I know it is coming, and I think about it almost every day. The door closing, the life ending. The peace to know that I cannot change a thing and the acceptance to say that I have had a good life: I have lived and I have loved, and in turn I have been loved and lived my life as best I could with others, with my family and friends. A door is closing, but I am thankful it was ever open at all.
My mother has this Christmas tradition that, when we have all taken our seats and just before we have taken our first bite of a long-awaited roast dinner, we raise a toast to the dearly departed, to those members of the family who are no longer with us and to those friends that no longer accompany us throughout our life journey. It reminds us, the living, to be thankful that we are seeing the close of yet another year together, to remain thankful to have known the dearly departed and that we remember them still.
The fact that this takes place before we have tasted our food is of the utmost importance. To say thank you on an empty stomach is to accept that we have lost those that will never be by our sides again, that we will never break bread with them and share our laughter and sadness across the table. Our eyes will never again catch theirs.
I sometimes like to imagine where the deceased are now, as if their memories have somehow broken free of their corporeal remains and drift uninhibited across the globe. It can be difficult to think that all that we have ever known and all that we have ever loved and experienced can be so self-contained in our floating globe, silently rotating in the great big soup of the universe. But it is and it must be, that is why we remember and why we say goodbye once again at the close of the year.
She never regretted moving to this flat. It was her bolt hole in this fast paced city, a place where she could flutter and eventually fly free of her parents, beloved though they were. In fact, they were the reason why she had moved to the city. She couldn’t quite face looking into their eyes once Robert had been to visit her at her parent’s house. If they had known of all of the positions that they had made love in then her cheeks would be forever burnished, matching only those of rosy fresh apples. No, much better that she had moved away to a swanky new flat with him instead, free to both explore their love and to allow their careers to take a foothold upon the employment ladder in their chosen fields.
The flat wasn’t really swanky in all honesty. Sometimes, especially after a heated remark or two, it could feel like a shoe box and one that she yearned to escape. It was at times like those that she felt she could happily return to her parent’s house, to become engulfed once again in their loving embrace. But she realized that this would never happen again, she had flown the coop and would not return to live there in this lifetime. She visited, from time to time, and had hosted her mother and father in her adopted city, but they would not meaningfully live side by side again.
Robert was her immediate family now, her lover and confidant, her romancer and family man. Her father wrote often though, kept the familial bonds strong and she wrote back as often as she could, though writing was not her forte and clearly her path in life was not to follow her father. She loved his letters though, decorated as they were with doodles on each page. The notes on his latest writing project filled her with hope for her father and his health, as she often mistakenly equated the health of his imagination with the health of his ailing body. Her mother sometimes added a page or two of notes as well, updated her on school crushes and old boyfriends. It was these tidbits from her mother that she really enjoyed, that kept her in the loop of small town life and let her feel guilt-free pangs of happiness. In this raging city of 24/7 access, it was grounding to know that life continued as much as it ever had in other parts of the country, parts that the creeping suburbia of the city hadn’t yet reached.
The illness unhinged her for a while though, the images of her father spraying droplets of blood was not something that she wanted to think about, neither was the fact that her parents were indeed mortal and not immortal, as a childish version of her thought still. Her foundation of independence had just become solidified, yet it felt like even as she started to make her mark on the world, the world instead turned and had started to shake the rock that she built her life upon.
In all honesty she tried not to think about the condition slowly taking over her father’s life. To put death at a distance and to keep love close. That was her motto, though she could never think of the words to articulate it; it was how she lived her life in the shadow of her parent’s slow, earthly demise. Her father would probably be writing a poem at this very moment and she could just picture it, his pen gliding across the paper in what would seem to be a well-rehearsed manner. The words would flow, the inconvertible truth that this man was born to give a voice to his generation would be undeniable.
In her darkest moments, sometimes the ones that followed the passionate lovemaking sessions with Robert where she lay in quiet repose, the thoughts would intrude into her mind like unbidden shards of shattered glass. He would be remembered by the many, not by the few.
It would not be long now.
My limbs are heavy and my head is hanging low. I’m smoking the last cigarette I have and on the last piece of paper I own I have wrote down my last will and testament. The money in the bank can be given to charity, I ain’t got no family no more. Give out my belongings to the homeless and give the food to the hungry.
Do what I couldn’t in life, spare me the embarrassment of riches in death. Do what you have to do.
Give me a sign so I can start the healing,
We shared the wine around the yearly meeting.
As I don’t want to be lonely this holiday,
I’m taking off my shoes and giving my body to the homeless.
I’d give you my remaining years to be alone with you, for a minute of your time,
To give you one last kiss goodbye and a warm embrace under the leaf dappled light.
A small journey begins tomorrow and when I return from it I will also have to return to the world. This is something that I am having difficultly facing as I re-evaluate where my place is.
I carry you in my heart,
I carry you in my memories.
