Tuesday, 5 October 2010

No man is an Iland

...intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

When I learned last week that my friend and colleague Heather had lost her beautiful partner Kate, I could feel a downward slide starting.

It is difficult to say whether this was a reopening of my own slowly-healing wounds or simply empathy. Perhaps the two are the same. Or perhaps it is a desire to take onto my own shoulders some of the shock and pain that I know she is feeling right now. Because I am stronger now and have a better idea of how to cope after travelling this path for a couple of years.

But that is not possible. This is a journey that we take on our own. People cheering from the sidelines help a lot. Of course they do. But the steps have to be walked nonetheless. Every one of them.

The funeral was this afternoon, and the morning got off to a very tearful start. I was very close to deciding not to go. The thought of travelling there and getting through the service on my own was almost too much.

Then the postman arrived, bringing with him a mysterious package from the other side of the world. Intrigued I opened it - and burst out laughing. A rather silly online conversation some weeks ago had resulted in delivery of a handmade felt squid! Don't ask - it doesn't make a lot more sense even if I explain it, but it couldn't have chosen a better day to arrive.

A stuffed cephalopod may not be everyone's idea of the perfect companion to a funeral, but come along he did - in my pocket - as a reminder that someone was looking out for me today. Thank you Sue from the bottom of my heart.

The service was short but poignant. K D Lang's version of Hallelujah was heartbreaking.
I couldn't face the crematorium, so went straight to the wake with a couple of translator friends. Despite the people around her, Heather looked so alone. I recognised that look on her face - jaw clenched with absolute determination not to cry. Because you know full well that if you start, the tears won't ever stop. But she made it, and she can take the first few steps into her new life knowing that she did Kate proud.

My journey home took me very close to R's burial field, so I popped in to say hello and show him my new red boots that I wore today as an antidote to all that grey and black.
I think he would have liked them.


  1. i am sorry for your friend's loss. i am glad you had your squid friend with you. saying "i am sorry" and "i am glad" seems trite and overdone, but they are words that are well meant. it is just hard to know the perfect thing to say. but i wanted you to know i read. i am out here. i feel compassion for your friend and for you. {your red boots are lovely.} i wish peace for all of you.

  2. J I'm so glad you had those red boots and the squid.

  3. Anonymous09:26

    aww J
    This made me a shed a tear or 3, the timing was so perfect...thank goodness for silly friends eh?

    Who wrote the piece at the start of this post please?

    I googled and see it was John Donne, I'd never read it properly before.
    It is really beautiful.
    Another pal suffered depression for yrs and used to proclaim that she needed no-one, perhaps wishing she didn't, and so often we laughed as we burst that silly bubble for her!

    Hope today is far happier, put your new boots back on and dance to Paul Kelly with Moose,

  4. I was so sorry to read your news J and hope that it doesn't set you back for too long. It just drudges up all those dark memories ... too clearly, too much in the present, doesn't it?

    Well done for going too.

    Like the boots