The months of May and October are the two most significant months in my calendar of grieving John. There are plenty of other dates in the year that warrant more than the usual pause in the daily clatter of my life to remember and miss John. That daily clatter looks on the surface quite similar to that of an earlier life of mine. However, there are numerous ordinary days where that daily clatter is interrupted or sidelined completely regardless of the innocuous date that the calendar presents to me.
Whole waking hours, blocks of night-time being, randomly spaced collections of intermittent life pauses of variable lengths from brief to long and back again, when grief and longing for John to be here, for him to be alive moves from the back passenger seat of my life right up to the front seat as I steer my way through my days. There are days, when all I can do is just loosen or let go of my grip on the steering wheel and hand it over to grief.
These two months containing the dates of John’s death and his birth and my own birth and my birthing of one of our boys demand a longer and more encompassing conscious span of attention of me. There is a now familiar lead in period to these specific dates that allows the funneling of love and sadness, grief and mourning, yearning and remembrance to take the space they demand of me. The dates marking the days of birth and death have themselves become sacred spaces. So too have the smaller quietly carried acts of mourning and the places where I can freely acknowledge my grief to myself. I have discovered it is better for me if my grief is not limited to the confines of my headspace. It is also better for those that I love.
My grief as a reflection of my continuing love for my big brother has become a sacred entity in its own right. To paraphrase C.S Lewis ” His absence is like the sky, spread over everything” as is the grieving of his absence. There is a frequency to John’s presence in my thought space that he never occupied in life. Living breaths, create room around us, to come and go, dip in and out, secure in the knowledge of each other’s existence somewhere in this small world.
How my grief outwardly and inwardly manifests itself is fluid and differs from time lined points of reference that I can see with hindsight and from where I’m at in my life at any given time. My grief is varied in how it conjures itself. The shock of John’s death and his absence from this world is being integrated into my being. I have taken out and looked at that moment and the immediate aftermath when word of John’s death first reached my ears. I have revisited and sat with the abject despair and pain that the answer to my questioning “Who?” delivered, with full body blows, as I stood just at the bottom of my stairs, inside my front door. I have recently brought myself to write on it for the first time, that cataclysmic moment of the utterance of his death.
Another season encroaches, I'll turn to the wearing of your geansaí that reminds me of your warmth. I no longer need it as a badge of tribute to my remembering that you are dead nor as a reminder to others that I am remembering you. Your death I knew as a complete and awful truth, mere hours into your absence from our lives. With the pulling of a car unannounced into my driveway, holding what was to become the living remains of my first family. How foolishly I rushed to meet the bad news, half dressed cylinders of fear misfiring, misdirecting me with haste not once expecting the vowels and consonants would offer up your name. On opening the door, before entry was requested "WHO?" was the only syllable my mouth relinquished. " Accident - Fall - Dead" "John" Your name fell from lips. I sank to the floor. Part of me remains there still.
The impact of John’s death on my day to day life has changed since then, in part because I just have had more time to become accustomed to shape and form my own grief takes. How it finds its own route in and out of my body, mind and heart. In part because living in the world demands it. Grieving John’s death, mourning his absence and remembering his being, doesn’t happen in isolation to the rest of my life. It doesn’t happen separate to the act of being me, a complicated fifty two year old woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an acquaintance or a person you pass in the gym or in the biscuit aisle of the supermarket. It doesn’t just occur in the sleepless glitches of dark nights, when I need to take it out, feel the lurching emptiness of it, examine it, poke at it and acknowledge it, or when the rabbit hole yawns open, proffering an invitation to a non wonderland and trying to make an Alice of me.
It doesn’t just happen when it is actively acknowledged by my writing, tears or cold water swims. It doesn’t just happen in the planting and tending to of rose bushes and rosemary plants. It doesn’t restrict its movements to the perimeters of the room in which I have been visiting an counsellor for over the last eighteen months.
It doesn’t wait for a polite invitation to come join my day, it doesn’t hang around on the doorstep of my pending hours waiting to see if I’m at home for a visit. “Please enter” is not required, why would it be? It is already permanently in residence. There are times when it demands to be let out from behind the curtains where it has been obscured; just staying out of the view of others but hiding in my plain sight.
There are times when it feels deeply unpleasant and unmanageable. There are times grief’s presence is a light as gossamer or as heavy as the richest brocade. Both weights of presence as interchangeable as the summer and winter duvets that dress my bed but not in the slightest bit season bound.
If grief and mourning has been continuously sidelined by my going about the daily acts of living or by my forcing it away, refusing to acknowledge it to myself there is no , “Have you got a moment ?”
Nope, somedays it barges right up, elbowing all and sundry out of its way. Demanding an attention that I feel the timeline of my day doesn’t permit me to give. Somedays it resorts to what I call unattended grief leakage .Grief doesn’t mind that I’m undressed not yet fully awake, it doesn’t mind if I’m driving the car or cooking what seems like the twentieth meal of the day. It is there some mornings when I harangue one of my half dressed, wet haired boys into the car so we won’t miss the school bus. My head doesn’t have the space to deal with the prospect of missing a bus. My headspace that at times alternates between feeling overcrowded with half formed thoughts and unwritten to do lists or cavern like, dark and devoid of conscious thought awaiting replicated realisations of his absence.
It is there when joy and sadness are sparked in my life. It is here, back in the front seat as we approach his 3rd birthday away from us, and the world we live in. The birthday which would have seen him outlive my Dad by a mere crochet hook of a rounded year, sixty two years to Dad’s sixty one and three months and six days. It is there in the love and the loss of the pair of them. It has created a sacred space within me, a small world of my own design, that love and grief inhabit.
" I'm weaving your absence into the living fibre of my days. Not with any High brow list of accomplishments nor any road to Damascus moments but in my waking thoughts sleep dream thoughts and the mundane moments in between. Oct 13th 2020 - J.Quinn