On Monday evening I received the news that a good friend had died. It was not altogether unexpected as he had been in and out of hospital quite a lot in recent months and always came out cheerful and looking ready to continue with his place in the world. But not this time.
And yesterday I spent time with the widow. How that brought back those early hours and days when my husband died. And even though I have been there, in that self same situation,there was no way I could really understand just what she was going through. We have to come to terms with the death of somebody so loved, and so close , each in our own way.
I phoned early in the morning and got the answerphone and it brought this poem by Michael Laskey to mind.
“After he died he went on speaking
On the ansaphone: he’d apologize
For being out and ask us to leave
Our names and messages after the tone.
At first we couldn’t, we just hung up, ….”
From Life After Death by Michael Laskey
English poet. 1944 –
How often in the months following my husband’s death did I find something that was so full of him that it brought a fresh wave of grief and tears? A slip of paper on which he had written himself a note, a card I had given him on a celebration day that he had used as a bookmark, his notebook with his writing, his Cross pen that always went everywhere with him.
It is always the little things that undo us. We think we are strong and coping and then something small happens and we are right back into that trough of despair that we thought we were climbing out of.
So what could I do to help? I cooked a fillet of beef so that it could be there for when people call in to express their condolences. I remember my daughter-in-law saying how much she appreciated those gifts of ready prepared food in the days and weeks following my husband’s death.
It was too soon to exchange remembrances of her husband and so I could only sit with her and hold her when the tears came.
I found that those friends who just came and sat with me, speaking only if I wanted them to, were those that helped most at that time.
So I shall go back today to see what I can do, if anything, to help. And sit with her while she processes what has happened in her mind and somehow gets herself ready to face the months and years ahead. There will be time for memories to surface and for laughter to accompany most of them in the months ahead. But for now I shall just be with her.