Saturday, 15 March 2014

Don't let it define you

When bad things happen to good people, there are ramifications.

When someone dies and they were the cornerstone of your world then everything changes. Completely and irrevocably.

When someone dies young it isn't fair. It isn't just. And it isn't okay. No amount of platitudes and clichés can change anything. The moment that person dies and leaves you alone in the dark without them, you change.

It can be said that it defines you from hereon out.

My daddy died 13 years ago tomorrow.  It's 13 YEARS since I was able to talk to the person who means the most to me in the world.

I look at that number, 13, and it seems meaningless. It feels like five minutes ago that I last spoke to him and it feels like maybe I never spoke to him at all. Sometimes I feel like I made him up. Like I just dreamt all of it.

I still dream about him often. Sometimes that's a good thing. In fact, it's definitely a good thing. Because then I see him and speak to him.

If you've never experienced grief; pure, deep, white hot grief then first, congrats and second, imagine yearning for something or someone with every fibre of your being, with every cell of your body and brain and at the same time knowing that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how much you miss them. It doesn't matter how much it hurts. It doesn't matter that guilt, pain, fear and abject sorrow haunt you all day and all night. It doesn't matter. It's one of the only times in your life that you will be in agony and absolutely no one can help you.

Weirdly it doesn't lessen as the years go by. It looks like it does from the outside because those that are left behind have no option. You can only cry for a finite amount of time. You can only talk about it for a finite amount of time. Endless mourning isn't a luxury that our society affords us. Maybe that is for the best. Maybe the Victorians had it wrong and the best way to deal with your soul shrivelling up is to have a fast funeral and get back to normal. Back to the office. Back to routine. Back to how it was before.

Except the world has twisted on its axel and nothing is the same again. I became oddly amused by the weirdest things. I blurted out my daddy's story (it was very short. He died in the night. I wasn't there. I couldn't help him. I couldn't even hold his hand. He just died. He was there one day and not the next. The end) to people I barely knew, I felt like I was made of glass and would shatter if I spoke loudly.

I felt an overwhelming urge to help my mum somehow. I felt all the sorrow in the world. People's faces seemed altered. I wondered what pain and horror they were all hiding. I felt like I had no skin.

Thirteen years on and things have changed. I can laugh and talk as loud as I like. I can look at people without wondering how they can exist in this painful, empty, pointless world. I have many times of happiness. I can sometimes think of him without feeling like someone stabbed me in the gut. I cry less often. I talk about him rarely. I write about him seldom.

But somewhere in the attic of my soul there is a box where all the grief and rage and pain and deep, deep sadness live. It's locked and chained.

Sometimes I open it and sometimes it is ripped open by a memory or a moment  and I'm shocked and horrified all over again. But mostly it's safe and contained.

Someone once told me, a long time ago, not to let it define me. That it's maudlin. That the past is the past. Grief is ugly and bitter and black. But it does define you. Even if you don't want it to.

Rest in peace Ian Henderson. As long as I live you will never be completely gone.

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