Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
‘Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.’
And now three years today. I miss you so much it still has the power to strike me dumb with the force of it. It’s not as raw and savage as it once was but a wound I wouldn’t ever want to lose because it would mean forgetting you.
I see signs of you everywhere. In a stupid track on the radio, in the clouds above and in Nib who you will never meet but who is due close to your birthday. I can’t imagine a better fairy godmother.
I miss you and I forever grateful that you were my friend.
You died a year ago today. It doesn’t feel like a year. Sometimes it feels like yesterday the grief as fresh and savage as a wild animal gnawing in my chest. Other times it feels like decades have passed since we lost you and the world got colder, darker and a lot less fun.
I talk to you everyday. You never answer but that’s OK I know that if you could, you would. In the year since you died the shock faded into numbness, rage, grief and bittersweet nostalgia before cycling back round again. I listen to the playlist I made and it makes me cry and laugh all at once.
Sometimes I dream of you and in those dreams I forgot your dead. When I wake up, for a moment you’re alive. Then I remember and salt meet wound! Seeing you in dreams is cold comfort when all I want is to spend an afternoon chatting shit with you. ‘All’, as if I would ever be satisfied with an afternoon: friendship has made me greedy. For a long time I tried to convince myself that you’re just abroad, somewhere where I am unable to contact you. But I could never quite believe the lie. Half glimmers of you and dreams could never be enough.
I try to remember you but I feel like I am losing bits and pieces on after one and that is like a thousand tiny deaths. I was never as good at remembering as you.
‘Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand. Somewhere
people are waiting.
They have drunk nothing for days.’
Stephen Dobyn, Grief
Do you remember the school trip to Germany and Prague when we were 15? Dorm rooms, being mistaken for prostitutes and streaking across the corridor to the showers = good clean fun! In Prague our guide told us that if we touched the cross on Charles Bridge and made a wish it would come true. So many girls made wishes about love. But we placed our hands on the gold cross together and vowed to be best friends forever. And we will be. Not even death can take that from me, when he has taken so much else. Last year before you died one of my worst fears was that I would do or say something that hurt or offended you. And you would die before I could make it right. Even though you were the most reasonable teflo- proof person I know. I finally I told you, quivering with fear. And you laughed and called me a silly cow, ‘as if we could ever stop being best friends.’
Next week, I’ll be 31 but you’ll always be 30. For the first time I will be older than you who always called me ‘a fetus’. It reminds me of the Ode of Remembrance:
‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.’
This isn’t a pain that can be lessened just something to be endured.
The day you died it was beautiful bright sunshine. One year on the weather is finally playing ball and it’s grim here in Brighton.
I read this quote and it reminded me so much of you. Salman Rushdie said of Angela Carter, one of my favourite novelists. ‘Death snarled at her and she gave it the finger. Death tore at her and she stuck out her tongue. And in the end she lost. But she also won, because in her furious laughter, in her blazing satirising of her own dying… she cut death down to size: no distinguished thing, but a grubby murderous clown. And after showing us how to write, after helping us see how to live, she showed us how to die.’
My friend after showing me for years how to live you showed me how to die.
What I want to say more than anything is that I miss you. I really, really do. But you already knew that 🙂
So… we interrupt our normal schedule of fluffy wedding recaps (coming soon, I promise) for a more serious post.
I haven’t talked about this in detail on the blog because it really isn’t my story to tell. But, as some of you may know, one of my best friend’s Lianne has been battling not one but two brain tumours. Since her diagnosis in 2007, she has been receiving fantastic respite care from the Phyllis Tuckwell charity hospice as well help and support for not only her but her mum who is her carer. Despite her illness Lianne has done a lot to raise money for the Tuckwell, including appearing on their recent adverts and in magazine articles.
Unfortunately Lianne’s is unable to continue campaigning for them. So my friend Debs and I have decided to take the baton, and continue the fund raising for this fantastic hospice who help not only Lianne, but thousands of other people in Surrey and Hampshire providing comfort and care in the final stages of their lives. You can find out more about Phyllis Tuckwell, and see Lianne’s picture here http://www.pth.org.uk/get-involved/fundraising. That’s her and her mum in the banner.
Here goes, we are doing a sky dive to raise money for Phyllis Tuckwell at the end of August. Eeek! A sky dive might not seem the most unusual fund raising event, however Debs is pants-fillingly frightened of heights, and I have horrific motion sickness. I puke in cars, tuk tuks, planes and boats. There is a high chance Debs and I will either faint or puke on the way down. But we figure if Lianne, and all the patients at Phyllis Tuckwell, can go through what they are going through, then we can suck it up and fling ourselves out of a plane.
