Now That Death Has Us Parted

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.

Back to Square One (and Beyond)

Today I went through some photos of times that Jane and I shared. That doesn’t really express it. Today, I looked at some photos and the scenes in the photos became the present moment with Jane in it and me in it. I looked at Jane’s face in the photo and felt love pouring out of my heart towards her. I watched a couple of short and pretty crap videos of her and felt my hand pulled to touch her cheek, her hair. Just to rest gently on her skin.

I’m still in love with you, Jane. I see you in those photos (Bannockburn, North New Brighton, both in January this year) and I know you are the one for me. The gentleness, perceptiveness and responsiveness in you. Your subtlety of mood and expression. You being you, quietly taking in the world, considering, originating.

I read the documents that you wrote for me (I will blog these) and, in every word see you, your wryness, your humour, mischievousness and deep sincerity. I see your love for me, how can I not see that?

How can I say I “still” love you, Jane? Who “on earth” would want to hear those words? I guess that’s just it. Well, actually, unfortunately I can think of the circumstance but it hasn’t got you in it, Jane. Here I am trying to make myself not love you. I admit it. I want the end of this pain. And yet I can’t say goodbye to you because you live on in my heart, my mind, my body. I can ignore, forget, distract, but only for so long. Suddenly you are right back in my life, large and real, saying to me… what do you say to me?

I’ll give it a go. “Reverse roles with Jane”.

Daniel, I’ve been waiting for this chance. You know that I am way beyond you, now. I know about the days when we were shoulder to shoulder, “skin to skin” we called it. Every moment that you treasure, I remember too and cherish. I, too see, am recalling, reliving each moment from our love together. But now I am in some larger realm that you can not know. It has been painful for me too to adjust to this new way of being. You see I don’t have to let go. I can have all that we had. It’s just that I have all else at the same time.

I know that you love me, that to you I live on in your life. I know that you can only live on with my imprint on your life. I also know that you can and do gradually let me go. As that imprint fades and the people and things that live on and those that are new in your life make their mark. Daniel, you know don’t you that I do not need you to honour my memory. You can do that if you want, of course but do whatever you do for you, not me. I am sorry but I am that gone to you.

I do have one wish. It is that the love that we shared lives on in you, somehow. That my touch on your heart leaves a warm patch, not with my name on it but with yours. Yours to keep, to feel at all times, to let flow, to swirl, in you and out into the world around you. I know that is what makes you go. Let me pervade and be love in your life, Daniel. Let me be in the air that you breathe.

Hearts and Houses

It was the day of the premier of the Return of the King in Wellington (Dec 1 ’03, I think, the day before Jane’s 43rd birthday). Town was packed. It was hot. Jane and I had a picnic at Breaker Bay. We sat in the sand and sun, contemplating our relationship. Jane said “I don’t really know whether I’m suited to someone until I’ve shared a bathroom with them”.

I waxed locquacious and illustrated my story with pebbles and driftwood.

When we have a small connection, I said, choosing a tiny smooth sun-warmed stone, we act on it. I placed tiny twig above the stone to be coffee or some email or conversation. If it goes well, the love between us, embryonic as it is, grows a little. A slightly larger stone. On the strength of that, we build a miniscule facsimile of a house. A slightly larger twig, smoothed by sea and sand. With the smaller attraction and action as foundations, our emerging interest spurs some new risk-taking, maybe dinner or a movie.

Again, if this goes well, a further stirring occurs in the limbic system. Two heads touch, share a pillow. There are now six objects in the sand, counted by the slanting sun. The sixth, the largest stick representing the first campsite for the new couple. Resting together here feels like a homecoming, our eyes open to each others’ and dwell, seeing and being seen flowing.

I feel a twinge of fear, disappear into myself a little, consider making an exit, reach down for something solid and it is there, the flimsy temporary marital home in which this love scene takes place. It holds me and I reopen my eyes. You are there, softening gently in about the same way as me, warming…

By this time on the beach, the matter of houses was gaining increasing significance between Jane and me. Jane was on the brink of substantial alterations at Jeypore st. She announced their cancellation on 8 Dec 03. A kind of anti-house, in that case but all the more potent for it, with architect’s plans, finance, digger, driver and hiab to lower them in all poised.

While those houses provide a container that protects new love as it grows, they also provide walls that keep it in.

Jane declared that she was willing to make the move to Christchurch, to put bathroom and kitchen sharing to the test. I demurred but agreed to a shared summer holiday. That was a project enough. Elsie, Ed and I arrived at Spinsterworld with our ribald mess. Then we overloaded Jane’s “granny car” and had her drive us to Auckland. There we plunged Jane into family Christmases, first at my father Tyl’s and then at a grand gathering of my stepmother Janet’s extended family. Straight on from that another day long drive in the capsule and then five days with my friends on Wainui beach in Gisborne, and Hautanoa and Waima up the coast. Love pulsing all the way.

On the first of January, 2004, I lay in a tent with Jane, gulped as quietly as I could and said “yes”.

Somehow Carrying On

I don’t know how to do this any more. I can go some days, filling my life up with people, stuff. Plenty of it is pretty good. Hey hey, I think. Not “I’m over it”, just “I don’t have to feel it”. Even moments of feeling it and I think I’m so cool. Yeah, grieving. Feeling it when I feel it. Then I revert to avoidance. Now with busy times coming up, here is a small vacuum. Do I feel or forget?

I actually don’t get much choice. I take a step in this house and Jane is here, all around and I am thumping the air like a baby. Or I think of a place and realise that it is our place, a place that we went together and made our own. Like Spencerville Beach. Only a small walk together one day and yet I remember each step. Being close, together. Breathing in the dunes, the surf, the horizon.

Doing things with Elsie, with other people.

How can this be that you are dead, Jane. This doesn’t happen. It isn’t in the script. We spend the rest of our lives together. You don’t die like that, out of the blue. No-one does. This is some crazy nonsense.

Still.