk in Christchurch Park and the arboretum and visited the Lebanon cedars Mum was so proud of. The greenery, flowers, fragrant roses and honeysuckle, bumblebees and birdsong soothed my soul and epitomized the England I love and that my parents loved too.