“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”
E. E. Cummings
On September 5th 2016, my whole world changed. I woke up early that Monday morning, and went to a new hot yoga class for the very first time. I came out feeling energised, buzzed, and I had an excitable energy within me that I’m not sure I’d felt before, or not at least for a very long time. I was running late for work- as per usual, I power walked in to the office and busily began making everyone tea. I then sat at my desk as we begun our morning meeting at around 9.30 am. My phone rang at 9.40- it was my mum. I thought this was odd, but as I hadn’t spoken to her that morning I presumed she woke up late and thought it was an hour earlier or something, so wistfully I ignored her. A few moments later my phone buzzed: Ring me urgently X X X X flashed across my screen. I showed my manager (the second in charge as the boss, yet again, was nowhere to be seen) and I excused myself from the room. I took a step just outside the office, and stood looking out of the window as I nervously called my mother back. She answered the phone, telling me “I have some sad news,” then asked me if I was at work. I replied of course I was, but go ahead. At this point I was nervously shaking in front of the window, the thought my poor darling Granny Ju crossed my mind when she told me “Daddy’s been killed in a car accident”. My whole world stopped.
Everything became a blur. I fell to the floor crying hysterically, Lisa, the lady who had just excused me came out and picked my phone, which I had flung on the floor off the ground. And I heard my mother repeat again “Libby’s father has been killed in a car accident,” hearing it a second time around only made the wound bury deeper within me. As Lisa replied “where are you, I will bring her to you”.
At 24, I have never really lost anything. Of course, over the years I have lost a number of family pets. Two cats, who died of old age, and a number of rabbits who suffered a series of unfortunate events- mainly becoming victims of the local wild life. And yes, I had lost three of my fantastic grandparents. I was 8 when my Grandpa died, and all I really remember of the time was my middle sister, Mary, telling me off for crying to loudly in the Church. 15 years later, my Granny Granky took her final resting place. But I felt quite peaceful about this. She was well in to her 80’s and had lived a full and varied life, having emigrated from New Zealand in her late teens. And above all, she was not happy. Towards the end of her life, my parents told us they didn’t want us to see her any more. They wanted us to remember the real her, not the cranky lady, sadly, she became in her last few months on earth. And so, I try to remember the second to last time I saw her. By this time she was bed bound, but she happily sat upstairs on her bed, and in the day she would even look out of her window down at the people and the animals below. She lived in the New Forest so there was always an inquisitive pony or donkey to watch. On this occasion however, she sat on her bed, and I perched on the side of it. She was wearing a big, fluffy, pink dressing gown that my mother had brought her when she was first admitted to hospital. In all honesty, she looked like an over sized blancmange. But she happily sat there, her hair in a lose pony tail, no longer contained to the neat bun I had always known her to have. Her jet black hair now scattered with flecks of silver hung down well beyond her shoulders. As she excitedly told me, that today she was reading her favourite book again. Gone with the wind. Anyway I digress. If you recall, I said I had only one Grandparent left, yet have only described the passing of two of them. This third Grandparent was my mothers father, he died of a heart attack, suddenly, aged 45? on a beach in Sussex? the summer before my mother started secondary school. This man, my Grandpa Peter as I call him, in a way that doesn’t feel natural. By that I mean, we never really had normal names for our Grandparents. My mother’s mother is called Juju and my Father’s mother was called Granky and his father was called Grandpa, because that’s what he was, the stereotypical Grandpa. He sat in his comfortable chair, played bridge and fell asleep after every meal. He would announce after dinner that he was popping upstairs to “look at the view” as he would gently command the “staff to clear” a manoeuvre my father, despite his efforts, never quite pulled off with three, strong minded girls. Anyway, Grandpa Peter I always felt was quite the enigma. He was a doctor, who loved to smoke, drink, eat and quench on every morsel of life. He was a deep sea diver, a dancer and he believed in the importance of making memories. To me, he seemed like Peter from Pan, he had grown up, yes. In the sense that he had a medical degree, and a wife and two children. But he seems to have an unfathomable thirst for life. He loved christmas, and life when he was around seemed to me like it was just a little bit more shiny. Perhaps that was due to the rose tinted spectacles that we adorn when someone we love dies. But to me he seemed like a kindred spirit. Especially as my mother always told me that her father’s mother, Grand Muv, had wild dark curls- like me. And used to ride on the back on motorbikes in the 20’s. A strong, and determined woman, with a wild air, all of the attributes my mother so strongly associates with me. I have always felt quite cheated really. That this is the blood I have running through my veins, yet never have I had the opportunity to meet these people that inexplicably explain the inner workings of my being.
