Sunday, 26 July 2009
Suddenly a conversation came to an end.
That's what death is like. The friendship and the love are still there but we can't talk any more. Or rather, I can talk, but there are no replies.
For O-level, I studied Shakespeare's King John - not a play many people know. I found the character of Constance irritating. After the death of her son, Prince Arther (twee on the page but he tends to work well on stage), she is absorbed in mourning in a way few 15-year-olds could understand. When King Philip reproved her with the words, "You are as fond of grief as of your child," I found myself in sympathy. But bereavements have taught me to appreciate Constance's response:
"Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then have I reason to be fond of grief."
When grieving, that sense of absence is the nearest thing to consolation. At least grief at absence allows the rehearsal of memories and values the person lost. But there's numbness too, if that's the right word - it feels being encased in plastic, like a toy kept pristine in a neat display of identical, undamaged toys. I walk, speak, smile, laugh, say all the almost right things, but I need that plastic casing - it keeps me at a distance. What would happen if it split?
In my head, I talk to you constantly - you who will never read this. I continue the conversation that ended, tell you what's happening, ask you questions and wait for your replies. In a shop, buying black for your funeral, I said, "You're not dead. You can't be. You're here." And then I asked, "Am I imagining you?"
I know you smiled. There was such a gentle laugh in your voice when you replied, "Of course."