Since you passed away, I keep finding myself talking to you out loud. The stray cat you used to feed comes running every time, and your neighbours must think I’m one can short of a six-pack as I chat with thin air. I’m writing to you on my blog, because you were a regular reader – you even wrote “MM” on the last envelope I received from you. Knowing you, you are already hooked up to St Peter’s internet router with a glass of punch in your hand, because that’s the kind of person you were.
I hope that you found your eulogy acceptable. I wrote my own eulogy for fun once, but I never thought I’d have to write a real one – why did it have to be for you? None of us wanted corny, tear-jerking crap, so I put a dose of MM humour in there, and we managed to raise a laugh at your funeral. I’m sure that the vicar will get over it. (That, and the assorted platters of cold meat we cheerfully offered him afterwards – the resident font frog nearly keeled over with shock, and we had to revive her with a glass of orange juice. In all the kerfuffle, we had forgotten that it was Good Friday. I can hear you laughing from here.)
Grief is a weird thing – we’re new at this game. I You’ve been gone for exactly thirteen days, and the feelings are still raw. Your favourite magazines are still in a neat pile, and your armchair has been literally shouting into the room for attention. Nobody has moved your favourite cup. Everything has changed, yet in appearance, nothing has changed. Life appears to be suspended in mid-air, waiting for you to walk back in and slam the door.
Yesterday, the wind whipped through the olive branches as I pegged the laundry out to dry, coaxing a silver ripple out of the leaves on its journey to freedom. I pulled the flannel from the tangled pile, and the tears welled up.
I angrily wiped them away and lectured myself. Who cries for a flannel?
I’ve become an emotional crumple zone. PF had been surprised to see me cry when I saw the pot of your favourite jam sitting on the breakfast table. Ordinary, everyday things now spark off a wave of feelings – inanimate objects have suddenly and inexplicably started yelling your name at me, whispering memories into my ear.
Like the flannel. I pegged it on the line and stared at it. The last time I had held it, I was joking with you in the hospital room. I had taken the flannel, a basin of hot water, some soap and the nail clippers, and took care of your feet. As I trimmed your toenails, you recounted the history of the scars on your toes. A nurse came in, and you asked her to take me on. I enquired if there was anyone she didn’t like on the ward today, and offered her the nail clippings to put into their coffee. She declined. You grinned.
Shortly afterwards, PF called and asked me to give you a hug and a kiss. So I carefully snuggled up on your shoulder and you put your arms around me. I kissed the warmth of your neck, and told you that it was from your son. Then I blew a gentle raspberry on your skin, and it tickled. You laughed out loud. I stood up, took my bag and promised that I would return with PF and your grandchildren, and you promised that you would wait for us. I turned in the doorway and told you to fight, flexing my biceps. You pulled a face, and did likewise. I blew you a kiss, and you said good-bye. I cried on the motorway – you had never called me “ma fille” – “my daughter” – before that day.
I kept my promise, and you kept yours. It will take us some time to adjust to life without you. For the moment, life is a bowl of toenail clippings – you would have enjoyed learning that expression. I’m proud to have known you, Papounet… and I know you’re still here with us.