Fifty ways to grieve your lover
Dedicated to my angel, Lindsay Turner
01/02/1973 – 12/09/2003
We thought we had all the time in the world,
yet we never wasted a second.
Wisdom is learnt on the desolate hillside
One cannot discount the unpleasant things of this world
by merely looking the other way
Hector Hugh Munro
She’s dead. There’s no getting around it, she’s really never coming home. I know this to be one hundred percent true. After all, it was me that first called 999 in the early hours of that Saturday morning, it was I who failed miserably to administer the kiss-of-life moments later. I spent a week, twenty-four seven, by her bedside in the intensive care unit, and it was me who stood vigil and prayed over her through the final night. The following morning I even helped the nurse remove the hardware from her failing body, and at the very end it was I who sang to her during her last half hour. I held her close as, shadow thin and diminishing – yet with strength enough to break my heart, she slowly slipped away. Then it was over, in the time it takes to cast a glance I knew, my angel was gone for ever.
I carried one quarter of her coffin through the crematorium doors. It was me that told the minister what to say, and later it was me that first carried, and then buried the tiny oak casket containing her remains. I’d even chosen the plot. It was I who said the first goodbye at her open grave, and it was me who paid her the first visit one week later. My tears were the first to fall. All these events happened and were burned into my memory. I’ve been branded by them. Its really not likely that I’m ever going to forget.
What I want to know is this – how long is it going to be before I finally remember not to make two cups of coffee in the morning? It may sound trivial, but believe me, I’m only half a dozen redundant espressos away from calling the Samaritans.
The rhythmic gurgle of the coffee machine as it slowly drips into our two small cups, the satisfying swirl as the crema starts to form. Too much sugar, a gentle stir, and she’s dying all over again as I notice what I’ve done. Pain, every bit as sharp and disabling as I felt when I closed her eyes and gave her a final kiss goodbye. This is not a good way to start a day.
The funny thing is, I’m dreading the morning that I walk into the kitchen and instinctively reach for only one cup.
Excerpt from chapter 1
When The Devil Drives
Our main business in not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
Sir William Osler
Although we cannot turn away the wind, we can soften it; we can temper it, if I may say so, to the shorn lambs.
It’s not as though I’d never lied to her before. Little white lies, justifiable falsehoods, just enough to keep the machine oiled. She always knew of course, always said she could read me like a book. It was true, she always could. Often she’d just smile, tell me how she’d appreciated the gesture, that I needn’t try to carry the weight of her whole world on my shoulders. I’d tell her she was right, that in future we’d face things together, that I’d stop always trying to protect her. Little white lies.
A lie, however small, however vindicable, is said to scar the soul. My problem is I’m a heathen. A non-believer. Irreligious, and spiritually barren. As much able to believe in the soul as I am in pots of gold at the end of rainbows. But I’m scarred non the less. I felt the knife inside me twisting even as I spoke the words. No Ave Maria’s, no confessional forgiveness or prostrate lamentations can cure me. In fact I’ve no religious cop-out’s at all. I must admit, there are times when I envy the deluded, the water-into-wine brigade, the Sunday morning sin bleachers. How comforting it must be to truly believe that however loathsome ones behavior the mere act of confession wipes the slate clean. I tell you, I could do with some of that. I’m too much Dawkins and not enough New Testament, it’s never seemed a disadvantage before.
It just seems wrong. After all those years of trust and shared hardship. All those battles fought side by side: an invincible two-strong army. That it should end like this. The last words she would ever hear, my parting line, lies.
I wonder if she noticed? Did she, as she’d done so often before, take comfort in my attempts at reassurance? That I could deal with. Does anyone asking that kind of question ever want a truthful answer?
“Glenn, am I dying?”
I knew she was. In fact I’d thought I’d lost her only moments before. She’d been slipping in and out of consciousness, although she didn’t seem to have noticed. Each time I saw her eyes empty I’d refused to let her go.
Those brief moments, though lifetimes long, were oddly less frightening. It was only then that I had clarity. I had purpose. I knew my responsibilities. I knew what my angel needed me to do, and my adrenalin told me I could do it.
I’ll never know whether it was my attempts at reviving her that snapped her back from the brink, all I know is she came back. Three times she faded, and three times she returned. Each time the journey had taken longer, each time her return was less complete. The first thing I learnt that night is there’s no dignity in dying. Death, that’s an all together different matter. Death brings serenity, it’s inanimate perfection. Death is a kindness, it’s dying that should be feared. That night Lindsay was more than just afraid, she was terrified. So was I.
Excerpt from interlude 1
Just noticed the time. Here I am 462 days later, to the second almost, if I close my eyes I can almost hear you calling me. one day I’m going to snap, just run into the street screaming.
Do you remember when I first took you home to see mom? It was snowing. We walked along the canal tow-path. Remember that old couple who said ‘good morning’? you smiled at them, squeezed my hand, and said “yep, it really is”. Always thought that’d be us one day, old, still walking in the snow, still holding hands, still wearing stupid hats and childish grins.
Is it possible to miss something that never got to happen?
