2007 — 18 November: soaking Sunday

It's shortly after 10 a.m. and Junior slumbers peacefully on. He and Christa were always deeper sleepers than me, so I've often been in a situation not unlike that described by Anne Fadiman in her essay Night Owl. The mournful tears of rain streaming gently down the windows this morning as I've been writing are a perfect expression of my mood so far today. It's not the hard-driving rain (as it were) of the initial shock of Christa's death, but more the steady melancholy drizzle as the unreality fades and the realisation sinks in.

I've been gathering my thoughts about what to say when I celebrate Christa's life. While the horror of Her illness1 is still fresh it is harder than usual to recall all the very many happier times. And yet, even as I review (for random example) just the digital photos I have of Her on my PC in this final year, there are very very few in which She doesn't smile. Friends and family are all unanimous in their opinion that She was very happy. Here for example, on the 22nd March, when we popped down to Durlston. Completely typical pose and expression:


We both briefly howled last night over this shot. "How can She be gone?" we asked; but the fact is, She is. And as I look out of my study window this morning, I see the top of the tree She would happily clamber up to trim. That will be a learning experience for me, I assure you!

I took Junior out for a meal yesterday evening (he paid — thanks, even if that is a sign of age!) and then we watched a DVD he'd brought along — Cars2 — and enjoyed it every bit as much as Christa would have. (There: I've finally used the past conditional.) <Sigh>

Time to put the kettle on, Mr M. Just in time, in fact, to offer Roger a cup as he called round on a welcome comfort and sympathy visit. Thank you, Roger.3 You said you hadn't wanted to "intrude on my grief". But in fact I find great comfort in talking gently about Christa to people who knew us both so, please, don't anyone dare feel they would be "intruding". There is much to celebrate and be thankful for in Christa's life. Let's not all get embroiled instead in Her death. I realise I'm a bit new to this mourning business, but I remind myself (and others) that Christa Herself told me, shortly before She died, that She would be "very sad" if She thought there's no laughter or smiling in our lives as we move on through them. That's My Girl for you, every time.

Merciful (if still dripping) Heavens — nearly time for lunch already! Come on, Junior. Time to wake up and sink the orange juice... Lunch, like last week, was in the Casa Bodega (thank you, Len). I drove out with Junior and then picked up Len and his Mum and went on to the restaurant. So I'm now stuffed, as it were, with duck.

The grief process

I currently still find a wave of weeping can engulf me, briefly, in response to various stimuli. I am trying, of course, to (as it were) keep an eye on myself as I realise some of this process can go awry and need treatment or intervention. I have had very little practical experience of grieving over a very close friend or relative since my Dad died in 1975, though I did what I could to help Christa through the loss of both her parents, of course. I took the precaution of ordering a copy of What to do when someone dies some while ago. It may strike my reader4 as bizarre, or even somewhat cold-blooded, but I also discussed parts of this book with Christa — an eminently practical woman, as you can deduce. Indeed, that's why we recently made our various accounts into joint ones (though I drew the line at some of the actions She was inclined to suggest — cancelling Her dental insurance, for example).

Shock is, it seems, the primary experience. In my case, I think it was more a terrible relief, as of a huge weight lifting off me. I find no evidence of guilt however (which usually accompanies this relief) as Christa Herself told me on numerous occasions that She couldn't have coped on Her own, and that I was looking after Her beautifully. The underlying experience is sorrow — this I have felt, and continue to feel, in spades (as it were). I'm given to understand this sorrow will persist, but subside into a numbing ache. Anger is another common accompaniment; I think I've had flashes of that from time to time, but not all that recently. Plus apathy and depression may yet pop their unpleasant heads round my door.

Some people go through all of these. Some through none. And some bounce around between them. So there you have it!

Music hath charms... department

It's very comforting to have Junior here for a while. Like me, he loves music. I just suggested he fire up iTunes on his MacBook and see if he can "tune in" (pun unintentional) to the local network library of MP3s that I host on my iMac's external hard drive and serve to the music player downstairs. It took, oh, easily, 90 seconds. So now he's got the 1985 Dire Straits Brothers in Arms album playing. Such good taste!



1  Turns out Christa died from an incredibly rare (but very aggressive) form of tumour that occurs in less than one case per thousand of bowel cancers. No consolation whatsoever, but mildly interesting to a weird part of my brain.
2  Plot remarkably similar to Doc Hollywood remarks another part of my brain.
3  And thanks, too, Roger for taking back the Red Cross folding table. (We weren't able to make much use of this as the pain when sitting made things too awkward for Christa, but it was a very kindly gesture.)
4  As I've mentioned in personal notes to, and conversations with, some of you, on one of my brief but helpful chats with "Dr Joey", I'd asked her how couples generally coped in these dreadful situations. She said what I was feeling was basically intense sadness, profound shock, and grief, and it was entirely normal for someone who so evidently had such a deep and long-lasting relationship. The less the love, the less the pain, it seems. (Love hurts, in other words. I knew immediately that equation meant trouble for me!) But as I think hard about this while trying to make "sense" of it all, and talk to people, and consider the course of our lives together, the more I am concluding that love is just about the only thing that actually means anything or matters or even gives meaning to our ludicrously short lives.