It’s about a year ago that I found out Brendan had died.  I use “about” as if I only remember the approximate time of year, when in fact that 3pm facebook message that came in on the 20th July and cut my witty afternoon banter with Gary and Kelvin stone cold, will never be forgotten.

I’m not entirely sure how I kept myself together, as I stumbled towards the unisex toilets near the Trading division.  Lurched open the door, and crouched by the toilet bowl.  Wretched up half a chocolate muffin, and clamped my teeth down into my hand as I silently screamed.

There was very little thinking involved.  Just convulsions of disbelief, denial, and physical pain.  I knew I had to get home.  That’s all I knew…I had to get home.

Over these past few months I’ve learnt a lot about making contact with your emotions, with your body, to stay present, even through pain.  I wanted to ask in one of our therapy sessions with Matthew, how is it possible to stay present in moments when your body’s natural reaction is to completely shut down?

I lost my hearing, my throat was feeling too tight to breathe through.  I was in a tunnel.  Lights blurring together, and the sound of telephones rattling like a handful of coppers in a tin can.

I crept up to Eugenie’s desk.  Waited silently for her conversation with a colleague to end.  I couldn’t see them, I could just feel her presence to the left of me.

I told her what happened.

Calm and steady, she escorted me across the room back to my desk.  Deftly gathered my things and switched off my computer as I called Adam.

“Pick me up please.”  He didn’t even need to ask why, there must have been something in my tone.

I was about halfway down the winding  stairwell when I caught sight of a couple of concerned gazes, and felt the rush of uncontainable emotion.  I have to get home, became I have to get outside.  The lights were spinning and I held onto Eugenie’s arm.  “I need to get outside!”  Julie followed.

As soon as the revolving door sealed behind us, I let myself go.  Tears, gasping for breath,  “no. this can’t have happened!”  I broke my abstinence from nicotine, and lit a Marlboro with shaking, cramping hands.  Breathed in, and for a moment, for one breath, I felt calm.

It was a cycle.  Rising and falling, from presence to absence, presence to absence.  Moment to moment, crying and spluttering, to numbness and nothing.  Pain to nothing, pain to nothing.  My silences became longer, as I sat beside Adam on our way back to Iffley.  The silences scared him.  “Are you ok?  Talk to me.”  Car jolting as he turned to look at me.  I couldn’t speak.  My tongue was like plasticine.

I made some phone calls.  My dad, my brothers.  Childhood friends over this side of the ocean.

“Are you sitting down?”  starting every conversation.  My senses so acute, I could feel the spark of shock and swelling of grief down the phone.  Then I would go numb.  Head falling heavily into the window pane.

I remember the smell of the hallway.  The pendulum swinging faster and faster, and then slowing down whilst I uncorked a bottle of white and thanked my brother for the emergency stash of  cigarettes.  I went to bed.

Convinced myself I’d got it wrong.  The email was a mistake, a joke.  I’d read it wrong.  How embarrassing it was going to be heading back into work tomorrow.  All a mistake!  What a silly drama I’d created.  Anxious and impatient I wrestled with the log-in.  Draining a glass of wine.  Head spinning.  Heat unfurling across my chest.  Connection dialling…dialing…COME ON!

I pulled facebook up.

Of course there was no mistake.  I shut down completely and slept in my wine-soaked bed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This time – the anniversary of his death – has been creeping up on me over these past few weeks.  I wonder how I’ll feel when the moment arrives and an entire year has passed.  Why are anniversaries so significant to us?

I’ve been wondering what I’ll write, whether I would write at all.  I’m feeling particularly sensitive, and I’ve been listening to his music a lot.  Writing out the lyrics to some of his songs.  Heartbroken by the melancholy in some of them.  Looking through photos of us all when we were kids.  Wanting to reach out to them all, but never quite knowing what to say…

I’m half-way through the tenth version of a letter I’ve been writing for all these months to Brendan’s parents.  Fretting and editing, and starting again.  I figure that the words will come when I’ve made sense of all of this, and until then, I just keep writing my letter.  Pretty sure I’ve misplaced their address again.

I ask, why are anniversaries  so significant to us?  Is it attachment?  Not being able to let go?  You can’t deny the significance of it – the collective pain body has been stirring and building for weeks.  I can feel it, like I feel metta loving kindness..its a connection, a frequency that ties us all together.

Through these next few days, or weeks, I will be working my way through lots of pain, lots of  joy… the whole spectrum of emotion that comes with life, love and death.   Instead of asking why all the time, my hope is quite simple really.  My hope is that I can stay present.

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