Some Softer DatesBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
5 April 2021
Main photo by Sarah Treanor on streanor.com
All other photos my own
It’s been a good week. Surprisingly good, for the time of year. A slew of special events and treats. Lots of variety – much more than in recent COVID-times – including a flight and a visit to another country! What’s not to love? And all with the underlay of loss and the sadness that that brings.
I still feel that I am living two lives at times. Like two pieces of train track. I am bemused sometimes at my capacity for such glee, enjoyment, gratitude and fun one moment, despite it being, for example, the day that Julia would have turned 17.
Last Tuesday, 30th March, Julia should have turned 17. Of course there were awful, shocking moments, realisations, memories during the day (indeed every day), but there were tender and wonderful moments too.
I had been invited to work with a team I love to work with for part of that day. When I was asked, I hesitated for a while, knowing it was Julia’s birthday, but fairly quickly decided, well, yes, why not? I love this client, I love this team. I can still honour Julia’s birthday despite working in the morning. So I did the work, which was nourishing and went well.
And during the afternoon, after writing a birthday card for Julia, went with Ben to where she had taken her life, and scattered rose petals, read her her card, and placed it there.
Such a beautiful place. Such a terrible place.
I don’t go by there as often as I used to – it’s so very close to home – but did so recently, and noticed that some of her friends had come and placed some new permanent flowers.
It’s touching. And truly horrible.
And somehow it was okay. Special. And awful. Both. Side by side. Like train tracks.
Ben and I (and Black) continued on and went home. I was glad for his company and presence. I need to remind myself that Ben and Megan have lost their uncle, their dad, and their little sister – just within the space of 3 years. It’s massive, and I feel I need to monitor them for decades. I have read enough about “loss in the teenage years” to know that not a lot gets processed for 10, perhaps 20 years. Their psyches just cannot deal with it until they are in their mid 20s or older.
So there’s this backdrop of loss and vigilance, and then daily living, ongoing practical stuff over the top.
After two Negative COVID tests over two separate days, I was off to The Hague to visit Megan. I hadn’t seen her since 3rd Jan, and if I didn’t go to visit, I wouldn’t see her till well into June. Too long. The enabling pretext was she had the best part of the week off due to mid-terms work being finished, and the Easter Weekend. The crucial subtext for me, though, was to have an eye on her at this tricky time of year – Julia’s birthday, Mike’s death day, his funeral, our wedding anniversary, and her own birthday – all within two weeks. It’s the first time since Mike or Julia died that I won’t be with her on Julia’s birthday, Mike’s death day, or her birthday. I am probably more anxious for her than I need to be. I hear Joan’s wise words, “Emma – be with your own grief process; don’t be with your kids’. They will do what they do, in the way that they do it”. She’s right, for sure, AND I want to be vigilant. I NEED to be vigilant.
Once I got to see Megan, I was touched to learn that her favourite lecturer had given her a special gift on Julia’s birthday, for her little sister. Megan is so private, but it is so important for me that a few people around her knows her story. I need people to have caring eyes on her. Not so that she can get away with things (she abhors the idea that people might make excuses for her and wants to stand on her own merit), but just in case she suddenly spirals. I know how little tolerance society has for the duration of grief, and we all need people around us who are aware of our context for many years to come.
But back to the treats – just queueing in the airport was fun, boarding a flight, eating KLM’s never-tasted-so-good plastic sandwich, just missing a train and waiting for another one to get to The Hague … all of it was fun! I felt like I’d been let out of jail for a long weekend visit.
We spent a few days wandering about, eating take-away food, walking along freezing, windy Scheveningen beach, having a glorious massage, playing pool (a first for me – and she beat me), and ping pong (she beat me at that too), doing piano & flute duets in the student/hotel open area (at least three piano keys weren’t working), reading, writing, doing bits of work, seeing the lovely Kaya, a former and much loved au pair who talks easily about Mike and Julia – so important to me; and a friend of Medjool’s who is rapidly becoming a friend of mine & Megan’s too. Oh – and I had a third COVID test, in order to be able to fly home.
Lots of entertainment and activity, myriad treats, a bit of welcome escapism – it’s done me the world of good.
A good reminder that taking in pleasure, breathing in life and love and fun, is vital sustenance. Any time of the year. And especially this time of the year.
May the gentleness continue for the next few weeks of tough dates. May the dates continue to be softer and gentler than these past few years.