Can the memory of one good day keep you going, or maybe the thought of one more yet to come keep you alive?
Elaine and I were together for thirty years, that’s approximately 10,957 individual days; most of which will remain unremembered. Though each day is different those that we regard as unremarkable tend to fade into the background, whilst others for whatever reason, leap to the front of memory.
Of course the reason may not always be a good one, but let’s just stay with the good ones for now.
I think among the best of times are those shared with others. Our trip to Egypt with dear friend Terry; adventures in America with Elaine’s cousin Jeff and wife Mary (special memories there!); plus European and UK visits with Julie and John, so many good ‘gigs’.
Closer to home our visits to Goodwood, especially the Revival, are among the best; Elaine Mike and myself went several times together. Sometimes we met others there including Elaine’s brother Colin and wife Soraya. We always had fun and Elaine would often have deliveries to make to stallholders who had bought items from her online shops.
My wife revelled in the vintage costume etc and needed no excuse to dress-up. She once was in the final best dressed 10 women there one day; but helping a fellow contestant who had drunk too much and fallen over did not really aid her chances to win.
They were good days that are fun to look back on and remember. Sadly continued cancer treatment meant Elaine became tired easily and all the walking round was too much, so she stopped going some years ago.
Mike and I continued but always enjoyed coming home to tell her all about our day, her interest was genuine; that won’t be happening again now, perhaps that’s a reason to remember other good days.
Wednesday 20th January 2021. Mid- morning.
I’ve been sat staring into nothing for two hours or more now. Yesterday we buried my wife so: “Today is the first day of rest of your life”-well you know where you can bloody stick that. The funeral’s over, Mike’s gone home, I’m here alone-alone just me-this is it from now on, you realise that don’t you.
My heart’s turned into a brick, everything around me feels threatening and black.
The phone breaks the spell, the noise like a dagger in the ether; reluctantly I move to answer.
“Hello we are calling to inform you of suspicious activity on your Amazon account, you now need to..”
I hang-up cursing them, why don’t these bastards get cancer and die? Why do they flourish? Why did my wife have to go?
Quite how I spent the rest of this day is lost to me, a wasted day is a shame, but I can’t help that; I now seem to be spending freely.
I decide to visit the Vintage Barn at Cranborne. Elaine went into the Barn a few years ago as we were doing less and less fairs. Though the garden centre is open the Barn is still subject to lockdown, but I need to see how things are out there. On the way I visit Elaine.
It’s all a bit boggy, the earth is in place once more and a temporary marker carrying her name is in situ’. Bunnies or deer have eaten my roses leaving just the stems, but I don’t mind, that happens at home too.
I feel like an outsider visiting an attraction he hasn’t seen before and finding it a bit of an anti-climax, I don’t stay to long.
Neither do I stay long at the Barn. The staff are sympathetic and supportive but when I unlock the door and go in I am simply overwhelmed; Elaine is everywhere. She loved it here, the buying and arranging and selling of these mini ‘treasures’, which are still just as she left them, it was such a big part of her world. I lock-up after just a few seconds and sit in the truck lost, and fighting back the tears.
On my way home I stop off at Knowlton (see last blog).
It had a deep effect on me when Mike and I came here after the funeral; the yew trees with their offerings and memories particularly so. Today I’ve brought a memory of my own to leave.
In Elaine’s work room I hunted around for some simple marker that she would recognise and found it in a ball of vibrant pink wool. It’s a colour she loved and often used in her knitting and crochet.
A couple of dog walkers take no notice as I make my way around the ruined church to the yews. Unlike last time todays weather is dry and clear; windy yes, but the big sky seems higher somehow and the horizon a distant suggestion.
The breeze between the yews is uplifting and full of sound. The ribbons and other items hanging here appear to dance and sway to their own pulse, this may be a site from pre-history but there is life in this place.
Cutting a length of wool I carefully choose a small branch on my right to attach it to; I want it to billow out over the fence in the direction of the Barn, and it does just that. I can’t explain why but I feel close to Elaine right here, closer than I did by her grave. Why this is I don’t know, but maybe there’s more than just life here, maybe there is understanding as well.
I stay for a while breathing it in and talking to my wife, then I return home.
The next week passes quickly; despite the funeral being a sort of watershed there are still a lot of things to get through but I also spend time just sitting unable to cope with too much in a single day. The first blog ‘Carrying-On’ posted on Thursday 28th announcing Elaine’s death and giving our words from the funeral. It also states that I am going to finish the story as it were, so no pressure there!
I’ve also become aware of something else. My emotions and temperament are frayed and unpredictable. The grief is hitting me from all sides, wearing me down, gnawing constantly and I can’t shake myself clear of it.
This misery comes into its own on the night of the 30th of January, a Saturday (really early Sunday morning). I wrote on the calendar the next day- Black Night.
Those two words sum it up the best. For a long time now, particularly since her funeral I’ve felt darkness all around me, quietly positioning itself on the edge of my reason- waiting.
Tonight it makes its move.
It’s 12.15am and I’m going to bed. I turn out the kitchen light and reach for the familiar switch for the landing, but get instead the hall light above me; it has a yellow glow not altogether pleasant without other light, as I go to correct my mistake I stop dead.
