It is easy, when one is stupendously happy, to forget about the rest of the world, but from time to time the world has a tendency to intrude upon one’s happiness; a gentle but persistent reminder that there is a lot happening to everybody, and some of those everybodies are mine.
The moon is big and bright and beautiful in the sky tonight and I spent some time outside in the deckchair, tea cooling beside me as I considered my day. Today has been odd; it has pulled me in different places; it has reminded me of fierce joy, but it has also reminded me of deep sadness; fingers pushed into the dough expect the dough to spring back but sometimes there’s an indentation, a well.
Today there was a well.
It began, I suppose, a few days ago as a friend confessed to me that his marriage is over and that he is tired of life, heartsick and sore. Then I talked to another friend who is preparing to bid adieu to a beloved parental figure, as impossible as that sounds, and is trying her best to live from moment to moment, challenge to challenge. Today I was reminded of my own grandfather who succumbed to cancer thirteen years ago, and who has left a deep void in my life that nobody else can ever quite fill.
In the middle of my magical beginning, I mused as I lay in the deckchair, I am reminded of endings. This, then, is life. A dance between the good and the not-so-good; a constant push-me-pull-you of emotions.
Death is a part of life and philosophers and poets tend to wax poetic and philosophical about how it is important to accept this one true fact; it comes to us all, so what good can it possibly do you to ignore this reality or to rage against it? Indeed, it doesn’t do anybody any good at all, but it’s easy to forget, in the midst of all the prosaic and the philosophising, and the poetry, that when someone you love dies, they are gone. All you have left are your memories, and they are certainly not the most reliable of beasts.
They are gone.
I wrote of my grandfather today, and I must confess that it made me miss him deeply; he was my biggest supporter, my best friend, and a most enduring influence in my life. He deeply influenced my love for travel, books, and food, and taught me that it is important to always live life with dignity. I always long to talk to him when I am either very happy or very sad, and that is the cruelest thing about loss, I think. Having to imagine his words; having to have a conversation with him on my own.
Today I just wanted to talk to him for the sake of talking to him. When I stayed with my grandparents as an adult I would wake up very early – because he was an early riser – and he would make us both coffee. He made the most amazing coffee in the world; hot, strong, and delicious. We would take our coffee out onto the porch and we would talk; he’d sit in his straight-backed walnut chair and I’d curl up with my legs under me on the sofa, posture giving way to comfort, and we would talk. We would reminisce. We would laugh. It was my morning ritual with him through my teen years (as I grew up with my grandparents), and it was a ritual that I tried to slip back into and replicate whenever I could in my twenties, which wasn’t often, because I spent so much time travelling.
I thought of all this as I lay curled up in the deckchair, unsurprised to find tears pricking the corners of my eyelids; I have not had quite such a visceral reaction to a memory of him in quite some time. The last time was in a mall some years ago when I walked past someone who had used Old Spice – my grandfather’s aftershave that I can never smell now without collapsing into myself – and I had to go into the bathroom and cry as quietly as I could into a paper towel.
I whisper to the moon that I miss him so much, even as my mind moves on to other things; ghosts of memories flit invisibly about my head as I sip my now-cold tea. Nobody can take them from me, but nobody can ever tell me that all endings are to be celebrated because they happen. Whilst you may certainly celebrate the fact that someone lived, and that they were, joyfully, yours, you cannot celebrate the fact that they are lost to you forever in this life.
And this, then, is grief; this is life.