Two years on
It’s two years today since my beloved Sue died.
I was going to add “– and my life changed forever”, but in fact my life changed the moment I finally conceded that I would lose her. That moment came on August 22nd, when her consultant said to me “It’s time to prepare for the end”. Until that moment, although I had read the literature and knew the odds, I never really gave up. But then I felt as though I had been kicked in the stomach, and found myself unable to speak.
Sue was a great planner, and she and I had discussed what she wanted at the end. She had said she wanted to die in a hospice. I was unhappy with that, but one doesn’t argue with somone who is dying and I made the necessary arrangements. She was due to go into the hospice on the morning of the 25th. It was clear that we would need to take her in an ambulance, so before calling one I asked her at 6am if she really wanted to go. She indicated that she didn’t, so we cancelled everything and looked after her at home, which was what I had wanted all along. And it was a wonderful thing to be able to do. But it wouldn’t have been possible if my lovely sister Steph — who’s a nurse — hadn’t dropped her job and flown over to be with us. It was the kind of generosity one never forgets, and cannot ever repay.
So how are we now, two years on? The children seem to be fine — happy and getting on with their lives. They have good friends, use IM and iTunes a lot, play games, are good at school, love their lives. They talk about their Mum a lot, but their memories never seem to choke them the way mine choke me. I’ve begun to understand why children are so resilient — they live in the present and future, and dwell only intermittently in the past; whereas we adults spend a lot of time there.
And me? I’m struck by two things C.S. Lewis said in his lovely book on bereavement. The first is that you never stop being married to a spouse who has died. The second is that one ‘gets over’ a loss like this the way an amputee ‘gets over’ the loss of a leg. But, as Lewis observed, “he will never be a biped again”.
I’m also overwhelmed sometimes by small kindnesses: my older son deciding to come home last night to be with me; an email this morning from someone I know only through email saying that she was thinking of us today; and a friend who currently has an unbearable burden of her own turning up at Sue’s grave this morning to leave a small bunch of Fuschia — Sue’s favourite flowers.
In the end, only three things matter in life — love, children and friendship. I often think of EM Forster’s lovely observation that if he had to choose between betraying his country and betraying a friend he hoped he would have the courage to choose the former. Me too.