Five Years, Five Minutes, Five DecadesBy Emma Pearson
December 6, 2023
8th April 2022
My Sweet Mystery (*)
Today is five years since you died.
In that time, there have been so many difficult, painful, traumatic events. Exacerbating your not-here-ness. The things I would have to catch you up on. Though I presume you know it all anyway, and are shaking your head in disbelief.
Wars – always ongoing, but particularly close to home right now. Do you know that our au pair room turned pet sitter room has recently turned into a refugees’ room?
Climate crises – always ongoing, but vomitingly horrific. Do you know that I am converting to renewable energy for this ancient French farmhouse? If you were alive, you’d have had it all sorted by now. I am sorry it’s taking me so long.
Political crises – always ongoing. Since you died, Trump. Boris. Fucking Putin. And I dread to think what might happen in the upcoming French Presidential elections, which we get to vote in for the first time this weekend. Do you know that I am scared to vote with my heart – for the Green Party – on Sunday’s first round because I am worried about Le Pen getting too many votes? You so nearly became French. Almost, but not quite. We did all the admin. You just didn’t last long enough for them to process the admin. The day I officially became French, a whole two years after you had already died, Notre Dame burned and burned. And burned another post-Mike memory deep into my mind, body, heart and soul.
A pandemic – still ongoing. How I have avoided getting COVID I don’t know, but I am determined not to. I don’t want to be ill for an hour, let alone two weeks. You remember how I swear by Oscillococcinum! I supply Ben and Megan with it too, but I can’t guarantee that they take it, despite my irritating Sunday Whatsapp messages to them saying, “It’s Oscillococcinum Sunday!”
Ben has gone from almost 18 to almost 23. I catch my breath when I see him. You were 24 when I met you. He’s more you than me in looks, even if I like to think he’s more me than you in educational choices. He is such a beautiful specimen of a human being in every possible way.
Megan has gone from almost 16 to almost 21 (next week – Easter Sunday!) I always think that physically, she was more of a mix of the two of us. But truly, her athletic ability was always you. Her suppleness, all yours. Her social skills – I like to think more mine. But her educational choices and professional aspirations and talents? You through and through. So wonderful.
Julia has gone from just 13 to….dead. Forever 15. Except we celebrated her 18th birthday last week. Of course you know all of that. She’d better bloody be with you. You’d better bloody both be swinging from trapezes in the biggest galactic circus ever. Her dancing, jumping, springing, leaping off horsebacks, taming lions and tigers and dragons, singing, doing all the make-up, and sending magic through space and time.
(I am experiencing a moment of absolute terror and horror – right here and now as I type – as I can no longer quite remember Julia’s unique expression about “truth” – the one that she made up and that became household vernacular. Was it, “true truth”; “real truth”; “whole truth”? I am just not sure. It seemed to be tautological. But that I am no longer sure exactly what she said is yet another loss. Arrrrrghhhh!)
And I have gone from just 50 to just 55. I have wonderful moments and days and devastating moments and hours. I once heard that Christopher Reeve (aka Superman) said, after his horse-riding accident in 1995 that left him paralysed with spinal cord injury, “I may have bad moments, and I may have bad hours, but I never have a bad day”. I do actually feel that way about life post-losses. There is so much I am grateful for, and I experience great joy. Even if the in and out of joy-grief-love-grief-grateful-grief- is perpetual.
Life is so bittersweet. The best bits of life are bittersweet. I’d name my auto-biography “Bittersweet”. It so happens that I have just bought a new book by that very title. And it’s not about me, so maybe I am not unique. At least I got in there first with a blogpost named “Bittersweet” back in April 2020.
So today I had kept things more or less flexible. But still my time filled up. Mostly with stuff I wanted to do.
My Ukrainian family was having a tough time with the ongoing devastating news from home, via news channels, family and friends. Through Google Translate we shared how “Today is just a really hard day”. Сьогодні просто дуже важкий день. And hugged. Big, long hugs. We don’t need Google Translate for hugs.
