February the first

Posted: January 29, 2016 in Blogs
Tags: , ,

Days go by and still I think of you. I used to have this track, by Dirty Vegas, on vinyl. Now long gone as a result of the minimalist purge – sold at a car boot I seem to remember for a matter of pence. I find it nostalgic at best, haunting at worst but undeniably good. It’s about loss and pain, all taken from the perspective of the listener. I’ve heard lots of people say, ‘There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of…’ I wonder if this is really ever true, can we really spend the rest of our lives remembering loss daily? I don’t think so. I find the less finite, vaguer first sentence of this paragraph more apt, because yes no amount of time will ever pass before I forget. Unless Men in Black burst into my life with their flashy memory thing.

Of course some days you remember more than other days; birthdays and anniversaries. I tend not to remember one day to the next that well, what I ate for breakfast, where I went last Saturday who I was out with such and such a night. The memory of loss pops up in my day, like an unwanted gremlin weighing me down. It traps you like a foot in the door of happiness, threatening to let loose a whole host of emotions that lurk in the dark. I will never forget the first of February, four years ago. I can recall detail after detail but by way of an out of body experience. I’m getting ahead of myself though; this story starts with a moment in time for 12 year old me.

I met Henry when I was 12. I was unceremoniously driven, without explanation, to ‘neutral’ territory. If memory serves I believe it was a hotel room. There was an expectation that I needed to behave in an adult fashion, be grown up in my approach to my new baby brother – in this the first I knew of him. 12 year old me never realised that 17 years down the line I would have to take on a level of responsibility well beyond comprehension of human ability. Children are very accepting. I never realised how much of my childhood was hard or odd, it just was. A shaky start some might think, but in those early years, despite childhoods spent in Nigeria and the UK we spent a lot of growing up time together, along with three more new additions. I had every reason to take a dislike to all of them but I didn’t.

Buddhists encourage teaching and meditation on death. They view it as a natural process, reminding us of the impermanence of life and in turn teaching us to value and cherish life. I’m quite a cynical person and I imagine too much study of all things deathly would be detrimental to my sanity. However, I can’t help thinking it would have been useful to be a bit more prepared. What does one do when someone dies? Well, I’m not sure it’s gospel but this is what I did.

I folded in on myself quite literally, like a creased pancake or a sunken cake. I crumpled on the bathroom floor while on the other end of the phone. I’m sorry were the only words I could form. I somehow mustered enough conversation to agree to be the messenger for my dad, my brother and aunt I would have to tell. I hid, struck still like a rabbit caught in headlights. Hoping that someone would find me, in the toilets at work at 8am. Please don’t make me come out of here and tell someone, admit this awful truth that can’t be true. All too soon I can no longer bear this pain on my own. At the sight of a human, I do the folding in on myself thing again. Later people will tell me they saw death on my face – that mine was not a face of a person ok. I was given tea and biscuits in a quiet room. I took on responsibility like morning reveille, alert and business like, informing family. I was driven home. People were kind in gargantuan form and silent just as much. What do you say? I still don’t know.

I punished myself with guilt. Why wasn’t it me? I found ways to believe it was my fault; the resentment I had felt towards my dad was a poisonous karma attacking him. Seeing the effect of loss on other people is by far the worst thing in the world, I would rather suffer the loss for everyone than see the damage it bestows on them. I believed that I was strong, the funeral was just another part of this surreal play that I could continue acting in. I didn’t even have a tissue and I sobbed uncontrollably from start to finish. I vowed never to love anyone because they would just die and leave me. At this point I’m still not sure that I understand that life can end, that we can just expire and that’s that.

Henry was 17, he had a rare form of childhood cancer, one that was rid from his body with chemotherapy and surgery. He was given the all clear. When it comes back, this cancer, it’s even more aggressive. I’d say I miss him every day but I don’t – but days go by and still I think of him. He was brave, responsible, honest, laid back, practical, so kind and so incredibly cool. When things get tough, I remember his courage and when I feel misery I remember the chance I have at life, one that can all too easily be snatched away. Most of all I remember loss, and I will never forget.

you are still a whisper on my lips
a feeling at my fingertips
that’s pulling at my skin 

you leave me when I’m at my worst
feeling as if I’ve been cursed
bitter cold within







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