‘The joyful moments are flitting back’

Elle Gordon savours a moment of brightness on her first trip abroad since the pandemic and the loss of her beloved dad, Trevor, as the city of Split in Croatia helps her to find a renewed sense of wonder and joy

Cirque du Soleil’s latest stage spectacular Corteo

Elle with her much-missed dad Trevor

Stepping off the plane and finding myself hit with that blast of warm air is not a memory I will forget in a hurry. Most of us are lucky to know that moment. It’s synonymous with ‘the holiday’ feeling. But after the last two years, opportunities to experience it have been few and far between.

So as I found myself on my first proper sun getaway to Croatia to see Cirque Du Soleil perform, as well as to explore the beautiful surroundings that the city of Split has to offer, I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional. It’s been a crazy two years. Like so many others, my family and I lost a loved one in Covid.

My Dad Trevor passed away 11 months after receiving a diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer in April 2020. It was the heart of the first lockdown when he died so it was a very lonely and surreal time, where my Mum, sister, and I just sat with our grief on the farm that he loved so much, a place where in every corner you turn is him. I think a big part of navigating grief is diving into healthy distractions and being able to step away from everything that reminds you of the person you have lost, or the perhaps your grief is for something else, a job that was lost, the loss of any kind of certainty, financial strains, or for the way life used to be.

Whatever it is, like so many others, grateful as we were to have this safe place to be, it was a strange one, as in ways, being home where his absence was so apparent, was also like being in the eye of the grief storm.

It is now two years on. For me, while I miss Dad beyond words, and while grief has its ongoing knocks that you just have to deal with, I am so mindful to look for the joy in life too. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Dad would be so upset with me if he thought I was spending every hour of every day crying over him. And while I know that some days that’s really all you can do, I have started to notice that there are days now where the joyful moments are flitting back in, light coming in through the cracks.

Visiting Croatia was one of those moments. Finding myself in a place that I’d never been, with the feeling of the sun on my bones was reinvigorating; there is just something about being in a different country, immersed in a new culture, hearing different languages, experiencing different smells, different sights, and different sounds. A welcome burst of colour into what has been a very grey few years.

The largest city on the Adriatic Coast, Split has been under Roman, Venetian, Austrian, French, Italian, and Yugoslav rule and as a result of this varied history, the architecture is simultaneously eclectic and enthralling.

The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and must-see historic attractions include Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, and the Grgur Ninski Statue. In addition to this Split boasts a seemingly endless selection of excellent restaurants serving food and drinks late into the night. After a day of moseying around and exploring, I used the opportunity to sample some Croatian wine and it did not disappoint.

The pièce de résistance was our trip to see Corteo, one of the best-loved Cirque Du Soleil productions for what was their first European performances after a stop of over two years due to the pandemic. As we waited in anticipation on opening night the joy from the audience, as well as that of the on-stage performers was tangible. There was a sense of magic in the air and a really special feeling of unity, as we all savoured being in a bustling crowd, with children bubbling over with laughter, and nearly bursting with excitement at the wonder of it all. The best part was, that this wonder was mirrored on the faces of all the adults in attendance too. We all had a collective appreciation, for what we had lost for so long. That simple act of gathering with your loved ones, will never lose its sheen. It was particularly special to see the performers doing what they love, at such an extraordinary level.

Most of all I think it was the feeling of normality that people were invigorated from. Who knew those ordinary moments with family and friends were in fact the big moments all along? Soon it was time to head back to Ireland, refreshed and restored with a new sense of gratitude for all those little moments. Of course, the horrors in the world right now continue, but if we focus on those moments of joy that happen in our everyday lives, we’ll be doing well. One thing is for certain, for me, finding joy is become less difficult to imagine. And that in itself, is a pretty joy-filled step in the right direction.

  • Cirque Du Soleil ‘Corteo’ arrives to the 3 Arena in July 2022. Tickets are on sale now at ticketmaster.ie

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