I don’t have to look it up, nor be told that there may be three, five or seven stages. I don’t need someone to talk to about my loss. I just need to be allowed to grieve. If that means I cry, or I sleep or I scream out loud then I will do so. No one will have to tell me it will pass, I know that, no one will have to tell me that it will become easier nor that I will never forget. No one needs to tell me that the person I grieve for will always be with me. I’m older now, I have lost people both dear and near to me throughout my life and I understand that Grief is a natural process that I have to have to be able to cope with my loss.
I watched three mothers bury their children in one year and swore I would never go to another child’s funeral. I looked at my own child and envisaged the pain of the dead children’s parents. How would I manage if it were me?
I’ve buried my father and other members of my family and several years ago we lost an old school friend. But the grief I feel today holds nothing to the grief of any other loss. I am happy, I have a warm cosy feeling that has been hard to explain, but somehow, I feel that I must try.
There was a man, before I met Mark, he was a scruffy Herbert, always looked as though he could do with a bath, and was in desperate need of a dentist. I understood why, he worked, and he worked darn hard. He ran his own business and spent a lot of time away from home in a lorry. There was something strangely alluring about him. Not in a sexual, I want to jump your bones way, and definitely not in a, I want to marry you, settle down and have your baby’s way. It was a, I want to be a part of your life, thing. Please be my friend. He was funny and honest and always on hand should anyone need him. We weren’t even particularly close, by virtue of several marriages and family ties we were related. He was, my nephew’s father-in-law.
Several years ago, I had a life crisis and it almost broke me, taking me to a point that I never thought I would return from. My brother and my daughter did everything they possibly could and I survived, I got through it and then I met Mark. Oh, how I pushed him away. I told him what an utter bitch I was, about the bad temper, the inappropriate way I behaved in public, you know the sort of thing, touching young men up, because after all, you are only as young as the man you feel. I told him about the doldrum moments and the axe swinging, I am a good axe swinger, trust me, I can take a head off with a pretend axe with just one swing, I’d hate to see what I could do with a real one.
The bad news I received happened at 1am on a Wednesday morning and I was alone, totally alone and it was too late to talk to anyone. I scanned the messages of Facebook and there he was, active, John.
ME…You still up…
JOHN…Yep, out on the road…
ME…That’s a shame…
ME…No milk and no fags (I still smoked back then)…
JOHN…What you up for go to bed…
ME…Can’t had bad news and can’t sleep…
JOHN…Can you get to Bennington….
JOHN…Meet me at the café layby…
I didn’t need to think twice, so at 2am I stopped in the layby at Bennington Café. John got out of the lorry and came over to let me know it was him. Instantly I broke down and found myself in his arms. It happened, what can I say, I thought it might one day, I was hoping it never would but it did. I was for the first time ever treated like a little old lady in destress. He didn’t want to take advantage he just held me until I stopped crying and then gently pushed me far enough away to look down and say, “I’ve got milk”.
Interlude: I’m a good-looking woman, I know I am, the old man on the corner of our street with the cataracts used to tell me I was, every time he saw me. So, it must be true, but that, “there, there” look, was the first time that I had ever really felt my age. I was a woman in destress and this man only wanted to help. It was Ok he was being nice, maybe another time I could turn down the advances that I knew he would have to make. After all, how could he resist me!
Climbing into the lorry he offered me a cigarette and we smoked and talked for nearly three hours. I found out things about the man that not many people knew and he unburdened his inner most fears, which strangely made me feel better. I told him what had upset me and he understood why I was in such a mess. He didn’t offer any advice, he didn’t go mumbo jumbo on me. He’d never seen a psycho anything in his life. CBT to him was Compulsory Basic Training for a motorcycle test. I didn’t mention did I, he was a biker.
The one thing he did do was explain his very simple philosophy on life. After having a period in his life that made him a complete and utter idiot, whereby his wife left him and he lost almost everything he had, he formed a plan of action that had got him back to being, the human being he was on that night.
It’s not easy to sum it up in one sentence nor to give you a quote that stood out. He talked to me, and he listened and he just said, you have a right to be who you want to be, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I look at his daughter. Young and pretty and slim, did I mention she was pretty and slim, I hate her. No not really, I see in her a woman that knows her own heart. We haven’t always been bosom buddies. Not really had the opportunity to get to know each other. There has always been interference from the rest of the world. But looking in on her life I see a strong young woman that loves life. She does what she wants because she can. She has never been stopped by her gender nor other people’s noses being shoved in the air and the “That’s not right” attitude of others. A stock car diver, zumba dancing, mother of four strong willed children, she has manged, but now she has lost her father and coping will be difficult for her.
Why am I happy, why does his death fill me with warmth?
Because after I had cried and the knot in my stomach had finally relaxed, the guilt of not making that final phone call had passed and the thought that he was taken too early had gone away I realise that I had been one of the privileged in his life.
There is a strange story that I vaguely remember. It is about a man that dies and when he gets to heaven he meets five people that he never expects to meet. Each one is someone that he has helped in his life and they want to say thank you to him. I like to think that time doesn’t exist and that John will wait for me to arrive, because I will be one of the people that will take his hand and say thank you. Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for changing the way I looked at my life. Thank you for being there when I thought that I was totally alone.
I carry the memory of the good that John left behind and I don’t cry because I believe that he gave all his goodness to others and now it’s his turn to rest.