There has been far too much written about death, of course there has. Death is everywhere, what with it being a universal feature of life. “….Life ends with death and that is all; you haven’t both gone shopping” – This is a memorable (mis) quote which comes to mind when I think about the finality of life and that really, death truly only affects those left behind. Once you’re dead, your opinion matters less. The world is a slightly different shape afterwards and therefore, I am a different shape since someone has been permanently removed from my landscape. I’m feeling differently shaped today. My stepdad has just died, mere hours ago and the utter ambivalence towards this news is confusing. Perhaps it is a coping mechanism or perhaps this is just How I Am.
Every death brings a revisit of other incidents (if you’re unlucky enough to have experienced a near-by death before). A comparison forms, relative to yourself Then and Now. A few weeks back I learned of the passing of a University buddy – someone who I had reconnected with in the last year through social media and unfortunately it was via FaceBook that I learned of his death. This feels horribly shallow, plastic, insincere and generally Not Right. Death should always be communicated in person. Death is the hand-delivered telegram of every newsfeed. It seemed disrespectful to see a “RIP” message where memes and funnies used to be. I felt robbed (because now that he’s gone, it’s all about me, right?). However, it does explain his lack of reply to a recent e-mail……..
The commonality of both my friend and stepfathers death is that now, they are presumably not suffering. The Cancer has stopped it’s harrowing decimation of my friends body. The gradual organ failure and recent uncontrollable spasms my relative was experiencing has halted; they will both grow no older.
And yet here are we, the grieving survivors, aging in spite of this and ‘forced’ to go on managing the gaps which open up more and more as we edge closer ourselves. Death shows up more and more frequently, to reduce our Christmas card lists and social media followers.
So whilst I wallow, reminisce and start to contemplate what dealing with this death will mean for ME in the short term, I also turn my gaze to those who will feel the gape-gust the most. My Mum. My siblings who lived with my step-father as an active parent for longer than I did. The Grand-children.
We all touch one and others lives. Death is the final wave. I cannot fear the inevitable but there really never is a good time, is there? I know that if I wasn’t alone in this hotel room, I would hold my husband tighter, I’d stroke the cats for longer.
My step-father would have been 77 in three days time. I initially felt a bit angry that he couldn’t wait (like, he had a choice of course!? No, I know that.) until I travelled back in a weeks time, so I could be there and not Here, thousands of miles away in another time-zone. May as well be the Twilight zone.
And life goes cruelly on without batting an eye. No one stops the clocks anymore. My next task is to appeal to the University for a late submission based on todays news. The request is pure truancy, as part of my ambivalence is steeped in knowing that I will appreciate what I have, who and how long for, even more now. This assignment will undoubtedly be my best yet. I won’t feel guilty about that, instead I will Thank my step-dad for helping me to appreciate life.
I check his Facebook profile, yep it’s still there, he still has virtual life but above all this, I know he is gone. I will miss him.
“In my new black leather phonebook there’s your name and dis-connected number I still call” [Long distance Analysis II – Tony Harrison]