Last night my cousin called me in tears to tell me my great aunt had died. I told her I was sorry, then calmly called my parents to tell them the news. We were all in shock.
When I'm struck with hard to digest information I tend to go numb. I poured a hot bath, climbed in, and told myself to feel the grief. It's been a year of loss and new beginnings and too often I find myself unable to cry when I really need to.
So I thought about this incredible woman who welcomed my mom and I into her small home when we moved to Ireland. I thought about her cooking up a big Irish fry for dinner. About the way she would slip me money every time I went shopping even though she didn't have a lot. About how she would make fun of me for being too thin, but always with a little twinkle in her eye and a loving smile.
I thought about how I won't see that smile again. Hear her laugh. Give her a big hug and make her a cup of tea. It's the smallest things that we miss the most about people. The way they look at you, the way they make you feel. I lay in the bath and squirmed. Then I cried. I was relieved to let it out as uncomfortable as it was.
This morning I slept in and woke up groggy. I pulled on a t-shirt and leggings, put on my sneakers, grabbed my jacket and headed out the door to tackle my hair at a salon nearby.
One thing I love about Berlin is how unpredictable it is. This fashionable salon for example, is very popular, and recently decided not to take appointments. So I walked in on a Saturday afternoon, apparently at the perfect time, and was able to get my hair coloured and then cut by the salon's owner.
Equally unpredictable is the fact that the salon has a tattoo parlour in the back, so as I sat with dye sitting in my hair, a man in his underwear was tattooed in the back the whole time. The sound of the tattoo gun combined with the music of the salon was soothing. The young girl colouring my hair understood exactly what I wanted without saying anything, and Viktor, the young French owner covered in tattoos danced around the floor as he cut hair. When he snipped away all of my dead ends with a razor, then dried it in a way I'd never seen before, I smiled and said "Where have you been all my life?"
Life is unpredictable. It's what keeps me alive and what breaks my heart at the same time.
While I mourn the loss of a loved one I count my blessings. I am so grateful that at sixteen I was determined to move to Ireland and that we are as close to our family as we now are. That I got to know my auntie Isobel as more than just a distant relative. That my cousin Suzi is now like a sister to me.
I am grateful for Berlin, this city which I am still struggling to grasp and understand but manages to surprise and engage me in a new way every day.
I have a lot to learn. About myself. About life. About how things work. Part of me hopes I never really get to the bottom of it all.