The Night that Jane Died

The night before Jane died, I got home a little later than I had said I would. We bundled into the car and dropped Elsie at Mary-Anne and Lynne’s with various bags of hers and Ed’s. Then we went straight to the Rialto and saw Enduring Love. It’s not an uplifting movie. It has its share of death, and near death. Despite that, Jane and I had a warm time at the movie and coming home.

We warmed the place up and sat around with our computers, casually poking around the Web, reading bits out to each other. We’d become rather hungry by the time we decided to cook. We had a regular easy meal of ours. Those green pasta parcels of ricotta with a bottled tomato sauce and parmagiano. Then we just sat and talked, enjoying a nice bottle of wine (Jane’s sort, not mine). We sat and talked and sat and talked.

We listened to the Be Good Tanyas and speculated about how Country music came about. Jane told me the story of how English folk got from the “West Country” to the States and then went electric. I felt slightly ignorant for not knowing that Dylan first used electric instruments at Woodstock.

At one point, we got talking about some outdoor exploit of mine, probably from my hippy days up the Coast. Out of the blue, Jane commented “You like to compete with Struan, don’t you”. Struan, if you don’t know was my friend and Jane’s boyfriend when he introduced us in 1976. “What?!” I replied, with futility as Jane took that as an invitation to repeat herself, with an innocent smile. To my astonished protest, she responded by producing a 1976/7 diary of hers from which she quoted. Sure enough, it contained a detailed account of a tramping trip that the three of us went on, to Possum Hut, in which “S” and D” competed over fire-lighting, route-finding or something like that.

The diary now shut, I noticed a couple of dozen small stick-on tabs sticking out of its pages. What are those? “Occurrences”, replied Jane. My heart dropped slightly, for fear I was about to hear more about Jane’s youth than I wanted to. Of what? “You”, she replied.

Jane also told me why she called me Daniel. It had dated back to our early email exchanges. Jane confessed she had had to work rather hard to maintain it, in the face of everyone else constantly calling me Dan. But that was precisely the point. Jane was living in my city with my kids, my family, my friends and my history all around. Jane called me Daniel to distinguish her relationship and life with me from all of that.

About 12:00, Jane went to bed, saying she was tired. I mucked about for 20 minutes and then went to bed myself. Jane was sleeping. I read, keeping slightly away from her, to let her sleep, and to have a little space to myself. After a while, I turned the light off and went to sleep in the same position.

At some time in the night, I have woke to hear Jane breathing irregularly. She seemed to pause in her breathing for rather a long time and then gasp with a slight shriek as she took in breath. I took it to be bad snoring or perhaps a nightmare. I gave Jane a bit of a nudge, as you do to try to distrupt someone’s snoring. She didn’t respond but, after a short while became quiet. I slept.

At six in the morning, I woke and reached across Jane. She was lying on her back with the duvet not properly over her. I had hogged it and she hadn’t pulled it back. She was very cold. I became frightened and put my ear to her nose but heard no breath. I turned on the light. Jane had grey lips and blue patches all over her. I knew she was dead. I probably said “oh no” or worse, several times as I dialled 111.

With the 111 guy coaching me, I attempted to resuscitate Jane with CPR. She was so cold and blue that I knew I didn’t have much chance of success. I think it was a faint hope that the nightmare would go away that kept me going.

The ambulance folks arrived, dragged Jane onto the floor and got out their equipment. I went into Elsie’s room and wrapped myself in her duvet. I was pretty cold too by then. I lay on the floor and screamed and convulsed. Then, strangely, my mind wandered. Would I have more time than I had expected to to experiment with my new computer that day? And then incredulity that I had thought that. Had I willed Jane’s death for more time on the computer? Meanwhile in the next room they were working hard. Again, a spark of hope flickered. Have they managed to bring Jane to life? Before long though, an ambulance guy told me that no, there was no hope.

A crushing cold dark fell on me, passed into my core and pulsed out through my limbs. I lay alone. Not Jane. Not Jane. Not Jane. No, my Jane. No. No. No. Not my Lovely, Jane.

On their instructions, I got to the phone and called Kate and Walter’s. They weren’t home. I called Hanna who said she was coming around. Perhaps I managed to get some clothes on by the time she arrived. Cops were there with questions but well-meaning.

They had put Jane back in bed and I lay with her briefly for the last time, already appalled at her deadness.

I phoned Simon who said he was coming.

An undertaker arrived and they carried Jane’s body down the stairs strapped to a stretcher. I got to say a brief farewell to a lumpy thing invisible under a blanket in the back of a hearse. And then to come back inside our house, Jane’s and my house, with no Jane.

Holding on and Letting Go

Some respite from constant pain today permitted small forays into Life Goes On. Nice weather continues to ease this whole process. I’m starting to set small areas of the house straight. As I do that, I even spot small opportunities to rearrange things just a little differently, just a shade more to my liking. I don’t think this place is turning into a bachelor pad but I accept that it may come to lack quite the shine of a woman’s touch, in favour of pragmatism. Elsie has been remarkably pro-active about cleaning and tidying. An extremely good thing!