That was a good day though wasn’t it babe. We never did need much. Just as well really. Whatever happened to that red hat of yours? Not seen it in ages. Can still picture you waiting at the front door in Bearwood, always knew it was you because of that hat. Feels a lifetime ago babe. Before you moved in, before everything.
Do you ever watch me when I’m walking by the canal here? Often wonder if you do. It always makes me think of that day. Suppose you know that already though. Do me a favour Linz, next time I’m walking there and you’re watching, make it snow again.
I miss you darlin’ – even when I’m laughing.
Come on honey, type me an answer. Knew you’d never make a good ghost, bet you’re still trying to decide what to say.
Excerpt from Chapter 2
A Debt of Tears
For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me,
and that which I was afraid of is come onto me.
Job 4, 24
Go to sleep my little baby
You’re so sweet my little baby
It’s time to run along with your red shoes on
Don’t need no other but my baby
“She’s very poorly.” The ambulance driver delivered her line with a softness so obviously rehearsed that I almost felt sorry for her. I was sure she wanted to believe it as much as I did. Perhaps her training should have included the occasional Poker school? As it was a thousand Tells were adding the caveat; “You do know what a euphemism is don’t you son?”
“She’s not fucking poorly she’s dead, an’ if not, her brain’s fucking jelly, you know it as well as I do.”. That was what I wanted to say, what my mind was screaming at her. A dull monotone, ‘Ye’, was thankfully all I could manage. If I’d been able to convert heart into voice I may well have been walking the rest of the way to the hospital. Although, probably not.
Oddly, and cruelly I think, I’d not been allowed to travel with Lindsay, but had been made to follow behind in a second ambulance. I’m not sure which hurt more; watching Lindsay being sped away, or passing her ambulance a few moments later, parked up and I suppose giving my girl a few more volts. I should have been there, by her side as always. Still holding her hand, letting the current flow through us both, as it always had. As I watched the flashing lights grow smaller in the ambulances’ rear view mirror, I remember thinking; ‘Quality cinematography, excellent use of visual metaphor.’ Understandably the rest of the journey was completed in silence.
And so, at a little after 2am, I arrived at Sandwell General Hospital. My first thoughts, ‘Well, it’s not as clean as Holby City.’
The small hours of a Saturday morning in Accident and Emergency departments country wide are depressingly similar. The drunk, the depressed, the dispossessed, the brawlers, bingers and wingers, the joy-riders, and pill poppers, the beat-up and the passed out, the crack heads, the smack heads, the cocaine sniffers, the stoned, the pissed, the bruised and the battered – all the dregs. In fact all the beautiful party people, all the happy-hour fall-out, they all land on A&E. Maybe amongst this human detritus you’ll spot one person who’s not venomously complaining, who’s not over eager for another punch-up, who doesn’t stink of vomit, piss and alcohol, but I doubt it.
Through this sea of filth and excess I watched the grey heap that once passed as Lindsay Claire Turner become the eye of a storm of angels. God bless those red eyed, worn-out miracle workers. The meek don’t deserve to inherit the earth, I say let the nurses have it.
Excerpt from Chapter 2
A Debt of Tears
But something in her eyes was so much younger. Instantly making you feel compelled to coddle and protect her. I looked into her eyes then, like a kingfisher peering into the depths of a clouded still-water searching for signs of life darting below the surface. I found none. After a moments pause, and with the full weight of what had just happened almost pulling me to my knees, I closed her eyes. Using thumb and middle finger I softly caressed her eye-lids shut. She didn’t look asleep, her swollen lids refused to fully close. Maybe she was still looking at me, making sure I was still there. I slipped my hand behind her head, ran trembling fingers into her hair, and for the final time touched her now ivory lips to mine. As my tears ran down her cheek I saw her transformed, a grade one miracle, a stone cold Madonna crying before her spellbound congregation.
A memory came then, the malevolent spirit that hides beneath my consciousness lashed out: Slipping into bed one freezing December night, still cold from her dash from bathroom to bedroom, she’d folded herself around me. As she’d pulled me closer, her chilled flesh only adding to the fire that was growing inside me, she’d whispered, “best served at room temperature”.
Excerpt from Chapter 3
The Leaves Were Turning
Every man can get through till nightfall
Robert Louis Stevenson
It’s now been eight weeks since Lindsay was carried out through the door of our little home, and two years to the day since I first carried her in through it. I’d little realized just how much the drama of the past weeks had sustained me. High on adrenalin and wrapped in a blanket of confusion I’d survived. Only now, with the mournful callers all departed, their cards removed from the mantel and the last of their gifted flowers wilting, has true emptiness entered. It’s engulfed me, and I’m drowning.
All of Chapter 5
Parting On The Level
I hate Christmas
Anthony J Hancock
Diary Entry – 25th December 2003. 12:01am
Phoned Samaritans. Engaged. Somehow that made me feel better.
Excerpt from the epilogue
Ruine hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death which cannot choose,
But weep to have that which it fears to loose.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 64,11-14
A man is a small thing,
And the night is large and full of wonders
Lord Dunsany, The Laughter of the Gods
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it, and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery – even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense, and in this sense alone I am a deeply religious man.
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