Yesterday was three months since Jane died. I attended the Civil Union (marriage, effectively) of my friends Andy & Angus yesterday. They met about the time that Jane I re-met. Angus (her real name is Linda), lived in Wellington and moved to Christchurch to live with Andy. Andy has two 16/17 year olds and a 14 yr old.
Jane and I had got together with Andy, Angus, Awhina, Marama and Pomare on a few social occasions, often with Ed and Elsie.
This last weekend, Labour Weekend was the second anniversary of “Hard Work Weekend”. It was named that by Jane as it was the first “kids weekend” on which she came to visit me in Christchurch. Jane had been somewhat apprehensive. She had committed to hanging well back and to letting E & E initiate any interaction. Before we had got into the car in the airport carpark, however, Jane was already ribbing Ed about being adolescent. She was also clutching a large mysterious and elegantly wrapped parcel which she somehow was still maintaining was ‘not a present’ while Elsie hovered and drooled.
Actually, the kids spent most of the weekend with their friends. In Ed’s case, that included Aaron, the son of Rebekah with whom I had concluded a two year relationship earlier that year. The two of them ended up serving us breakfast in bed. It was surprisingly relaxed. Elsie had some do on so we got to spend one warm day doing things like lounging in the super-hammock and walking to Boulder Bay with Bill Greenfield.
In the “items” at the Ceilidh that followed the union, Angus gave a brief account of her first meeting with Andy’s kids.
Even though the poignancy of the situation was hard to miss, these particular ‘anniversaries’ both took me by surprise, each snaking from my delight in the present moment to a jarring realisation deep inside me.
Back in April, Jane and I attended the Wedding of our friends Barry and Claire. There was some speculation, especially on the parts of Yvonne and Brian as to the prospect of Jane and me getting married. I was pretty keen on the idea though accepting that it was still rather early days. Jane was rather less taken with idea, even than I was. She had various concerns with the relevance and effectiveness of marriage and was particularly untempted by the prospect of making such a public display. Nonetheless, we discussed it all long into the night.
Then, in July, on the afternoon of the fourth day after Jane’s death, I found myself sitting in the front row in a large room with, at the front, an alter of a kind. Jane’s coffin. I looked around, as I tend to do in any large group, and I saw my family, some close, some extended. And I saw Jane’s family, close and extended. I saw my friends and Jane’s friends. My workmates were there, present and past and Jane’s were, too. Many people had travelled, from Jane’s network and from mine. I even went as far as thinking ‘this is the joining of our two social networks’ before I clicked that the occasion was, appallingly, not our wedding.
Walter put it into words in his speech which began ‘This is all wrong’.
Jane, I don’t think you would have married me on the 27th of July 2005. I don’t think I would have married you on that day either, actually, had things carried on as they were. It was early days. I was enjoying falling further and further in love with you. I was looking forward to the day when my love and trust were so strong and my fear was so long gone that I could call out to the world that I loved you and wanted to be with you always. The publicness of that is daunting for me too. But I know that I wanted the day to come when we did get married, Jane. You knew that too. And I had a sneaking idea that you might come around in time. I remember thinking of that day of celebration and love, and knowing that I wanted it to be.
I do know that on the day of your funeral, I was ready to make the declaration. A cop out perhaps – it was easy to say I’d love you until death parted us – but it felt like a wedding to me. A weird, shotgun kind of wedding, a perverse consolation prize wedding with you there dead, Jane. But it was a celebration of love all the same. It was our celebration, my Darling. The one we got to have only you didn’t quite make it. But I did and all those other people did and they saw our love, yours and mine. And they let it soak into them and flow out again as tears. They looked at each other (all mingled on both sides of the aisle as they were) and knew that they had been joined together by you and me and our love, Jane.
And now that I feel more joined to you than ever, I must begin to say goodbye. But today doesn’t feel like the day. It feels like the day to have been sitting with you at our outdoor table, sharing coffee and brunch and reflecting on Andy and Angus union. Reading the short story in the paper to you and then sagely swapping opinions about it. Trotting our little paths together here and there around the town. Riding our bikes around and around the roundabout in the park, tipping bollards with our toes, trying not to fall off. Climbing the stairs to share our warm soft bed and wriggling together grinning and inhaling with our noses buried in each others’ hair and skin.