For some reason it’s doing the shopping that gets me a lot, walking through the supermarket getting stuff for the weekend, nobody to take into consideration but the cats and myself. It’s been two years and three months since I last had to shop for anybody but me, and actually the two years before that saw me not needing to more often than not too. Sometimes that gets to me and I feel myself getting maudlin over by the sausage rolls.
Sandra’s toothbrushes are still in the cup on top of the sink in our bathroom. “Our” bathroom; I still find myself talking that way, or mentioning Sandra and then having to decide about to explain or keep sthum about the whole dead wife thing to coworkers when you’re just talking about Devon or whatever.
Keepsakes and reminders of her are everywhere of course, but you slowly see the character of our house change now she’s no longer here to put her stamp on it. It’s half in stasis, half turning into a slightly bigger version of my old student flat. I keep oscillating between wanting to keep everything as it was and wanting to change everything, in the end doing neither but letting entropy do its work for me.
To be honest, I’ve been running in stationary myself as well. The days go by and things change, but I’m just going along with the flow, no clear goals in mind. Living with somebody for so long, having been so focused on getting Sand better for the last five years, then having all that effort be for nothing, these past two years just have left me goalless. Living alone again after so long isn’t getting any easier. Not even after two years.
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.)
As she herself put it, one of the few benefits of having terminal cancer for Jane Catherine Lotter was the chance to write her own obituary:
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.