And this is where you dearest reader come in. If I’ve ever made you laugh or distracted you from a crappy work day on this blog, I’d really appreciate if you could donate whatever you can afford to help support this fantastic charity. In return I guarantee terrified photos of ourselves flinging ourselves out a plane, possibly covered in vomit! (Sorry Debs.) You can donate online here via our just giving site skydive for Lianne. Or I’ve also got sponsorship forms if you’d prefer to sponsor me in person. Thanks so much for reading and please help scare the bejesus out of us for a good cause.
This week I’ve thinking a lot about time. Namely how to get more time without employing Hermione’s amazing Time Turner. (Does anybody have one of these? I will pay you! In buttons, but still payment.)
Last week I had a heavy week at work which combined with a lovely but busy weekend catching up with friends meant I ended up reading a measly six chapters of a counselling book. (To put this in context, one summer I read 88 books. I was ten. I am not a slow reader is what I am saying.) I ate junk food, the flat was a tip and all week I felt completely stressed and overwhelmed.
I knew that working and studying would be tough. But it wasn’t until I actually started doing it that I realised how tough. This is compounded by my essential laziness. If given a choice between doing anything or relaxing on the sofa with the latest Pratchett book, I’d choose Terry every time. I don’t know how working mum’s do it. But simply adding my university commitments into my life without expecting anything to give was a mistake. Like or not my life was going to have to change.
So I started looking at my life and prioritising the things that needed to be done and dropping those that didn’t. I divided my activities into Essential vs Lovely but not compulsory and started to work out a schedule, complete with colour coding of what do when.
So here is my plan for making the most with the time I do have.
Sleep – like with eating and exercise, the better I sleep the more prepared I feel for life in general. It’s lights off by 11.30pm from now on.
Work – despite my hints to HWSNBN he refuses to keep me in the manner to which I have become accustomed. (Where is my home Library HWSNBN?) So at work I’m abiding by the old To Do list. If it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get done. Plus I’m reintroducing the timer to encourage me to take regular screen breaks.
University – one day a week I’m a student again and I love it.
Reading for University – I have a choice, either I read at lunchtime or I read when I get home but I aim to read at least a chapter or article a day (except Thursdays when I’m at University). I’ll let you know how I get on!
Counselling – there’s something so indulgent about having a weekly 50 minute space to talk about whatever you want sans interruptions.
Placement – I’m meeting with my supervisor tomorrow and somehow I’m going to have to fit five hours of placement time in. Eek!
Osteopath appointment – the pain in my hip is preventing me from sleeping, which has effects my energy levels. So I need to put the time in sort my body out.
Lovely but not compulsory
Spending time with friends, family and HWSNBN – I love seeing people but I need to manage my commitments to still allow time for study. That means one day of the weekend is set aside for reading the other for fun. I will probably trying to do more group activities (hard for this introvert) so I get see a lot of people at once. Or combine exercise and friends or tv series and friends.
Tidying – our flat is small, but perfectly formed. However due to HWSNBN ebaying and my towering mountain of books last week it descended into chaos. So I’m be employing some happiness projects guidelines (everything has it’s place, the one minute rule) to keep on top of things and stop my stress levels rising.
Watching TV series about vampires and the girl that loves them – I spent the weekend deleting things I thought I should watch, saving a small but significant time for the shows I want to watch.
Reading for pleasure – ditto TV above. Also less TV will give me more time to read book series about vampires and the girl that loves them 🙂
Exercise – if I take care of myself I have energy to devote to others things. Simple, right? But the hip limiting the exercise I can to swimming and water aerobics plus counselling meaning I can’t go to water aerobics I’m at a bit of a impasse. Any ideas?
Cooking – I love cooking, I find it really relaxing and it helps keep me healthy. But there simply aren’t enough hours in the evening to cook, do my University reading, exercise and relax. So Uni wins this one. The plan is I’ll pre-cook and freeze some staple meals (veggie chilli, tarka dahl and soups) and mix these up during the week with easy to cook meals (stir frys, omelettes and that staple cheese on toast) and the dreaded ready meals.
Blogging, tweeting, and my personal journal – Yes I am fully aware of the irony of blogging about having no time. But I find blogging very therapeutic, I like having a record of how I felt when and I also feel like it helps me keep in touch with friends near and far. But, passing my degree much more important. Expect less frequent more concise posts in future.
