Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Another of the good men has gone.
I heard the news last night, as twilight fell. I said: ‘Oh, no,’ out loud into my silent room.
He died the day before yesterday, much too young. He was 51.
He was not an intimate friend; not a call up for a chat on the telephone friend. He was someone I knew from gilded times: parties, dinners, late nights, a trip up the Nile. We were connected by a twining web of mutual friends. He was one of those ones who always seemed to be smiling. I think of him smiling now, handsome, slightly boyish, a little ironical, enthusiastic. He was always pleased to see you. He laughed and teased and gently mocked himself. He was dry and wry and clever and funny.
Bugger, bugger, bugger, I thought. What is this bloody grand plan and why does it not work better?
One death carries all the deaths. When I went to those three funerals in May, an old friend said to me: ‘So is this it for us now? We meet at funerals?’ So there is a faint sense of rupture. I was bashing back to normal so hard; I was boring myself with sadness. I always had a theory that the thing that gets you over heartbreak in the end, is boredom. Come on, you say to yourself: I’ve done this now. Time for the next thing.
Earlier yesterday, I decided to drive back from the oculist along the scenic route. All routes round here are scenic, but this one is even more beautiful than the others. It is the south Deeside road, and you snake through the grand glacial plain, with the line of falling blue mountains shining to the south, and the lush fields of the flatland gleaming to the north.
The sun was blazing down, the most Indian of summers, and it was so lovely it made me catch my breath. I thought of my dad and my dog and I missed them. I suddenly realised that I had rather missed too the high swell of emotion that has lived in me for the last five months, but which has lately subsided. It sounds a really odd thing to say; why would you miss grief?
I have been in the mind over matter phase; the pull your socks up time. In the manic finishing of the book there is no time for the contemplation of sorrows. But perhaps you can put too hard a lid on that box. Perhaps it is not quite right to push away the memories and the yearning; they should live in you, as a mark that the person who has gone existed. (The person, and the dog too.)
The death of the good man ripped the cover away like someone had pulled off a Band-Aid. I went out into the evening air and thought of life and death, and the people who are not here any more, who should be. The regret for them all gathered itself in me, under the dove-coloured sky. I listened to Natalie Merchant on my iPod. I watched the Pigeon gallop down the grass to stare at the sheep.
Yes, I thought. This is how it is with me now. It is all mortality. It brings me back to cliché. It makes me think: live your life.
Then, this morning, I was all business again. There was a four hour editing conference. I did not mention the good man who has gone. I made jokes. I talked seriously of work. I killed darlings. I laughed.
After I put the telephone down, I went to the village to run some errands. I ran in to see my mother. I threw the ball for the Pigeon. The rain came down and I watched all the plants in the garden raise their heads in gratitude.
I went back to my work. Then, someone sent me a slightly terse email. It was not cross or rude. It was just terse. Yet, it whacked into me like an arrow to the heart.
Here is what I am learning about loss. The weeks go by and time does its thing. You come back to pleasure and balance and sense. The ordinary rhythms of life reassert themselves. But the thing that lingers is a hidden frailty. You, or really I mean I, have no defences. That is what gets quite stripped away. The actual grief shrinks from torrent to brook, but I think it is the lost layer of skin that takes a long time to grow back.
And finally, I think, rather wildly: surround yourself with beauty, surround yourself with love, surround yourself with kindness. Surround yourself, as much as you can, with the people who understand.
Now for the pictures. I would love to show you what the first day of October looks like, but it is raining too hard. So here are some photographs of the week:
The Pigeon, in all her lovely incarnations: