I’m not always sure if everything he told me was strictly true but I am sure how thoroughly entertained I was by his brilliant stories.
Stories of prisons and fishermen and being raised by political gorillas in shanty towns where weed smoke filled his lungs long before he’d ever learned to actually smoke. Although they’re not written down, I do remember every single one. Those stories were his social currency and he had a wealth of them to share with whoever stopped by.
I miss him, of course I do. All the time. And no matter how long it’s been since he died I can still hear the warm vinyl crackle of his voice in my mind.
Losing him was a hard thing to do. Because it’s not something you do willingly when a person dies. And there’s no training or preparation for the process you’re going to go through. But learn to lose we must in this life and that’s a hideous reality to accept. Like getting sucked down a rabbit hole, suddenly everything becomes frighteningly surreal. Like giving birth in reverse: wiping the slate clean is no easy feat.
In the momentum of things, sometimes I think that I forgot to grieve because I don’t see any evidence of how the process unfolded. And then other times all I see are the broken pieces of the world he used to inhabit and I wonder if grief takes place regardless if you consciously welcome it or not. Is it just our new way of life, this endless sadness that settles like an unmistakeable scent, into the fabric of everything you own? Like the elderly with their stagnant houses and the gradual slowing stillness of the energy that once propelled them into life.
We talk about him all the time, my mum and I, and although it’s painful, it’s also comforting because it helps to keep him close, helps to summon a little of the energy he possessed. Besides when someone dies, it’s really the only way you can still have a relationship with them. Still honour the love you shared while they lived. I can’t imagine the loss she must feel because I can barely understand my own. But I do know she’s making a good go of it without him, because she is no stranger to grief and she doesn’t give up as easily as you’d think. I’m proud of her and he most certainly would be too.
I realise now, 5 years on, that grief doesn’t just devastate, it also offers us something by way of a gift. A transformation, an understanding, a tenderness that thoroughly changes us through its harsh lesson. It shatters the illusion of permanence, yes, but it strengthens our hold on the ones left behind. It teaches us to love harder, to laugh more and to take nothing for granted.
When someone you love dies, emotions assume the weight of a physical mass, swelling till they eventually consume you. It stretches you so that you become bigger on the inside than the outside and suddenly nothing makes sense. Learning to let it do it’s work is the hardest trick of all.
5 years on and I wish now that I’d recorded the micro details of his actuality as well as the bigger ones. I wish I could remember the tattoos he had, the creases and the exact colour of his skin. I wish he were here to meet the beautiful woman who has taken care of us since he left, and see how she’s effortlessly become the love of my life. I wish he could walk me down the aisle once more, and though I doubt he’d approve, I’d drag him down there anyway. After all, his stories were built around all kinds of complicated, unconventional and mischievous characters, how could it be any surprise that I eventually turned into one 🙂