Oh darling – where are you?

By Emma Pearson

June 22, 2024

Photo by me – A red rose – Julia’s favourite flower.

19 May 2024

Many years ago – perhaps 20 or even more years ago – my dad talked about how he “checked that his brain was still functioning properly, every morning, on waking”. His check-in practice was to run his mind through each of the five kids, stating each one’s name and where we lived. Depending on the year, it might have gone something like this:

“James – Hong Kong
William – Singapore
Emma – Geneva
Edward – Sydney
Laura – Brussels
Okay – all good”

Over time, the cities would shift – James moved to Singapore then Dubai then Abu Dhabi. William moved to Hong Kong then London. Emma has stayed put, pretty much, for twenty five years – and even if never actually “Geneva”, but rather “neighbouring France”, I think “Geneva” is a good enough answer. Edward came to live in the Geneva area too, then moved on to Saudi Arabia, then Dubai, then back to Geneva for his final months. And Laura moved from Brussels to near me here, “neighbouring Geneva but in France”, and has also stayed put. So dad’s practice of checking in on his kids’ whereabouts each morning has been variable enough to challenge the healthiest of brains, I think.

I don’t know if my dad still performs this morning ritual – I should ask him. And of course, I wonder what he wonders as he checks in with Edward. I wonder if he still includes Edward, and what the answer is. “Dead”, probably. Because that’s the truth of it, and my dad is a no-nonsense kind of man.

This morning, as I woke, I was dreaming of Julia. I know I lost much of the dream quickly after waking, but my sense of it was that I was sorting through post that had arrived in the letter box, and (as is my practice – with Ben and Megan being away from home), anything official-looking, I have permission to open and either sort out on their behalf, or scan and forward to them for them to sort out. Anything private-looking I pop in an envelope and send onwards through the post.

In my dream, there was a letter for Julia, and I found myself simply staring, uncomprehending, at it. Staring, staring, staring at the name and address on the label – holding the envelope in both hands, and feeling utterly flummoxed, because I simply didn’t know what to do with it.

In my dream, my mind was trying to determine what I should do. I had a sense that I hadn’t been in touch with Julia for a while, that I hadn’t received news, that I didn’t have an address, and that I didn’t know whether or not to open her letter (which, for the record, looked very boring and admin-y).

In my dream, I just closed my eyes, horrified that I didn’t know what to do with this letter for her… horrified that I had forgotten where she lived… horrified that I might have been unwittingly erasing her from my life because it seemed so long since I’d had news.

In my dream, I said out loud, “Oh Julia darling – where are you?”

And woke up.

A first dream of Julia in a long, long time (that I remember, at least). And a first dream since just a few months after her death in which my sense is that she was still alive. Not dead. Mostly, when I dream of Julia – which doesn’t happen much – she is dead. Her non-aliveness so present, so real, day to day and right into my dreams. So this moment of sensing her alive, if only in a dream, feels exquisitely precious.

On waking more fully then, my mind did what my dad’s does for my three children.

Ben – Lille
Megan – The Hague
Julia – Not here – somewhere – oh darling, where, where, where are you Julia?

About Emma Pearson

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