Death is so fucking weird

I haven’t written here for quite a while. It’s a blog about work life balance so I suppose that a death is a good reason to pick up and write a post again.

My goddaughter lost her father, Christopher, three days ago. I’m writing this through fresh tears, watching Michael Jackson videos on YouTube in the background after an at-home, late-night disco with the kids.

My good friend wrote about her ex-husband’s cancer and leg amputation on Medium. When I read it at the time, just over a year ago, I though it was an incredible, heartfelt piece about just that: cancer and dealing with losing a leg. That seems so little now that her ex and her daughter’s father is gone.

I don’t know if it’s because I lost my mother when I was four, or because death is terrible and you’re never ready for it, even if your mother’s 96, or because cancer sucks, or because I had too much tequila, or because Michael Jackson is on in the background and he and Prince and Bowie have all died recently…whatever it is, the pain is there and I am trying to channel it all into my goddaughter’s wellbeing and hoping that she is ok.

When someone dies, it hits you like a brick. It’s the first thing you think about when you wake up for many days. The pain comes along like waves, and just like waves, some knock you off your feet and some just lap against you and you dig in your toes and you barely notice them.

Something I learned decades after the death of my mother, which my dad told me, is that the pain never goes away. Somehow I thought I would heal one day but when my dad said this to me, that the pain is always there, I stopped expecting it to go, and when a wave would come out of the blue, like a tidal wave that comes unexpectedly every few years, it was somehow ok. It wasn’t a demon chasing me.

There is a book called Motherless Daughters which I would recommend to anyone who has lost her mother, at any age. It’s quite gender and parent specific so I suppose we’d need a Fatherless Daughters, Motherless Sons and Fatherless Sons too.

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My friend Kate captioned this photo on Facebook “Ten years ago. Today, he waits for the chariots to swing low, and carry him home.”

She said that the loved ones who have passed away are having a tug-of-war with the ones who are still here. As we get older, the scales tip and the ones who are alive, together with us, become fewer. I am saying this already in my forties (what will happen by the time I’m 90?) and remember when my aunt had a few friends in her generation pass away: it’s a real shake-up, especially when a friend in your own generation dies. Or a parent. Or a child. Ok: death just sucks, punto e basta (full stop, period).

It does make you appreciate what you have, from friends and family to our blessed lives and our blessed loves. My dad has always said that I have a guardian angel looking over me, and I believe it. Death is like a reset button in the perspective on work-life balance.

I saw Christopher in September, for the first time after about nine years. Other than missing a leg, he looked fantastic, healthy and younger than how I remembered him. He asked me about my friend Omar, who is my goddaughter’s godfather. Christopher wanted my goddaughter to (re)meet her godfather. Sparked by that, I got in touch with Omar, whom I’d also lost track of about a decade earlier.

Omar made a wonderful video for Christopher and they were back in touch again for those very few weeks. I still haven’t seen Omar again and it will likely be at the funeral where we can rekindle our friendship in person.

Now it’s Bowie on in the background.

So the title: Death is so Fucking Weird. It is. How can someone’s idiosyncrasies, their voice, their loveable and hatable and endearing and annoying selves – how can it disappear from one day to the next? Their wrinkles and hair and flushed faces and smiles and interjections. How can I not know what my mother’s voice sounds like, and how can my husband not have met my dear grandparents, and how can I have not met his?

This post is dedicated to my goddaughter, with as much love as I can give to you, my dear.

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