Updated: Feb 22
A celebration of life
31st July, 2015 at 19:43, the year of your birth, I was blessed to be with you and share your final hours, minutes, and the moments as you took your last breath. That day, I had read you all the messages of love we'd received, massaged your hands, sat quietly and prayed.
I ate my Chinese delivery, on the terrace of your room #11, and it was when that tom yum soup and rice arrived, costing exactly £11, which is all I had in my wallet, that I knew your departure would happen that evening.
You were there in Hong Kong, 11/11/1994, when I switched off your 3-day old first grand-daughters’ life support machine, and I knew that my beautiful Tahlia Jasmine, whose numbers pop up so frequently, was sending me yet another of her sweet and timely messages, that it was your time to go, that she would be there to greet you.
A profound wave of peace, love, and joy washed over me, through me - I feel it now as I type through snot and tears.
Such an honour
To then bathe your body and dress you in white linen trousers, shirt, and drape you in a rose patterned white cloth with Hana, who arrived soon after. We placed sweet flowers in your hair, picked by your grandkids under the light of a super blue moon. The rest of the family arrived to kiss you goodbye. You left in style, it was always your way - grace, glamour, beauty. I'm sorry that you had to leave so early, I'm saddest when I think of you alone on your sofa, patiently biding your time with acceptance of the inevitable - so it is the thing I dwell on the least.
Your end with you in earnest was magic. The Royal Marsden discharged you in March, there was not much more they could do other than sign-post you to MacMillan and the St Raphael's Hospice, and be on the end of the line if we needed to know something.
I am so happy you turned the chemo down. Your colon cancer being in its final stages when it was discovered meant that chemo would simply have given you another 3-6 months. As it turned out, you went all natural, kept your hair, avoided extra side effects, and stretched that to 18 months - bloody well done!
We had some serious belly laugh moments!!! Discussing bamboo coffins with the very serious sounding coffin designer (we know, he was just being considerate) measuring you from head to 'pointed' toe to make sure you'd fit (feet flop when we die) and imagining how comical it would be if you didn't fit, we'd have to cut holes for your tootsies!
Sing your song
You spent time divvying up your jewellery with us girls to keep things fair, making sure our bro received a balanced share with art, and your car, and then you said whatever else is left do whatever you want with as you didn't need anything where you were going. You organised all your papers, all the admin, you listed people you wanted us to invite to your leaving party, you chose your tunes.
Planning your 'celebration of life' with you - wow, what a joy - promising that as the driver of your funeral car, speeding down the motorway was a must, we would not do any dawdling along, and we hoped I'd be stopped by the rozzers and have to explain the dead body in the back - shame that comedy moment didn't happen, but you did take a slightly freaky SLIDE to the left as I took a fast right-hand turn (hilarious Weekend at Bernie's moment for my bro and I)!
We loved visiting 'Ingrid's Coop' with you when Nonna Lory came over, you were so sweet with her, you were so happy I would have my beautiful mother-in-law as my surrogate mamma!
Because you were the first to book a plot at the Eden Valley Natural Woodland Burial Ground in Edenbridge, they named that corner of the site after you - how cool is that! You chose a crab apple tree to mark your grave, there was a pair of woodpeckers nesting in the tree on your corner.
When we did all the spontaneous speeches at your Celebration, and that butterfly flew amongst us at coincidentally the right time, when the first and second bottles of prosecco corks landed on top of your coffin, when the one year old birthday boy joyfully crawled on top of your freshly dug over grassy mound and sat there happily, giggling - so many fluffy lil' magic moments.
Watching the kids run free through the fields if they wanted to, letting them, no - encouraging them - to have a go at digging the earth back into your grave, making sure they were using a good technique.
If they didn't want to stand still and be quiet - they bloody well didn't have to - they were FREE to ROAM and be wild - we threw a little party, there was a gazebo, art, angels, food, drink, space, picnic rugs, and these kids HAD A GREAT TIME at your funeral, we put the FUN into it for them, I PRAY they will grow up with this memory and not fear the INEVITABLE. That makes me sad, more sad than the fact that you're not here, as I will see you again, and you visit me often.