I arrived at the house almost an hour later. I think my mother came out and greeted me in the road, but I could be wrong, and the vicar was stood by the door. All I remember is someone, someone else who was there- but is escapes me who, telling me that Barbara was inside. All remember thinking was- who on earth is Barbara!? Ahh yes, my sister had called me on the journey home. The middle one, as Ellie the eldest still did not know. And she gave me more details about the “accident” and I just remember thinking, why. Why did you stop to help? The number of times he was trying to do something for the greater good, and I begged him not to. Not because I wanted him to be more selfish, but because he often helped to the detriment of himself, or sometimes, and never with intent, to us.
The rest of the day was filled with cups of tea and waiting for Mary to arrive. It was nearly 12 o’clock and Ellie still didn’t know. I had rung my housemate Georgie as news was beginning to break (the crash after all had been on the local news), and even my mother had been informed of it via a friend who had heard of an incident on the radio before the Policeman arrived on her doorstep. He arrived at the house over three hours after the accident, and only the one. On the tele theres always two, but there was only one policeman there that morning, who my mother was trying to bustle by in her attempt to get to morning prayer on time. “I think we should go inside” he said.
I could barely bring myself to say the words. And once I had uttered the morning events, that was it. Only once, would I repeat it. And Georgie took to spreading the word. Later on, I began to regurgitate the days events in a rehearsed and monotonous tone. I’m just not a sad person I would repeat to myself. And so I was numb.
Since September 5th I have learnt two things:
- Time is not always on your side. If you care for someone tell them, often. I will forever be grateful that the last thing I said to my father was “Bye, Love you”. As he gave me the sweaty hug and the wet dog kiss he aways did, as he pulled out his hanky to wipe the drip away. That’s the thing about rugby, it’s almost a given that you will, at some point break your nose. We had just spent the last few hours running around a soft play with my 3 and 5 year old nieces and my 18 month? old nephew. Dad had confessed to my mother and sister that “the children think we’re here for them. But I love it just as much” and then banded off, all 6.4” of him to get stuck in another tunnel.
- And this is a slightly depressing one. What do you want to be remembered for? Or as? And most importantly, are you currently living your life in the way you’d like to be remembered? I for one wasn’t. And as a person who is used to being in control. Never fall for a man, and one can never break your heart was always my philosophy, and yes, sometimes this wavered, but in general, I was pretty strong minded. And when I had enough, they were soon kicked to the curb and they knew when I was done. I exercise, pretty much daily so I stay in shape. And academically speaking, when I set my mind to something I work my ass off and I achieve it. Before 5th September you see, there was always a formula. What you put in, you get out. But now, due to one mornings events, my whole theory was shattered and I was stuck thinking, what if things don’t just work out? The time for change, and to embrace the life you want, is now. I know I’m beginning to sound like I’m trying to quote some new age philosophy like The Secret. But when you are doing everything ‘right’ and your world still falls apart, it makes you think, what am I trying so hard to achieve? When everything can be taken away from you so easily, why not enjoy life, and it’s luxuries whilst you can. And really, when you have faced the worst time of your life- what can really compare. I know, I know, there are a lot of unfortunate events which, in comparison, are much, much worse. I was empathetic before, but now, my empathy for the suffering people face is tenfold. But I’m talking in terms of career crises or even relationships (in the early formative stages I have never seemed able to surpass). If you take a leap of faith in your career, or perhaps I need to say if I do. Then what is the worst that can happen- really? And men, I’ve already lost the only man I have ever loved. And I know it’s different to romantic love, but breaking up with an inappropriate partner, does not, in any way, compare. I guess, what I’m trying to say, is loss, in an ironic way gives you courage. But more than that, it gives you, the living , a new lease of life. And so, I have decided to set sail, before I get caught in the drift.