In the last 12 hours I have come to the realisation that grief is a living thing. Ironic really. You lose a loved one and then grief forces its way into the room. It’s tangible. You can see it sat there, a big hulk of a black brooding mass; never leaving your side, following you around. When you find yourself laughing at something, grief tuts and taps you on the shoulder to remind you that you shouldn’t be having fun. You feel its cold breath on your neck. It taunts you, making you feel like a bad friend. Grief reminds you that sometimes you could have been a better friend. Grief is cruel, it picks at your scabs until they bleed.
When someone dies you struggle with what to say. Yesterday evening, on the hottest day of the year so far, my friend passed away. She was brave and she fought like a warrior to the very end. She was the friend whose story inspired me to get fit. Last year saw me running a race; up and down hills, from Gorey to St Catherine’s Breakwater and back again. 10k. Those that know me will realise that this was a massive achievement. I ran because I could. Muttering swear words under my breath as I fought to run up steep hills. I ran because I realised I needed to make the most of my life, like S always did. I had planned on running a half-marathon this year but then life got in the way. I need to run that half-marathon. I owe S. In January I started this blog. Again, she was the inspiration behind the blog. I needed to write because I can. I never told her that she was the inspiration behind the running and I never told her that she was the inspiration behind the blog. I didn’t tell her how I mentioned her in my speech when I accepted the award for this blog. I didn’t tell her how happy it made me when she said she enjoyed my blog. I didn’t tell her because there never seemed to be the right time. I didn’t tell her because she was going through her battle. I should have told her; I now realise that there is never a right time. I think she would have loved the fact that this blog won an award.
I don’t know what the right thing to do is: or if I should be writing this. However, I write to make sense of everything but, for the first time I find myself wrestling with words. There are no words. I find myself stifled by the unfairness of it all. Struggling to articulate how this shouldn’t have happened; how life can be so very cruel. Yesterday, when I found out that my beautiful friend had lost her battle I did what I always do: I read; I turned to poetry. I read reams of beautiful poems, all seemingly inadequate. None were good enough. None expressed the grief you feel at losing someone so lovely, so caring. None of them expressed how it feels to lose a friend who was young, a wonderful wife, and a brilliant mother to her two young children. I feel that I owe it to her to write something worthy, I feel that I need to tell the world about how she was this determined, resilient, organised, lovely young woman. How she would have demanded that life goes on. How she would want us to remember the good times, with a glass of Prosecco in hand. Whilst that seems right, it also seems very cruel. It feels like the world should have stopped turning out of respect for S.
When I moved to Jersey she told me that she admired my ability to start again, that she felt I was brave for moving away from family and friends. At the time I didn’t appreciate what she meant. I might have even scoffed at what she was saying. But now she has passed on, I find myself reflecting, and for the first time, I think I truly appreciate the sentiment behind her words. It’s times like these that we need our family around us. She was all about family. I can’t even imagine how her family must be feeling. In trying to make sense of it all; in trying to write this, I have realised that there are no words: that death and grief doesn’t make sense. This time my words can’t fix it, this time my words can’t put it right. However, in writing this I have recognised that it’s ok to laugh: it’s ok to cry. Grief might be in the room but it doesn’t mean that there can be no light.
Writing about this isn’t enough. S would have wanted action. I need to take action. I need to do her memory proud.
We were due to meet up next month, and although it will be painful, the rest of our small group will still meet and raise a glass in memory of S.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die
Mary Elizabeth Frye