Always cry at endings

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Liz’s funeral was yesterday in London, which it was impossible for me to attend – I can barely get up for 30 minutes’ activity at the moment without a relapse for several days. It would have of course been traumatic to go, but I found myself sitting at home all day, watching the clock, wondering what was happening now, who was there, what was being said – a feeling of permanently being on edge along with the sadness of it all – which continued into the night. And the horror of watching the news on that very same day, as the police shot someone on the underground, surrounded houses, sent in sniffer dogs – the very same events continuing as people gathered for Liz. Somehow, not being there has left a big hole, an uncertainty that I don’t know how to fill, an ellipsis without a following sentence.

I found myself going back to the music that brought us together, music that I haven’t listened to for years, that became some sort of phobia for me. For 8 years I was part of, and responsible for a large community of people that seemed very special – that formed so many relationships and friendships, marriages too, that I couldn’t count them. It’s where I and so many others met Liz. I’m still there, but it’s quieter these days, and most of the original people have moved on for understandable reasons. But the music it was based around seemed to have some unearthly life-changing property in the early days, and an indefinable ability to sniff out the nicest, most unusual people and put them in touch. A little secret gentle spider’s web around the world that’s still there, but lives on in other places now, often in pubs, and happy households for those brought together.

For me, it all got too much a few years ago: being seen as so central to the community but actually doing nothing cleverer or more profound that some organising and gentle cajoling made it too important to me, and too scary because of who I was not. That the rising tension of my illness gathering pace coupled with the disparity between my public face and internal gender conflict (I was too chicken to just come out and say it to more than a few) came to a kind of quiet crisis in about 2001, and I largely disappeared visibly, while continuing to work the levers in the background to let it continue. Along with this, the association of the music itself and this hurt became very strong and I stopped listening. I’m not even sure if Liz still listened to them much these days, but yesterday for some reason, sitting in my bed, I felt a strong need to revisit and listen – maybe just to feel closer to her and those in London, standing, singing, listening, crying. It wasn’t fun, but I suppose maybe it gave me something to do, a conduit for expression, from my own bedroom.

In the evening of course, I exploded into anxiety land, and fell to pieces shamefully seemingly over my own worries, and as usual, unable to identify a single cause: an ant-hill of individual causes become a single organism of toppling guilt and fear. I’m scared and so sorry for Liz; I’m scared for myself about the anti-parasite drugs I’m about to embark on; I’m scared I’ll never be able to go to London, or a shop again. I think I just wanted to be there.

The loss of others is supposed to make you reflect on what you have. But all I could think, and couldn’t say was “if it had to be Liz, why couldn’t it have been me instead?”. Stupid, self-indulgent guilt? I just can’t explain it. It just seems to me she had such wonderful enthusiam, health, passion, and was doing so much, seeing so many, making so many happy. I have the resolve to do little or none of these and if (if) my life is going to stay more like this than that, then it would make more sense for it to have been me: to keep Liz in the world, where she can make cakes, punch arms and delight a thousand people. I can maybe touch 3 or 4 weekly, and a dozen at tops in a year, and I have little to offer them back now but fear and worry, which isn’t a patch on getting drunk with them and giggling over a cocktail.

It’s not fair of me to end this like this: a few people were incredibly kind about me being represented at Liz’s passing, and one in particular. We don’t know each other so well, yet he took the time to encourage me via email to say something via proxy, be represented, represent the community where we all met in some way. I wouldn’t have had the composure to do this myself, and I’m told something I emailed was read out. I was very anxious it was an imposition – so many others will be hurting more than me – but he encouraged me to do so. He even suggested I chose a flower and bought it for me. I know little else of what happened yesterday – I hope I get to find out who said what some time, as it feels tense as a coiled spring not knowing, somehow, even though it won’t change anything. But I’m so grateful of the care and understanding shown by another for what I could and couldn’t do yesterday.

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I’ll leave this with the another quote Liz left us in an email, the one I chose to be read out yesterday. It’s from George Santayana, American philospher from the early part of the last century. His most famouse quote is “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it”, which seems relevant to the idiocy our own states are pursuing currently that connects us up to the tragedies of today, but this isn’t that. This is a lesson about individual fear, and hope.

It’s an incredibly hard lesson, and one I know the least about: learning to love and not fear change, even if it seems for the worst at the time. It comes very close to the lessons about Tao I’m trying again to understand: that the only way out is to let time have its course, be alert, but rest. I can’t say I’m anywhere near it, but here it is.

It is better to be interested in the changing seasons
than to be hopelessly in love with Spring.
- George Santayana

3 thoughts on “Always cry at endings”

  1. The way to think about it – as I’m sure everyone else involved does, including Liz and her nearest and dearest – is that you’ve been the ultimate Cilla. You’ve created an ideal environment for these people to come together, nurtured the nest so to speak and then drawn back and let them find their own path. That’s what l*** mummies are all about and I bet Liz, wherever she may be, is eternally grateful for that.

  2. But all I could think, and couldn’t say was “if it had to be Liz, why couldn’t it have been me instead?”.
    i’m glad i wasn’t the only one thinking this, although it’s a horrible way to think. it feels selfish, and it’s pointless, but there it is. i’ve been thinking it a lot.
    i’ll im you sometime soon ,honey. sorry for not signing this, but i just can’t.

  3. Hi -
    You don’t know me (well you probably know my websites but I don’t think we’ve ever met) – I knew Liz and was at the funeral yesterday, and your message, which Jim read out, was very much appreciated: a lot of people, Liz’ relatives included, nodded at the Santayana quote and were clearly touched. As for the event itself, there’s probably no such thing as a ‘good funeral’ but this was as good as a funeral could have been. Liz’ parents spoke, her cousin and sister gave readings, Rob spoke, Rob’s mother and a friend from Portsmouth and two friends of Liz’ from Oxford spoke. (I really hope I haven’t forgotten anyone). It was very moving. Belle and Sebastian’s “The Rollercoaster Ride” was played, and the one which goes “Do something pretty while you can”, and a Tindersticks song, and a choral piece by Thomas Tallis and a recorder arrangement of Greensleeves. Afterwards a lot of us piled back to London for what is best described as a wake.
    I hope this sets your mind at rest. It was a horribly sad, but fittingly special occasion and I know your contribution played an important part in it.
    - Tom.

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