Today it’s two years ago that Sandra died. Not a day has gone by that she hasn’t been in my thoughts. So much of who I am has been shaped by living with her, so much of my daily routine has its origins in hers. A part of her will always be with me.
The picture above was taking at my brother’s birthday in 2008. He has a gorgeous, large garden and Sandra was always a gardening enthusiast, so no wonder she took it on herself to water the plants. That year was the last year she was in anything resembling good health; she would get ill at the end of the year and start dialysis the next. This is how I like to remember her.
Big fuckoff spider hanging in front of our front window, bold as you please. There are plenty of spiders in the garden too, spinning webs between the washing lines and the small table or chair outside. I don’t mind them there, but they can’t come in. Sandra of course was a dedicated arachnophobeand hated seeing any spider in the house, though not so much outside.
(Dreamed of her incidently, one of those dreams where you know she’s dead, but there’s a perfectly logical explenation for why she’s now alive again. Maudlin, more than upsetting.)
I was given the gift of life, and now I have to give it back. This is hard. But I was a lucky woman, who led a lucky existence, and for this I am grateful. I first got sick in January 2010. When the cancer recurred last year and was terminal, I decided to be joyful about having had a full life, rather than sad about having to die. Amazingly, this outlook worked for me
Which is one thing I wish we could’ve done when Sandra was dying. We did do something similar to what Jay Lake did recently, when he held his own wake, by doing a proper Sunday roast with the entire family before Sandra stopped her treatment, as a way to say goodbye to everyone so Sandra could withdraw from life and prepare for death.
These rituals, these ways to say goodbye and sum up your life, to mark the transition between living and preparing to die, are important. Sandra in the end died as good a death as she may have wished for, even if it came way too early for us, was such a bitter disappoint following on our dreams of giving her a more normal life again through the kidney transplant. Those last couple of weeks as she was slowly slipping towards death were both stressfull and yet incredibly peaceful. The worst had happened, we were as prepared as we could be and didn’t need to do anything anymore.
Almost two years on, some three weeks before the anniversary of our wedding, she’s still never far from my thoughts, still present in most everything I do. I don’t think that will ever change.
Time flies even when you’re not having fun. This time last year it had been half a year since Sandra died and I’d just come back from Plymouth to scatter her ashes. My youngest nephew was still a couple of days from being born; he’ll be one next Sunday, coincidently being born on the same day as his aunt’s birthday and a week after his daddy’s. It’s a cliche, but the world moves on even when you stand on top of it screaming for it to stop.
Grief lessens over time of course and eighteen months of being alone is starting to feel normal. To be honest, the two years before that, which Sandra mostly spent in hospital, didn’t feel like a normal relationship anymore either, but more as if everything was on hold until she got better, or not. It’s hard to get out from under that holding pattern. Not sure I quite want to yet either.
In a Metafilter thread about losing cats and other pets, somebody linked to the above Weakerthans song about the death of a cat, as sung from the cat’s perspective. Hence “and I can’t remember the sound that you made for me” as she no longer recalls the name her owner called her. It goes to the heart of what makes dealing with the death of a loved pet so different from dealing with losing people. Pets can’t understand what’s happening to them, not like humans can and it feels more like you are abandoning them, than that they’re leaving you.
There’s this dream I have occasionally, where Sandra turns up still alive and I accept in the dream, though at the same time in the dream I still know she died, but something happened that had made it all a misunderstanding, she was alive all that time, I just had not been seeing here. That’s that same feeling of abandonment, of having let her down.