I can’t move.
I am engulfed in a tidal wave of utter complete misery and hopeless wretched despair.
I’m shaking, sweat is forming on the backs of my hands, but I’m not hot. Then I start to cry.
No gentle blubber now, it is an agonised flood that physically rocks me forcing me to sit on the metal trunk by the side of the staircase.
That first blog was called ‘Carrying-On’ but I can see no point now in doing so; all I can see is years of desolation before me, and feeling like this.
“She’s dead Mark, dead, and she isn’t coming back to you not now not ever. You’ll never see her again, never hold her close, love her, support her, you’ll never hear her say ‘I love you’ once more, it’s all fucking gone forever, your life together is over- you might as well go too.”
“Yes Go, you’ve got the means, have you got the will?”
You mean death, kill myself.
“Why not? What’s the bastard point in hanging on here alone, because you are alone aren’t you? Oh people call or text but that’ll soon dry up and anyway they’re not the ones here alone at the end of the day are they? But you are and it’s empty here without her, there’s no point to anything now, GO.”
We discussed this once but decided it wasn’t right.
“You could be with her if there is some other life; if there isn’t then at least this agony will be finished; you won’t even hear the shot and it’s done or there’s the cancer med’s morphine the lot, still there in the larder, no one’s going to find you here in time.”
I’m sat shaking and rocking, tears and sweat soaking into the carpet before me. This can’t be happening am I going mad? A breakdown maybe, what did they use to call it ‘A Nervous Breakdown’ that was it, this must be it what else is there?
I am afraid, frightened of what now is seeming rational. All around me appears black.
“It would be so simple Mark then it’s all over, no more pain no more darkness. She can’t come to you- go to her; you’ve known others who’ve done it – John, Mark, Jimmy.”
But she has come to me, there’s been this strange synchronicity happening in what I’ve had to deal with, and in the silence, she was there and at Knowlton…
“Bollocks- you’re on your bloody own from now on, years of loss and grief it won’t lessen how can it, GO.”
But what if there is something else? What if for some cause I’d done this years ago, then found myself in a room with projector and screen? Then a film had started and I was shown my life that was meant to be.
Elaine, who was going to be my wife and we were to have three decades together; love, happiness, good days, each brushing away the cobwebs of doubt and despair from the other, support; life at its best- shared.
What would have happened to her if I wasn’t there?
“But she’s not here now is she? No more good days.”
Good days? Good day? What was it Mike said to me something about a day? Why can’t I remember?
I can’t stop the tears and the despair is absolute; this vile ‘conversation’ is like a tug-of-war and my reason and life are the rope; I am afraid to move scared of what I’ll do, if I do.
“It would be so easy.”
What was it Mike said, the day after the funeral, and before then, something about a day I must remember? This has to end, it’s got to end. Why is it so fucking dark in here?
“It will be so easy.”
It’s as if that word occurred for the first time. Easy? When did Elaine and I ever do Easy?
All those years of struggle. Yes there were good times, many of them, and there was shite too heaps of it to shovel, but we did it together the two of us, a team for each other.
Fuck-all was ‘Easy’ but we found those gems of life in all the muck and held on to them even when the darkness threatened, we never gave up right to the end. To hell with ‘Easy’.
“But it’s all over and you’re stuck here alone- NO MORE GOOD DAYS.”
Good days? Good day! One good day, that’s what he said, Mike, that’s what he told me.
We were talking about it-suicide-a young girl, local, she killed herself- I think his niece knew her, he said: “I can understand it if you just can’t see the possibility of one good day left in your life. If it’s so bad that there’s just no hope then maybe it’s right, but what if?”
“If you can just bring yourself to believe that there is a chance of another good day ahead then surely it’s worth hanging on for; a day when the memories are still there but not quite at the forefront anymore , where they don’t dominate the moment and you can enjoy the day again. It might be fleeting but if it’s there once it’ll be there again and again, that has to be worth something it must.”
I stand without thinking and hit the landing light switch. Instantly I’m bathed in light from six 50 watt bulbs.
Whether it’s the light or the recollection of Mike’s words or the combination, a massive flood of relief engulfs me; I’m still shaking but the tears have stopped, the atmosphere around me feels cleansed.
Was this Rock-Bottom? I had no clue or warning that grief possessed such power, such presence; this has been a terrifying but also an eye-opening experience.
I’ve tasted grief before, on more than one occasion, but never had a banquet like tonight’s placed before me; I’m feeling angry and a bit sick.
If I’d had the gun in my hand or the open morphine bottle, there is a damn good chance you would not be reading this now. I realise that this isn’t some evil crept in from outside unobserved, it is all entirely from within, of my own creation.
After this night I would never out of hand condemn those whose grief overwhelms their judgment and their reason, and I also understand why people die of broken hearts.
Elaine fought so long, so hard to hold on to life, and although I am basted in grief, that is not excuse enough to end my own.
She wasn’t afraid of death so I must not be afraid of life.
There has to be at least One Good Day out there somewhere, all I’ve got to do is find it!
To be continued…