They had figured out the significance of the day for me because of seeing Mike’s photo and a lit candle on the hall table, as well as the arrival of two gorgeous bouquets of flowers.
I got myriad messages which were wonderful.
Megan, who is on a university field trip, wrote: I’m just by Zug, and heading to Zurich today. Quite fitting. (Mike lived and worked in Zug and Zurich for the last five years of his life).
CB, who is going through the Tara volunteer training at the moment, and was, I believe, the second person you did paid work for when we moved here, wrote: I often think of Mike in my house; the walls he painted, the kitchen he helped fix, the outdoor stairs he made. I have fond memories of the time I stayed with my kids in your place when my house was completely sanded down inside. You were not there at that time. You were travelling and may not remember this. I kept Ben and Megan during the day so Mike could work on my house. This was 20 years ago, before Julia was born. I then lost touch with you both. I heard from Laraba that he was at Tara, on his last days. Thank you for sharing your valuable experience with us as new volunteers; I appreciate your depth and intensity in this course. I’m looking forward to volunteering with you also one of these days.
TC wrote: I have been thinking about Mike and grief this morning. And feeling a lot of grief – for you, for him, and for my mother too (it’s nearly her deathday anniversary). Reading your reposting of Mike’s death and still feeling a bit traumatised by the messy nature of dying and death. (Wishing we’d had a Maison de Tara at hand.) I remember my last memory of Mike – him sitting in a wheelchair in the sun, with Ben wrapped around his neck. The sunshine, flowers and birds that are springtime at the Maison de Tara. I see Mike from a distance. Somehow I’d drifted away without saying a formal goodbye. I don’t know whether through lack of courage or not wanting to impose. That must have been a few weeks before he died I think. My memories of him are still so strong. Hasselback potatoes in the kitchen. A lot of my memories are of him catering for all of you and all of us as we descended yet again. And yet how glad I am that we had the chalet which afforded us those many visits to you. I guess I would never have got to know him so well otherwise. All those lovely meals around the table. That’s what I mostly remember. And then the shock of hugging him when he had his portadrug thingy in his chest – and he was so thin. And then the privilege of recording his memories in the Maison de Tara. Just some memories. I hope you have some sun on your skin today. Or some other form of nurture. Sending you lots of love. 🧡🤗
Medjool sent me flowers! And this is not a regular occurrence. He is not a fan of anything that is not good for the environment, and while he loves fresh flowers in a field or alpine meadow, he just doesn’t believe in cutting them and shipping them all over the planet. And I concur. So to receive some was so very special. He also wrote: Ma Belle, Je suis tout en pensée avec toi aujourd’hui. Étrange journée, où la grisaille du ciel côtoie le festival des couleurs du printemps. Je suis certain que Mike et toi auriez su en tirer le meilleur, pour chacun de vous, pour vous deux et pour votre famille. Je t’embrasse fort.
I believe him when he tells me that he wishes Mike were still alive. That he’d love to have known him.
Joan sent me flowers. Our nearby florist agrees that Joan is one of her best clients. Her card read: No words needed, Emma. Just a stillness to remember those who have shaped our souls. With all my love, to all of you, big hug, Joan.
Kay wrote: Remembering your beloved Mike. And Julia too. Holding you in my heart, today especially.
And your sister Helen wrote: I miss you Mike. I wish we could chat like we used to, rather than me just talking to you.
Yes – simply not as rich, not as challenging, comforting, soothing, anything, as when you were alive.
And how did I make choices about how to spend my Friday night? I made delish fish. I cracked open some local wine. I had the kitchen to myself (not a given these days). And I listened to a live discussion hosted by our friends Julie & Simon Freeman, as they launch their new Trail Running book. I can’t do trail running without you. I think we both egged the other on. But I do remember that amazing day in late July 2012 when we met them going to Interlaken to do the SwissAlpine. Those weekends away were so precious.
Yup. Another milestone.
More abnormal normality.
More normal abnormality.
This is life at the five year-five second-five decade mark.
(*) From when I was in my very early 20s, Mike called me “Missy”. And so in return I called him Mystery (for Mister-y – geddit?)