|Stan, Gavin, and me, at his daughter's 40th birthday.|
Monday, May 18, 2015
Life Piles Up
I remember your face when you walked through the door, with the police officers trailing behind you. All the colour had drained out of it. They sat on one sofa, while we sat on the other. They asked you to tell them about Gavin. I remember you talked about him for a long time, about his struggles in his life, how he had been doing so much better, in the past year, but how it seemed that, recently, his life had again taken a downward turn. Perhaps you were trying to stave off the inevitable. Then the words came: "Well, sir, there is no easy way to say this, but..."
I remember how your face fell. You took off your glasses, and the tears came, and you brushed them quickly away. The officers lingered for a few moments, while we poured over the details: where he was found, what they knew, which was nothing, where to find his body, now, and when it could be released. I still have the card, in the drawer of the coffee table, that the kind officer gave us, with his name and contact details. Officer Leigh Carnally. He put his hand upon your shoulder, as they stood and said goodbye. "I'm so sorry for your loss."
I sat beside you. We were both in shock. I had thought that perhaps they had come to tell us Gavin was in trouble, but you said no, the police here don't come round for that. You knew, the moment you opened the door, what they had come to tell you. You had been dreading this day for twenty years.
Life has piled up without you. It is hard to recall all the things that have happened since that day, and the day, two and a half weeks later, of your death. I remember every detail of those days and weeks. But since then? It has been a blur. I have put one foot in front of the other, and I have swum through this cesspool of grief. I don't know how I have done it. I have managed to get to the shops, to purchase vegetables and bread. I have mopped the floors, hoovered the carpets, met with solicitors, changed the mortgage, conferred with creditors, paid the bills. I have taken care of all the little things I used to detest, the things you used to take care of, for us, when you were here.
Meanwhile I have carried your memory around in my arms, like a basket of fruit, doling out pieces of you to anyone who cared to listen. I like to tell people about your ways. I like to reflect on how you were able to be present, with life, and how, in spite of all your childhood strife, and previous struggles, you were so content. I like to share funny stories about your eccentricities and quirks. It makes me feel closer to you, somehow.
Your grandchildren have flourished, this year. One of them has passed her driver's test, on the first try, not an easy feat, here in England. She thought of you when she passed it. She knew you would be so proud of her. She and her cousin, your other grandchild, have been accepted at University, and will be going there, in the autumn. Your other grandson has grown, in inches and in maturity. Remember how you used to put him on your lap? It would not be so easy to do that, now.
Your children miss you. There have been rivers of tears shed, for you and for Gavin, this year. They have tried to carry on without you, and to live in a way that would make you proud. They are such kind and compassionate and loving people, your kids. You raised them well.
Me? I, too, have tried to live this life without you, this life I did not choose, in a way that would make you proud. I have had many wobbles along the way. I have had days where all I could do was curl up under the duvet and watch mindless telly. I have had days where I couldn't leave the house, because my face has been puffed and swollen and blotched with tears. But always I manage to move through it. I get up the next day and go out into the world. I read, I write, I hike, I meditate, I am even doing a bit of yoga, most days.
Your beloved Sangha is now a big part of my life. They have welcomed me with their open, loving arms. This weekend, we are gathering down south, for a Sangha retreat. There will be about seventy of us, there. I know you'll be there, too. You will linger in the hearts and minds of those who loved you. We'll share memories and have a laugh.
It has been almost a year since you left us, and life has piled up without you. I don't know how it happened. I don't know what to do with the time I have left. I wish you were here to guide me, with your gentle wisdom and support. I've had to let go of your physical presence. I miss your embrace, your warmth, your touch.
But as long as I walk this planet, your spirit will live. I'll carry my basket of memories in my arms, and share parts of you with everyone I meet. I'll try to live in a way that will honour you. I'll step into this life I did not choose, and one day, perhaps, I will be able to embrace it. I know you would want that for me. I know you would want me to live.