This summer was a hard one.
Someone greatly, greatly loved by me recently succumbed to that bloody awful disease, cancer.
But this blog is not about him; – that is, sure – he was the catalyst, but as always in these blogs on this site, it always ends up about being a writer.
So this is a story about the Memorial, or as we call them these days, The Celebration of A Life.
Yack. As if anyone in that room was there to celebrate anything. We were all gutted. He was too young, he was kind, mischievous, generous, funny, – and it’s furiously unfair. Well, it’s just unfair. I’m the one who was furious. Before I went through the fugue of denial and the tears of reluctant acceptance, of course. Those of you who have also lost a loved one know what I’m talking about.
The way writers do
But I’m also a writer. And as furious and gutted as I was, even with the greetings and hugs, sharing anecdotes and crying, and sometimes even smiling, (because you can still smile with a broken heart ) I couldn’t help but look around. You know, the way writers do.
I checked out the setting: recorded how things in the room were set up, which particular pictures had been displayed, what flowers were on show (Birds of Paradise). Vaguely aware what I was doing I went into some sort of default mode: noting who was present, – and the significant absence of one who was expected to attend. I filed in my mind who was crying, and who was standing quietly looking at all the photos that try to encapsulate an entire life and of course never come close.
I read the typed (ok, printed out) testimonials of one of his sons, as well as those of the mother of his children and the woman he was living with. Both, I was interested to observe, were tiny flamed- haired French women, holding court at opposite ends of the room, completely ignoring the other. Ah, Drama!
For some bizarre reason
Curious, (as every writer is) I walked over to “The Crazy Drunk Girlfriend”, as his family called her. Introductions made, she proceeded to show me pics from her cell phone of a trip they had taken in the spring; nice enough. Then for some bizarre reason of her own, she scrolled down and started showing me snaps she had taken of his wounds, the ulcerated cancer oozing out of him through his skin! Outraged, I backed away quickly, managing not to make a scene by yelling “What is wrong with you!?”, waving her off. She stood there watching me move away with a puzzled expression on her face….
I’m not making this stuff up
So it first occurred to me that no one would believe me if I spoke about it; it’s like some soap opera. C’mon, regular people really like this? Gotta be exaggerating, right? But no, I’m not making this stuff up.
And my next thought was, could I put that in a story…?