It’s another belter. Stay with me, or don’t. Suit yourself.
It is thirty six days since I drove Nicky to hospital, 14 days since she died and yesterday we cremated her remains in a thoughtful and sad ceremony. There was fog, or perhaps it was a sea fret, clinging to the hillside flattening perspective and muting colour. And in that mist, as old and dear friends gathered, a Voleur crept in. An invisible Dr Seuss cat like thing. It curled and entwined itself around the memorials and reached out, unseen to steal the future from the friendships gathered there.
During Nicky’s illness, there was a period when to fight the thing in her head seemed like a possibility. She attempted to visualise it as a butterfly. An insect that had merely alighted on her head and one that could be just as easily shooed away. It was fitting and in a way appalling that a butterfly had somehow found itself trapped inside the crematorium. During the ceremony it flapped its wings against the window. The girls, too formally dressed, clutched oversized bouquets, like junior brides to be at the weddings their mum will never see. Poems read, Eulogies (delightful) delivered, music played. Pauses spent in thought.
Oh fuckety fuck fuck fuck fuck
Robbed. It’s like the future that we had planned has just been taken from us. It’s not even from us, it’s from me. I can’t even talk to her about it. Besides, it is only the dead who know everyone at the wake, what would she care.
Robbed. I’ll explain. The thing that made me love her all the more in the year that we got to know each other was that I really liked all her friends. She didn’t have many friends but the ones she did have were all great, true, loyal, funny and all of them appreciative of the shining, and yet retiring, brightness of Nicky. I instantly liked them all, and because they could see that the whole of Nicky and Simon was greater than the sum of its parts, I think they liked me too. New bonds were formed, shared worlds created.
Looking back now I think how carelessly we have conjured up our future. Long term friendships mean shared universes and the holding of hands through rights of passage. ‘Hatches, Matches and Despatches’ I call them, and of course they truly are the stuff of life. Yesterday I looked around the many lovely faces at the celebration. And I watched our yet-to-be-lived future (of children’s weddings, summer parties, first nights and first borns) thin to a wisp. And later in the day as the sun burnt through the sea fret and friends drifted away I felt our shared, imagined, world to come melt away into the night too.
It’s possible that these things may still happen, that we now three will still be wanted at her old friend’s “do’s” . Really? We’ll see.
Grieving, I begin to realise, is not just a loss of us and now, it is also a loss of them and then.
This will not be a comfortable read, don’t bother if you’ve not the stomach for it.
I cannot pretend otherwise, the grief I am enduring is unimaginable. It’s around me always, like a shadow. It’s always with me. I’ve no real experience of depression but I’ve heard tell of a ‘black dog’. I understand this now. My shadow of grief is an ever-present brooding, sometimes snarling, spectre. This my friends is a new manifestation of the malignant motherfucker that has wreaked so much pain, chaos and despair.
It is seven days since Nicky died. This time last week I carried my sleeping children to their own beds and enfolded my darling wife in my arms for the last time. I curled around her. She’d not been conscious for some 15 hours by this time, the morphine driver imperceptibly twisting, bringing relief to her and a sense of inevitable anguish to me.
“Sleep baby, if you want to, let go love.”
She died in my arms, although I could not tell you when. As day dawned and wakefulness returned I reached to touch her head. Her porcelain perfect skin, youthful and clear, was china cool.
Seven days. Shock has metamorphosed into something much darker..
Often these days I am making funeral plans and my shadow is polite enough to respect my busy body trifling. Busy Busy Busy. The spectre bides his time around the house, brooding over her diary entries, flicking through our photo albums, absent mindedly examining the kitchen cupboards or contents of her drawers.
Ding Dong, it’s the door again.
Visitors and friends arrive to hug me and tell me I am loved. Contrary to their desired intention this often serves to rouse my shadow from its temporary ambivalence. Tears, hugs, ‘I’m so sorries’ and reminders of the good times are, let me tell you, music for a grief demon and at once he begins an unmerry dance around my head. Firmer hugs and a few good laughs will eventually tire him, thank god.
But other times he’s far less accommodating and (when the mood takes him) the ferociousness of his attack is physical. I am bent double, I lose breath, focus and balance, and then the shadow envelopes me as thick and black as treacle. I teeter in the edge of a precipice, below me an abysmal infinity. It is very very very dark in here. Nicky was the brightest light. I loved her unequivocally. She was my soulmate, my lover, my best friend. My loss is profound.
From the many cards and messages i realise she was a light to many many others. So it seems everyone around me is in mourning too. We meet and reach out to one another like drunks at a disco, as each of us I guess is dancing with our own kind of grief demon.
I fear for myself, and I fear for the girls. How must it be for them? I’ll do my best, and am doing my best but I’ll always fall short. Nicky was an exceptional mother, with infinite patience and endless love. How can I ever match or replace her? And what is their loss? How much more profound it must be for them. In every movement, look and smile they make I see Nicky’s face and grace, and what must they see in me? I am at a loss. Betsy Bubble is hiding in corners, angry yet unable to find a voice to vent it. Tilly weeps each night, and is, like me, swept up in a hideous ballroom with her own grief demon to a relentless tune she neither knows, nor understands. A Dervish has her ‘in hold’, poor sweet Tilly.
We burn Nicky Barber ‘s remains on Friday. Perhaps then I will find the strength to wrestle this evil, foul breathed, merciless, cruel malevolence from our house. Or maybe I will just get used to him. An uninvited houseguest, unwelcome and wearing his muddy sodding boots on Nicky’s new grey hearth rug. Someone please tell him to get the fuck out.
Thank you for all your messages. I read them to Nicky as she slept yesterday.
The relentless assault this thing has had on her brain accelerated yesterday and my beautiful wife died this morning. As she would have sort of wanted I was in bed snoring by her side.
Over night she seemed to be showing signs of head pain. District nurses visited and increased her dose ot morphine and a muscle relaxant.
At 5 am i believe she stepped onto the stage. A moment of stillness followed.Then the curtains opened bathing her in warm bright light. The audience, already on their feet and cheering threw flowers. It was an entrance and a welcome fit for the brightest of stars.
Nicky Barber 07/04/1968 – 2/3/2014
May you forever dance, sing, laugh and love at peace.
There’s not enough tears.