Poodling about on the internet – the biggest time suck in my life. I’m not naive enough to believe I’ll be able to stop completely looking at weird and wonderful things on the internet. But I’m digging out the timer so I don’t disappear down the rabbit hole. Bu-bye internet.
Planning my wedding – at the moment we’re in wedding limbo but as we get closer I’m going to need to start making decisions. Maybe I’ll never be a DIY goddess but our wedding will still be awesome, and that’s what counts.
So here it is my life streamlined. Or the plan at least? Any time savings tips, let me know if the comments.
I finally got to see Bridesmaids last night with my lovely friends Katy and Greg. And, dude it was really, really good. I had high expectations (90% on rotten tomatoes) and they were thoroughly exceeded. The basic plot is this: Annie’s life is a total mess when she’s asked to be the maid of dishonour at her best friend Lillian’s wedding. In this film men are at the periphery, Annie’s friendship with Lillian and how she feels supplanted by the younger, thinner, richer Helen is the focus. It’s hilarious from the speech-off at the engagement party to the posh bridal shop where all the bridesmaids get food poisoning. And Wilson Philips even turned up at the end! In short it was one of the funniest films I’d seen in years.
But it did make me think about how politically fraught the issue of choosing your bridesmaids is.
When I was three years old, my elder sister Sarah was a bridesmaid at my aunt’s wedding. She got to wear the most beautiful polka dot net dress with a pink sash and a floral wreath on her head. We where sat in the church and as she passed sprinkling flowers, my little heart almost broke from the injustice. She got to wear the perfect dress and the floral crown while I had to sit in the uncomfortable wooden pew. Lame! (Or whatever the three-year old equivalent is.) I decided to get up and join her. When my dad restrained me I threw a temper tantrum of epic proportions and had to be escorted from the church in disgrace. Looking back I think my dad, a heavy smoker then, may have encouraged me as he got to have a sneaky fag instead of sit through the service!
For years afterwards I would try on Sarah’s dress, the epitome of early 80’s style, and dream. Who cared about getting married when you could wear a pretty party dress and got to sprinkle flowers behind the bride. I knew my life would not be complete until I was a bridesmaid. My uncle got married but neither me nor my younger sister were asked to be a bridesmaid. Which was a bit of a relief as there would be nothing worse than if my younger sister was a bridesmaid and I wasn’t! Another uncle got married and had no bridesmaids. I was older by then, entering the turbulent waters of adolescence, and over the whole bridesmaid thing. Friends got married and none of them asked me to be their bridesmaids… bitches. (Joke)
When I got engaged, remembering my three-year old self I knew I had to approach the bridesmaid’s issue with sensitivity. Young fragile hearts might get broken, if they didn’t get to carry my train 🙂 After we got engaged I asked my two sisters straight away if they would be my bridesmaids. Lauren my younger sister had shared my never- a-bridesmaid pain and was delighted. (I am slightly worried by her promise of dirty strippers at my high-class hen night. But she has been warned. She’s younger than me and whatever she metes out will be returned threefold when she is wed. (Our sisterly bond is held together by a potent mixture of bribery and blackmail. (I heart parentheses!))) When I asked Sarah she said, and I quote:
‘But, I’ve already been a bridesmaid, I suppose I could do it again for you.’
Salt meet wound. I almost rescinded the invitation there and then!
All kidding aside, I am so excited to have my sisters, my womb mates, my best girls by my side. Who else would be there with cake and sympathy when the going gets tough and have the balls to tell me when I need to STFU about the stupid wedding 🙂
I must admit watching the movie last did give me a little pang, as Lillian had loads of bridesmaids. Originally I wanted my sisters plus my best friends but I just couldn’t make it work. With my friends back home, we come as a package deal. Unfortunately my best friends is fighting a serious illness and I didn’t want to put any additional pressure on her. Another would have to be excluded on account of him having a penis (sorry Greggers). So I chose to just have my sisters.
What I’ve learnt that my three-year old self did not know is that whether you’re picked to be a bridesmaid (or not) is not an indication of how much you are loved. If I had everybody I loved as my bridesmaid there would be nobody to witness our wedding! On the day whether at my side, or in the crowd, whether drinking a toast or a two to our happiness or dancing their arses off to Hold On, my girls (and guys) have my back. Whether they are wearing fugly taffetta dresses in matching fuchsia or not.