I am sad for those who don't share this appreciation of life after death, of returning our physical bodies to the earth which has sustained us, of releasing our souls to return to their source - I am sad for those who don't share this sense of knowing which fills me with peace, but I won't dwell on that sadness, as it helps no-one. Instead, I will continue to share and inspire, to be inspired and to share and hope they find peace.
A finger knitting message
Sing your song, you said to me when I was pregnant with Yahya, and you had that message for me in your dream. Mamma, I am singing now, and let me tell you a little something, which you know all about anyway - FINGER-KNITTING - that early conscious grieving process I took myself into, when I chose to shut down and go deep, when I got bored of binge-watching 8 hours straight of Foyle's War and such, after day one - when I said to you, "Mum, I need to do this but seriously, I'm bored now, send me something to do while I am on shut down", and the very next day, while looking for something for Isaac, I clicked and clicked and found out about finger-knitting, and I had fingers, I had wool and that's when I became a Finga Ninja!
That soft colourful wool, which made me feel so gentle and connected to you as it flowed through my hands, my fingers, my touch, those convos, the understanding, the waves of joy and love with every weave. The focus, the centering, the therapy, mindfulness - all of it - and I was making gifts within a couple of weeks, and then 6 months later I was teaching hundreds of people in community groups, and on the High Street, to finger-knit and produce the ropes I needed to yarn-bomb the sludgy end of town as part of a REGENERATION project - you took me there - and now it's 4 years later and I'm just back from a very special time at another glorious festival which this knitty lark has taken me too! (Blog: 'Growing with the Flow')
You are the gift that keeps on giving, Mamma, and they call this 'post-traumatic growth.' Whatever it's known as, I know what I feel, and it is a joy to share that I've taught over 3000 people to finger-knit since October 2015, and that many of those people are sharing the skill with their friends, family, school classes and more. And that's my gift to you, for all the gifts you have given me, that your LIGHT is shining and rippling still, that I can share the beauty of life and death with anyone who asks. That such a simple craft, can do so much for so many - it's all about connection!
What more joy can there be in life, than planting these seeds for our eternal gardens?
And so I leave this spontaneous flow of words, in memoriam of my Mamma Ingird, on this note - this is a lyric I wrote one morning for my sweet husband who thrust a mic in my hand and said - hear this tune I’m playing, it needs some words from you to go with it (at the time when mere mortals, like you and I, were plotting the destruction of Iraq):
“Not a lot makes sense right now, the why the where the when and how, the world goes by under a cloud of fearful misdirection. To cope I know I must stay strong, to my heart I must belong, let the light shine, love’s not wrong”
I’m sure we’ll release that track one day, and so many of the others that are being created here in Casa Tossio, based on the story of our lives and containing messages for all hearts, and I look forward to sharing, in service to humanity and Mother Earth, to our Creator, when the time comes.
These are the days of our lives, please make the effort to put the life in your days - we'll all be gone one day, what's to lose? Break the chains that bind you, find the way, your way - your shoes, your feet, your path, your gifts, your life. We are a drop in a merciful ocean of love, and as the beautiful Sufi who married us and named our children once said,
‘We ask to be nothing and no-one, for as long as we are someone, we are not complete’ - Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil Al-Haqqani.
I love you Mamma, see you when my time’s up!
WATCH: Samia on Victoria Derbyshire, BBC2
PS: I am grateful to my dear friend, Anne Fox, for the Celebration of Life photos
About the author
Samia Tossio is a playful creative, public speaker, artist and designer.
Samia hosted a weekly radio show - The Go With The Flow Show, which started on Juice Radio during lockdown 2020. The show featured special guests, eclectic tunes, creative news and positively kind vibes, and was often co-hosted by her husband, Paolo Tossio
Playful Creative - Radio Presenter - doing things with a spirit of playfulness, love, and imagination - inspire and share through creative communication!
SamiartStyle Hand designed and/or handmade apparel, finger knits, couture buttons all from original artwork. SHOP #SamiArtStyle
Finger knitting tutorial www.samiart.co.uk/a-good-yarn (scroll to bottom of the page)