Another year: the third. My lucky number is three. You told me once that it was a stupid number to have as a lucky number because it’s so prevalent. Or maybe that was Will? It was years ago, so who can be sure? You may not even have known that 3 was my lucky number. And just like that, we see how cruel memory can be. How in just a few short years my memories of you are becoming blurry and faded around the edges, like a fallen leaf that’s spent a couple nights knocking around the pavements. The kind that are littering the streets at the moment. They’ve all seen better days: they were all on the tree once.
As we get further and further away from the time you were with us, it becomes harder to be precise. Who said what, and when? Were you there, that time we went to that gig, or were you somewhere else? Was it when you were here? I have to remind myself that it is perfectly normal to forget these details, and that we are at a time of life when things move fairly quickly. Nobody remembers every day of being 15. And that’s ok, normally. It’s just more obvious and painful when it concerns you, because I have no new memories to replace you. I have no idea what stupid thing Dan made me laugh with when we were 21, but I can tell you what he made me laugh with today. And I can’t do that with you.
It’s astonishing to see how quickly it’s happened. Just last year it was brave to say that you’d died. This year it is a fact. I hate to say that on the blog, I really do. But this year I can be asked about the topic and just leave it at that. You died. I’ve reached the point of acceptance: when people find out the fact it seems now that they are the one who feels worse. They go through a beat of shock and horror; a widening of the eyes; a gasp. “Oh my God, Laila, I’m so sorry, that’s awful”. And obviously it was, and is, and always will be, but I’m more used to it now. I wait for them to recover. For quite a while back there it was the other way around. You died. “These things happen.” “It’s easier now.” “Life goes on.” I’ve said those things for a while, initially to absolve other people of their inability to help. But now I say them because it’s also true. What a cost to learn.
I am used to missing you now. In those first few awful weeks I had no idea to go on. Now it is instinct. Whole days pass where you do not cross my mind. I can look at the colour orange and not be moved to tears. Of course, there are still reminders. You were the first memorial tattoo on a side of my body that is now completely given over to tributes. Or the cactus in the bronze pot, still on the shelf. I hate cacti, but it’s there anyway. The labels you wrote for me, still tucked in the drawer where you put them. I live in the same place I did both when you died and when you lived, but next year I will move. How? These are the kinds of questions Grief asks of me now.
Every now and then somebody goes “Pete? Oh yeah, I read your blog, I know all about him”. And I’m like “oh yeah” until they go, and then I think no, you didn’t know him. Not really. At best, you know me, and even then, just the bit of me that got left: the grief and the pain. And I am just one person out of the many, many, many people who were affected by your death. It is weird to level how awful it was to lose you, with the sheer number of people we must have lost now. It seems like everyone is constantly dying in 2017; either due to huge horrifying acts of nature or through the actions of each other. America especially is just in a state of constant grief, it seems. It’s so completely astonishing to think how different life was 3 years ago when you last knew us. Whenever I read the news, I think of how I felt when you first died, and how many people are going through that now. Each new statistic is an immeasurable amount of bereavement.
When you first died, I thought because I’d known you so well and lost you so young, I somehow knew everything of death. That future grief could be survived and that I could help people around me when Death came again. But people have continued to die since, and I have been wholly unuseful. I know now I will be Death’s lowly student as long as I live. Certain kinds of deaths bring other feelings; shock, anger, disgust, injustice, contemplation. My Great-Aunt died recently; she was the last of her line. My Dad’s is the eldest generation now. I guess my parents will play the pensioners, the generation of grandparents: and we will be the adults. We will be the parents. At least, those are the roles we will inherit if we are lucky.
It’s so strange how quickly we have reached a new chapter. When you died, I wrote something about fearing the time when we would “grow again”. Three years on and that time is here. Who would have thought some of us would have moved away, settled down? Split up with our long-term partners, found new career paths? Who could have known we’d change? We probably could have called that last one, but still. I didn’t clock that we were all changing, but now sat here, thinking about the five of us at your funeral and the five of us now, it’s obvious. And somehow both weirdly affirming AND completely horrific. You will never meet Ryan! What?! I hate that, there are so few people in my life I would seek opinions from and you were one. That you won’t meet him is both strange and somehow perverse. There’s no reality in which he and I are not together and also no reality in which you did not die, so clearly, you could never have met, but it feels like this crushing tragedy regardless. I’m not sure what you would have thought of him, but Ryan has commanded this kind of closed respect from the rest of my inner circle, and I know you would have given him that too. That will have to be enough, because what more will I get?
This is what I most feared when you died. Everyone advancing to the next bit of life. Because I knew it would make the gap between us bigger. That seems such a stupid thing to say, because what can possibly be bigger than the gap between life and death? There is no middle I know of; you’re just one side of a coin. What difference does time make? But somehow it does feel bigger; I’m not sure how I predicted that but I was right. There are not many parts of our lives that overlap with what you had of yours anymore. You knew a time of me that no longer exists. It’s progress, and also just life. I’m not scared by it. There will always be reminders. I found the green 3D printed drum, the sister of the orange one we attached to your funeral wreath. I didn’t know where to put it – it used to be on display and I took it down. It was too much to be greeted with every morning and night. Now it sits on the highest shelf, next to the rarely-watered cactus in a bronze pot. I noticed recently that the cactus has started to grow.