Sergio Garcia winning The Masters was a wonderful moment. It was a long time coming and I had lost hope in Garcia ever being a Major champion but here it was. What a Masters! What a last round! Justin Rose and Sergio going toe to toe.
Sergio’s mental toughness was evident when after his tee shot on 13 he seemed to have lost his head, as so many do on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta. BUT… he regrouped sneaked a par, Justin did no better and the rest is history. Even after the putt to win it slipped past on the final green Garcia didn’t fold and his approach and birdie putt on the extra hole meant that Rose’s bogey didn’t throw away the tournament.
Rory McIlroy? Well, another year Rory. Take heart from Garcia winning twenty years in. I have to say that I do not think I would have been any happier had Rory won it. Sergio’s first major at his 74th attempt. Wonderful!
This year’s whole Masters experience though came in a dark shadow for me personally. It was the first Major golf tournament since my mother passed away. As I watched every evening I was thinking of what mum thought of a Rory slip up or of Sergio’s continued improvement. I was imagining the phone call to have our own post round thoughts.
Golf lay at the centre of our family’s DNA. My parents played golf, were both Captain at Ballymena Golf Club and holidayed at Gleneagles, playing golf. Watching the back nine of the Masters has been tradition every April since I was about 13. This first one with dad in a Residential home with dementia and mum no longer with us was tough.
Grief has been tougher than I ever imagined. My mum passed away on November 29th. It was a Tuesday. When the undertaker said we could do the funeral on the Thursday I thought that was good. I could get the hymns to my administrator Roberta on Thursday and preach in the Sunday. I was giving the grieving period 48 hours. Four months later and I am still lingering.
My best way of describing my grief has been culture shock, like when you go to another country and you are caught out in your heart, mind and soul by the unfamiliar and downright strange. I have found myself walking in a strange place, never sure when the grief is going to jump out and grab me. Someone in the car in front using a remote for their gate was a trigger. Bang! My mum loved the new remote she had for her garage.
For me the last few months have been very weird mentally and physically as well as emotionally. I have had a couple of infections and felt weary, when not seemingly doing very much at all. I remember in 2000 digging three house foundations in Cape Town in one July afternoon with an enthusiastic team of students. I was tired. I knew why. I did this. It means feeling this. With grief you don’t see the sadness you are carrying, or feel its weight, and do not understand the tiredness.
Then there is the apathy. Someone told me that everything would feel irrelevant. I was ready for that being the case for a week, maybe two. Four months later and I am finding it harder to understand. For a few months I had no desire to keep up. I didn’t want to open emails or have to reply. I didn’t want to go to meetings. I wasn't looking nay further than then next event in the diary. I was happy sleeping. I never felt it was depression but I had an inkling of how friends with depression felt.
Then when I got to the meeting all was well. When I got into my vocational zone, I came alive. No one would have guessed how I was feeling at home. Doing my thing, what I was made to do, was my catharsis, my therapy. Then I went back to the apathy. When wisely told to be gentle with myself I haven’t quite worked out whether that is to get busier and be in the therapeutic busyness or to rest. Culture shock I said.
Through it all, Janice being beside me has been my strength; God’s grace in hand holding, in understanding. What I have been most thankful for have been the people who asked how I was. For most of us, a friend’s grief ends when we bury their loved one and walk away from the grave. I have learned to ask, a few months in.
The Catholics do better than the Protestants at this. The Mass a month later is a sign that they are aware of the lengthier time needed to heal. In the experience of my last few months almost every Catholic friend who has walked into a room I have been in has come across to share their thoughts and say something helpful. I have learned so much from that. It is never too long after a death to say something to those grieving.
The last couple of weeks I have sensed some kind of improvement. I am answering more emails and less apathetic between events. I am planning ahead again. I fumble forward. I have come to understand that I am not going to understand the next phase and how that will work itself out. I might find myself enjoying a golf tournament and feeling a void deep inside that I cannot phone my mum to share my thoughts on it. That is this new life of grief.
So, well done Sergio. I couldn’t be happier… unless of course my mum had got to see you win!