The Shape of Her in HerBy Emma Pearson
December 6, 2023
Photos my own from this week by Lac Léman/Lake Geneva
27 February 2022
One of my favourite writing prompts in Megan Devine’s 30-day Writing Your Grief programme comes on Day 28. So close to the end, when much excavation of one’s ever-changing emotions, thoughts, feelings and sensations has already gone on. The prompt starts with a brief explanation of how astronomers, when searching for a large planet in a far-off galaxy, look for the invisible space around it. They know that there is another planet orbiting somewhere, not because they can see it, but because they can see the effect of its orbit on other known bodies. She adds, “The invisible causes changes in the visible. The visible gives evidence of the invisible. What is unseen influences what is here, and now: it changes its shape”.
The invitation after the context-setting is to write about how others, new people, meeting us from now on, after the death of our loved one(s), might see evidence of the life, the character, skills and interests, personality and temperament of the person/people who have died.
“How do we see the gesture, the mass, the gravity, of the one you love, now that we cannot look on them directly? How do we know the shape, the weight, the being, of the one you love, by what we see in you?”
It makes for breath-takingly painful – and heart-warming – reflection and writing.
It makes for painfully poignant – and heart-warming – reading.
Julia’s life was so short – but of course I, as her mumma, see “evidence” of her trajectory everywhere. But I am less confident about the trail of evidence of her life on others – people who knew her as a niece or great-niece, granddaughter or cousin, student or friend. And so it was heart-breakingly heart-warming to spend an afternoon and evening a few days ago with Julia’s friend MG, someone she knew only for a few years – and only in the timeframe in which Mike had already become very ill – and who talked openly about how she intentionally keeps Julia alive in her day-to-day life. That she wants to remember her and honour her. That she chooses to live her forward. That she wants to display the shape of Julia in her.
This can’t be easy at just 17 years of age.
It can’t be easy at any age.
And it can’t be easy when the friendship lasted barely 2 ½ years.
MG, on a trip out to one of the places where Julia, she and others liked to hang out in Geneva, talked of Julia’s immense interest and talent around make-up – serious make-up, artistic make-up – and how MG intentionally puts in time and effort with eye and nail make-up, just because that’s what Julia did. Because that’s what Julia loved. Because that’s what Julia taught her. Even if it makes little sense because of the time it takes when she needs to be speedy in the morning to get on the school bus.
This is how Julia lives on in her. I am touched to hear this story.
I need more stories like this – from family, my friends, her friends.
I need more evidence. Evidence that she lived. Evidence that she touched others’ lives.
Evidence of her ongoing trajectory through the universe and galaxies.
Please send me stories of how the shape of Julia lives on in you.