About an hour ago I heard through email, that my good friend and fellow recorder player had died. For a number of years now she has been part of a small group of players that have met on a Thursday morning. We played a variety of styles of music (recorders aren’t just renaissance instruments) but my friend was rather partial to the older stuff. Four of us met this morning in fact, and I was conscious of picking some pieces that I thought she would like. I was recording our efforts and I intended to send my friend a CD later but time was not on my side.

When I first read the email I understood the fact that my friend had died but I felt nothing. I can’t understand that. I don’t think it was shock. I knew she was in a hospice and that death was imminent. I didn’t know what to do with feeling nothing. Before I looked at my phone and saw the email, I was going to fold my t-shirts so I just got on and did that. I think most people use emotion to guide them into action but all I have to go on is what people have done in the past. As I folded my clothes I thought about telling my wife. Then I thought about telling the people in the orchestra I go to. I would post on the Facebook page, but what would I write? I ran through a few things in my head. I pondered on what “my friend” means. It’s another concept I don’t understand even though I know that attributes that make a friend, the emotional connection is rather a mystery. It was when I thought about the replies that people might send back that a wave of sadness swept over me. Somehow the potential distress of other people allowed me to access some of my own. What is going on there?

Physically typing words on my laptop and wrestling with sentences keeps that sadness going. It feels like I can only see my emotion if I imagine it on the faces of others. Is it a permission thing? Is it okay for others to feel their bereavement but not for me?

Outside the room, I can hear my children chatting to their friends. It’s a rather a busy household at the moment. All three children are resident for a few days. Number two child has three friends visiting too. We have a temporary lodger too and my wife is home. As I sit here trying to find a picture of my friend I am sure I have somewhere, my eldest is talking excitedly about using her German passport to go to Germany except she’s realised it’s Austria we’re going to, so the excitement has dissipated a bit.

I know I am feeling overwhelmed by my loss. I know I need to be alone but for how long can I take up the TV room by myself? Perhaps I should go for a walk?

Number two child pops their head round the door to say dinner is ready. I tell them that I don’t want to eat at the moment. I correct myself. It isn’t the food that is the problem, it’s being in the room with other people. I explain that I have just heard that my friend has died and that I need to be alone. They ask if I am okay. Despite the snot in my moustache and the tears on my cheeks, I tell them that I am fine. I will be alright.

“Should we save some food?”
“Yes please”. They leave.

My wife appears next. “What is the matter?”

She knows my friend a bit so I name the person that has died. She sits down beside me and says, “That was quick.” Her presence puts an additional demand on me. I notice that my left hand is rubbing my right hand between the thumb and the index finger. The flow of writing has been interrupted. She asks me how I found out and I tell her. We sit in silence together for a while. I know that I would like her to leave but I also know that she is trying to comfort me by sitting still beside me. Eventually she asks if I would like her to leave and I say, “yes please”.

My emotional spill is easier to be with when other people are not around.

The house seems much quieter now. Perhaps it is because the two doors between here and the kitchen are closed. I do hope my news has not put a dampener on the kids’ enthusiasm.

I look out the window. There is plenty of blue sky out there. Some grey and white cloud but not much wind. Perhaps it would be best if the dog and I went out for a wander after all. Actually I think I will leave the dog behind. I don’t need his demands at the moment. I see the fluffiness of the hedge and am reminded that I thought about trimming that today. It is possible that I still might.