Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Who wants to live forever?

Vicky's first anniversary was last weekend. The date she died is hard to forget anyway, but it's especially noticeable because it happened to be the same day as the London Bridge attack.

I was on a train back from Oxford, where I'd visited my friends and their two adorable young daughters. They had built a greenhouse from plastic bottles that they'd collected over time and I was amazed to see that it had withstood storms and snow and was being used to house vegetable plants. I noticed a missed call and a voicemail when my friends' eldest asked me to get my phone and take a photo of the afternoon tea that she had helped to make. I knew the voicemail was bad news and I didn't want to listen and suddenly be weird, tearful or panicked in front of the girls. I told my friend I needed to leave soon, so we all had tea and twenty minutes later I was in his car on the way to the train station. I listened to the message and phoned Vicky's sister and told her I would be there as soon as I could. But as I was on the train back to Paddington I got a call to say Vicky had just died.

I felt a bit lost. I walked to the sphinx by Cleopatra's Needle and sat between the paws of my favourite one. I phoned a bereavement counsellor friend from St Christopher's Hospice, and even though he was at a stag do, he took five minutes to sober up a bit and phoned me back. At one point he told me I was in shock. I find it very powerful to hear someone tell me when I'm in shock because, I suppose, I don't realise myself. I could see that as rubbish as things were, I was very fortunate to have a support group of friends who were conversant in the awful language of grief. I still am - and many of those friends have supported me again this year during Helen's illness and after her death.

I walked east along the river, wandered around the City and saw the roses outside St Paul's. I kept walking until I got tired, then got a train home. I didn't watch the news and I didn't look at social media, so I had no idea what had happened in Southwark.

A few days after Vicky's funeral, I walked around Southwark and suddenly came across the sea of wilting flowers and the wall of supportive messages written on candy-coloured Post-it notes.
This year, I cut some of the scented flowers and herbs that Vicky had liked - roses, mock orange, and sage. I made a posy in a Tiptree jam jar in memory of Vicky. It was Victoria Plum jam, the perfect jar for her. And for the last few days I've been listening to the Queen song that played out Vicky's funeral and reduced many people to an emotional wreck: Who Wants to Live Forever. 

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