And then, as I look and move around the house, there are countless small reminders of Jane. Each one is a small elastoplast that must be pulled off. A small goodbye. And my body is covered in them.

Only two weeks ago, Jane sent me a text: “Honey – can you come home a little earler so I can buy you a nice dinner?”. We ate at Bologna, in Carlton Mill. I sat opposite Jane at a small table with a delicious dinner and wine. We looked into each other’s eyes the whole evening as we talked and ate. I remember thinking, and saying, I love you, I love you, Jane. At each moment, I could feel the fibres of love being spun between us, weaving and joining us, and I celebrated each one with joy.

I guess it is those fibres that I can feel being torn off now.

And yet, strangely I can go for several moments feeling ok. I feel a bit guilty about it. I look at other women differently now, and feel guilty about that. “Other women”. They aren’t really other now, as there is no-one for them to be other to. It’s just that, even though Jane is gone, our relationship feels far from over. In fact it feels only just begun.

Here is the poem, or excerpt from a poem, that Liz Bayliss (from from Whitireia Polytech) copied into the remembrance book for Jane:

     The art of walking upright here
     Is the art of using both feet.

     One is for holding on.
     One is for letting go.

           Glen Colquhoun

Since Thursday, my good days have been alternating with my bad days. That means tomorrow is a bad one. The day I try to go back to work. Though I know to be gentle with myself, I know my work itself will take a lot of letting go, once it starts to engage me again. I know that I resent that Pit when I slide into it. And I know that the bottom of that Pit, nasty and lonely as it is, is a healing place.

Jane is Dead: One Week In

OK movie posts are over. For now. I have a lot of processing to do and I’m going to do some of it by writing. Some of that I’m going to do here.

Yes, as the title says, my Lovely, Beautiful Jane is Dead. She died a week ago on Saturday, 23 July, peacefully while she slept next to me. There’s a notice on the Spears Family Website.

Today I felt terrible. Almost all day. It was lovely to have Elsie and Ed around. They were kind to me. I can accept that, when they freely give me nurturing. Jacqui came in the morning and we went to Elsie’s hockey. That hurt. There was no Jane loyally attending every hockey game with me and shouting “Go Harewood!”. I enjoyed being with Jacqui, talking about my process while she listened. Hearing about hers, and about Maddie and Simon.

The “What If?” question has been bugging me badly today. What if I’d said “Are you alright, Jane?”. And then just the twisted gut feeling of loss. Jane gone. A thousand small reminders of Jane each day. Each one like a plaster being pulled off. Yesterday, I had a better day. Today I feel like I’m paying for that. “Hanging On and Letting Go”

There were people around but I wasn’t up to talking with them. Just retreating into myself to feel the pain. Learning “the Song that is Playing at the Bottom of the Pit”. Hanna tidied up and refreshed all the flowers. Thank you Hanna, you angel.

This last week has been the most painful of my life. My loss of Jane came so suddenly and was so great that it almost completely overwhelmed me. All of the amazing people that were here loving and holding me couldn’t make it any better. If they hadn’t been here, tho, I don’t know that I would have survived it. It has also been the most profoundly magical week of my life. A “Festival of Love” that touched everyone who came in contact with it.

Kate and Walter were the last ones here. We talked long and easily together. I talked through with them much of what I have hinted at in this post. We talked about the funeral that seemed so like a wedding. About my experience of deep love, the joining of the two groups of family, friends and workmates in celebration of Jane, and of our relationship and how both had affected them all, the ending of Jane in death and the living on of the relationship, somehow despite that. “Now that Death Has Us Parted”

I know that I have a lot of letting go to do and a lot of holding on. That’s why I’m writing: to give myself time and opportunity to do both those things. I’d like to write some of the story of the relationship that Jane and I created. “Danger, Love Ahead” is a title for that.


Manic deutsch duo Herzog and Kinski shot this in five days (in 1979) both knackered from just having finished shooting Nosferatu. Rumour has it that for the opening scene, Kinski instructed the actr playing the drill sergeant (?) not to both staging the kicking but to just go ahead and actually kick him. Is this method acting?

Either way, as in Fitzcarraldo, the fact of them making this movie casts their real-life selves as characters not unlike those they are portraying (ie mad bastards).

Redeeming them might be some sense that this film makes in the context of German theatre, film, expresssionism and culture. It isn’t much fun. It’s certainly not light. If you don’t think it’s packing a punch, you pretty soon realise that it is.

Must now watch: “Nosferatu: Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht” (Herzog & Kinski in 1979), “Nosferatu” (FW Murnau in 1922), “Metrolpolis” (Fritz Lang, expressionist), “the Cabinet of Dr Caligari” (also expressionist), Madame Dubary (ditto).