Yesterday I received a text message in the evening, it started “Lolo has left us ..”; my friend had died. It wasn’t unexpected and yet it still seemed rather quick from when I last saw her on Friday. I sat down on the chair my feet usually perch on and pulled my knees up and rested my feet on the sofa I usually sit on. I shed a few tears but I wasn’t as upset as I expected; sadness flowed. I wonder if I will be overwhelmed at the funeral. My daughter comes into the room and sees me sitting there, sipping the coffee I had made just before the text arrived. “Why are you sitting like that?”, she asks; how do I answer? I go for the truth, “because I have just heard that L has died”. She immediately turns round with a swish of her long hair, leaves the room and closes the door. I listen out for signs of upset but hear none, it would appear she has just blocked out the information.
I text my wife who has just informed me what time she is aiming to be home, “L is dead”; I can’t think of a more creative way of putting it. She replies saying she got the text too. I reply to that saying I am going to contact the other two children and let them know. My wife then rings. I spelt L’s name wrong; I look and now I know why I hesitated to accept the auto-suggested word. I wrote “is dead” rather than “has died”; I puzzle over the grammatical difference. She wants to speak to the kids; I agree it is better. We compare how we are feeling and it seems we’re doing okay.
I text L’s husband back saying basically thank you, take care and see you soon; it took me a while to settle on what to write. Life goes on.
Over the rest of the evening there are flashes of thoughts. When will the funeral be? If it coincides with my upcoming operation, what will I do? How will L’s parent feel? Should I tell our lodger? Did my wife contact the children?
I decide to play video games as a distraction. Friends come and go but the current friend I am with has been asked to help out in a raid challenge mode by people I don’t know and he asks me along. Today is the first time time this challenge mode is available and makes something already complicated and requiring fine team coordination even more difficult. It takes a while to complete but we get there so the group disbands to catch up on other demands.
By this time most of my usual raid friends are on, and one in particular is not happy that I have done the challenge mode without him. He is salty as the Americans say; as least he pretends to be, and he acts out by being completely over the top about being left out. This is the sort of exaggerated behaviour I expect from my friends and is all part of the ritual of the group and normally provides the group of people listening in with lots of laughter. I play along but it is an effort. I message the guy to ask him to ease off because a close friend died today and I don’t really want to talk about it to the larger group we are part of at the moment. He messages back his condolences and throttles back the aggrieved banter. We both make an effort to keep that chat at the normal level of mickey taking and life goes on.
To my surprise I get to sleep fairly easily but I awake a bit early. I lie there throwing around a few thoughts in my head and make a mental note to explore the effective of the death on my depression. I manage to remember to ask my wife if she contacted the kids, only one responded. L’s husband has posted on Facebook and we are concerned that the eldest child will find out this way. I get up and get dressed deliberately putting on colourful clothes possibly in an effort to counteract any blues I might be feeling.
I call the eldest child and don’t leave the expected answerphone message because she actually picks up. We talk about why she didn’t get back to us (busy and phone ran out of battery) and then I tell her the sad news. It takes five minutes or so to sink in in which I have confirmed that she has friends to be with, in fact her flatmate has taken the day off because it is her birthday. I listen and respond to her thoughts, but as the upset takes over and my tears start rolling down my cheeks I suggest she goes to find her flatmate for comfort and to call back if she needs to. I update my wife.
As I sit with knowing I can’t comfort my child very well, I think back over my own experience of death as a youth. I can remember my uncle dying but not knowing him very well, and not going to his funeral it meant little to me. I remember my great uncle dying and being upset because I wasn’t allowed to go to his funeral. The shock of death didn’t hit me until I was in my second year at university when the first year in the room next to me died of meningitis; it seemed impossible to comprehend at the time.
I still find death difficult to comprehend, how can someone so complex and loved suddenly not be there anymore? Faith is not the answer for me.
Yesterday was the day of the dead so I don’t think I will have problems remembering L’s anniversary. Bon voyage mon amie.