This morning I read in the Times of the death of an old friend, or maybe just an acquaintance, and I was shaken to see his photo in the obituaries page. I stared at him for a long long time. Is this how I remembered him? Were those new glasses? Where was the scarf he always had dangling around his neck? Could I even still claim his as a friend? I was rocked by how it affected me. How long was it since we’d talked?
But the busy day took over, I was on the beach early so I could head off to a friend’s house to give access to a builder, then there was shopping, then there was a bed to strip and make up for a guest and at lunchtime I put my granddaughter on the train, heading home after nearly a week with me. She’ll be back in 5 days, with her two sisters and three suitcases, 3 back packs, many phones, chargers and bags of make-up so that they can all be off-loaded onto a bus to head into the wilds of North Wales for a camping week with the church. That’s a long old sentence. I just want you to understand that this wasn’t a sad parting. It was happy, smiling, full of hugs and see-you-soon.
But as I left her at our little country halt, half an hour’s drive from here, I was suddenly overtaken by the realisation that life is mostly partings. Partings and transience. Not just overtaken by the realisation but drowning in it, engulfed in a tsunami of grief. I had to pull over and calm for a moment. I was bewildered – where had this come from, this snotty broken wailing? Surely not the obituary, the memory of an old friend who, to be absolutely frank, I had never known that well? Then I remembered, what today is, and what I’d almost forgotten in the busyness of the day:
26 years ago today, August 2nd, my husband died, very very suddenly. In that instant my life, and our daughter’s, changed for ever. The horizon tilted, the world stopped still, the landscape distorted, the future shattered.
You know, the strange thing is, anniversaries have never touched me before. The only flowers he liked, and knew by name, were sweet peas, so for many years I would try to have a little posy in the house in his memory. But that was it. I’m not into sentimentality and marking days and all that, and I completely reject the Catholic idea of the dead watching over us. He’s gone and he’s gone and he’s gone. But today… today, I miss him.
George Marshall went to glory 26 years ago, but he is still so loved and so missed. I just want to say that.
And I will add that Shakespeare was crap. He had no idea at all.
Anyway, I’ve just eaten a whole Wispa so the world’s looking a tad less grim.
Thank you for listening, if you have been. xxx