The Youth of Today

By Emma Pearson

June 22, 2024

Photos my own

Written on 6th April; posted on 8th April 2024

A week ago, on 30th March, Julia would have been 20. Would-have-could-have-should-have-might-have been 20.

Sometimes I cannot imagine her at 20, because she only made it to 15, and 15 and 20 are so very different in so many ways. And then at other times, I can so fully imagine her at 20 thanks to her lovely friends who choose to stay present in my life.

Last Saturday, I laid out special treats throughout the day. Treats for me as Julia’s mum. Treats for Julia as Emma’s daughter. Treats for our mother-daughter-ness.

As always, I woke up at a five am on the dot – the time, to the minute, at which she was born. Actually, it was a few minutes to five. I believe I have woken up at that time every year on 30th March since she died. As though I had to really re-remember that she had burst into the world at that time.

At that time of the morning, there are not many friends up and awake to witness my need to embrace that precious, that exquisite, moment of becoming. But I need to have it witnessed. It’s not enough for me to say gently, into the pillow, “Hey sweetheart – welcome. Welcome to the world. Welcome to this side of life. I am so glad you’re here. Thank you for choosing us”.

No – I need others to re-remember her. To re-member her.

I wrote to my four Mourning Glories widbuds on our group WhatsApp – all on time zones 6 to 8 hours behind me, and so still just about up and awake:

“Exactly 20 years ago, right now, Sweet Julia was born.  5 am French time. 
Welcome to the world, my darling. 
I always awaken on 30 March at 5 am on the dot. 
The body knows. The body remembers.
Thank you for witnessing her precious life with me”.

They all wrote back beautiful gentle witnessing words, as widbuds are wont to do.

So hard.  The body remembers.  Julia.

Emma I have no words for where you are now. The beauty of that day.
Love you both.

20 years ago. That number baffles me. Julia is 20. And Julia is not 20. How are those two sentences both accurate?
Love you Emma ❤️

So hard and yet, thank God we remember. Holding you in that pain and joy Emma xx

Later that morning, Medjool and I went to “Julia’s tree”. I had already received an email from one of the young women who was in the adolescent psychiatric unit with Julia in the weeks before she died. She wrote some beautiful words, which I printed off and popped into an envelope to post into Julia’s tree letter box. That young woman and two others were behind all the original work in selecting and “decorating” the tree that has become Julia’s tree. They live a couple of hours away in Lyon, and so I know it’s hard for them to come and visit, but every year – on either Julia’s birthday or death day, or both – they visit the tree and leave notes in the letter box. I wanted to put in that letter, if only to re-read myself again sometime. This time, the letter was written for me, and went:

Bonjour Emma,
Comment vas-tu ? 
Comme chaque année je pense fort à toi et à tes proches et je t’envoie de la force pour traverser cette journée.
En ce qui me concerne j’ai rêvé de Julia et des filles du CPA cette nuit. C’était une journée que nous avions passée toutes ensemble à l’extérieur dans le parc. Nous parlions de tout et de rien en écoutant de la musique sous le soleil.
C’était des moments simples mais réconfortants que j’ai adoré passer en leurs compagnie durant cette période compliquée pour nous toutes.
En tous cas ça m’a fait plaisir d’avoir pu « revivre » cet instant.
J’espère que tu passeras cette journée en bonne compagnie.
S ❤️

Medjool and I tidied up the tree a bit. I was grateful for his help. This is a job I simply cannot do alone – removing wayward weeds, dead leaves and twigs from the last seasons. Then I placed some fresh tulips in a vase at the base of the tree, and posted my own birthday card to Julia.

Later, I treated myself to my first ever Tantra massage. I often find that Julia is very present with me when I am having a massage, and I wanted to have an extra special treat – a gift to myself for my role as her mum, and my ongoing need to be nourished from the outside in and the inside out. I had a sense that a Tantra massage would help with that. The masseuse said afterwards that Julia was everywhere, around us both, guiding her, talking to her, assisting her as she worked with me. She said, “Mais elle est toujours avec toi! Elle t’accompagne partout!” It was lovely to hear. I do think that some people just pick up more than others – than I do, at any rate.

And later again, in the evening, I met Medjool at a special vegan restaurant in Geneva – to honour the (rather challenging for me) vegan phase that Julia was in during the last couple of years of her life. It felt like a fitting close to what was a nourishing, bittersweet, and extremely tender day.

Some of Julia’s school friends – whether from here or from her short spell at school in the UK – wrote me notes. The local ones, back from university for Easter holidays, asked if they could come round, and we picked Tuesday, a few days later.

Three came round – two young women and a young man. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous, all of them.

So grateful for their friendship with Julia.

So tender in their story-telling and retelling of memories.

Sensitive to so many aspects around how hard it must be for me to see them all grow up. With Julia no longer breathing.

Regretful, but not, thankfully, guilty, around their wish to have been more capable at supporting Julia after Mike died.

Self-aware, growing up, acutely conscious of the preciousness of life, and every moment.

A couple of them juggling extremely challenging circumstances in their own, still-young, lives.

I felt honoured by their visit, their choice to come and hang out with me.

We varnished some of the stones that friends and family had decorated at the time of Julia’s death – stones that we later placed at her tree, along with some more flowers. One of the friends put her own birthday card to Julia in the letter box (knowing I would eventually take it out and read it – which I did today – the words so precious, grateful, honouring, missing).

I asked them, “How hard is it for you to contact me, to be in touch?”

“Not at all” came the swift response – so quick that I had to believe it.

I think it is good for them to see me.

I think it is good for them, good for me, that we have this time together, once or twice a year, to talk, listen, catch up, hear about their lives, remember Julia, and somehow keep alive those parts of them that are so connected to that time.

I am truly grateful that they want to see me.

As he left, the young lad asked me, “Can I have your phone number? I’d like to stay in touch”.

I want to too.

It means a lot. They are bright and interesting, warm and caring young adults.

It makes me proud to know them. It makes me feel nourished to have 19 and 20 year olds in my life, even if Julia is not one of them.

I know that they are kinder, wiser, gentler, more compassionate and present in their lives because of their experiences with Julia.  

I have such faith in them, in the gifts they are already bringing into the world.

The world is already a better place because of their presence.

Because of their depth.

Because of their hard-gained wisdom.

Because of their love and grief.

I have such faith in the youth of today.

About Emma Pearson

3 thoughts on “The Youth of Today

  1. Like the tides, grief and longing rush in and then flow out again. Memories of loved ones are the carried with us on this Earth until we depart and join them in the great beyond. You shared such beautiful ways of honoring and remembering Julia. Heartfelt sympathies are sent your way.

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