‘Don’t stop, don’t break,
You can delight because you have a place,
Quiet room, I need you now.’
– Majesty Snowbird by Sufjan Stevens
And the rain falls down, the thunder roars, and the clouds roll on by,
It’s just another day and I’m stuck inside, a model of the evil
eye sits and stares, taking it’s time whilst I while away mine…
It’s another day, it is another day, and I think you’ve just gone away,
Perhaps just a brief holiday, but that idea holds no sway as I know
that you have gone away on indefinite leave, it’s a kick in the face
as I’m left all over the place…
The rain falls down and it’s bringing me down too, as I know I won’t see your
face again, but the heart is filled with love, even as I spread my arms and wish it all
away, knowing that this isn’t how it is meant to be, life left rotting like a broken
tree knowing that I’ll never feel free…
and I’ll still miss you.
And you are turning to stone and I’m left all alone, I let out a soft moan.
Let this not be real and please just let it be a dream, I can hear myself scream.
This is not about me though, this is about everyone you ever loved and everyone who ever loved you. I still cannot take it in, my heart is broken in two at the loss of my wonderful friend. I’ve turned to old friends and to music to draw me closer to our shared memories of the years we knew each other. I wanted to share the fact that I’d discovered a musician who I never knew but you said I should. Now it’s the soundtrack to my grief, the one real release, where my eyes fill with tears and I’m stuck dumb once again; that I’ll never share a laugh over a drink again with your growing smile as my companion, that I’ll never get to the chance to watch your career blossom fully as it had already started to, that I’ll never get to hug you goodbye again.
I’m not convinced, but I hope it’s not the end. Memories are never goodbye.
Death obliterates almost all in life…
Memories will stay forever…
Memories will stay…
Death is a hot ember, buried deep into the chest of life.
What you are feeling, what you are afraid of, I am too.
Raised up, head on pillow. Eyes closed and jaw slack.
Firelight creeping up the wall, midnight
falls across the land. Tears stain each and every pillow.
One last year to see it in,
one last year to see it out.
A round white mint, given to both
child and animal alike. Each drawing on the sugary
energy that bursts forth.
Closed eyes and a smile drawing across the lips,
that devilish chocolate kiss, which
flooded a child’s mind at Christmas time.
The wind that shakes the barley,
the heart that skips a beat,
knowing that you won’t be here today
to meet for one last treat.
She had heard him coughing over his poem in the far off room, could no doubt imagine the fine spray of blood that was probably even now covering his crisp writing paper. It would not be long now before he was too ill to write. This was a period that she had been dreading, even as he sought to convey the full confection of his feelings for her in his short, often romantic, poems detailing their shared life together.
Today, however, was a different story. She had already heard him earlier, muttering under his breath about the lines that had formed on his paper in the distinct rays of the morning sun. Once or twice she thought she had even heard him growl in resigned and quiet anger. Why didn’t he stop, rest and enjoy the short time that they had left? Why hadn’t they eaten breakfast together the past few days, as they normally would have either in the light yellow breakfast room or in one of the cafes that proliferated the nearby shopping arcade?
She knew, of course, why he had been focusing on his writing, even more so in the autumn of his life, ever since that damn diagnosis. It was to be a slow decline for the writer of such fiery youthful polemics, which had made him his name as an author in the country of his birth. There was to be a steady lessening of his commands, a slow fire that would rise up from his belly and engulf his lungs so that in his last days he would feel as if he was drowning in flames.
They both faced this poetic decree by his doctor with solid stoicism, unmoved by his descriptions and livid features, the jowls that so willingly proclaimed the closing chapter of a life well lived. She had swallowed hard that day, had pushed down that knot of fear, pushed it down so deep she had barely registered its original presence. Yet it lingered, as the ghost of an early morning dream does to those that live the day believing that they are forgetting something fundamental in their routine. Guilt mingled with the fear, the fear that, even if he were to pass as she was still undecided on this matter, she would remain in this house built for two alone. Her coming winter was to be spent in silent reflection.
She had somehow forgotten of his ills, perhaps buried them once more, as she busied herself with the tasks of daily life. Filtering the mail, answering calls, fielding journalists. In truth this was a remote interaction with the world at large, her life with him had been steady, filled with the romance of every day love. Gestures that Romero would never have a chance to show to his youthful Juliet that filled theirs instead. avec amour chaque devoir quotidien.
This day she had let him write alone and she thought he was progressing, writing further poems of truly requited love, the kind that beats across the decades and the kind that fills the marital bed with the warm glow of satisfaction. Towards the drawing of the late summer sun she had heard that cough percolate throughout the house time and time again, shaking her core foundation and filling it with a silent dread. She abandoned her tasks and rushed towards the sounds of his frail body, wracked as it was by coughing convulsions. They embraced as one, his eyes holding hers. A quick glance at his desk showed a poem, scribbled all over and dotted with the fine droplets of blood that he had indeed sprayed forth.
It would not be long now.