Shakespeare devils sit high-cheekboned in the corner of campus, leering and laughing, loud. Too loud, for some, for some not enough to drown the sound of grief. He died at ten forty-five, that’s a quarter before eleven, a quarter minute to make the call and a half second to realise that someone’s left the world. I’ve been waiting for it all weekend.
Insidious the cancer shivered, weaved itself into a tapestry of life and lung and liver. Riddled, not pleasantly, with it - and also questions why it happened and why it wouldn’t stop. But even the best intentions pave the way, so Milton said: there was a path to hell, even from the gates of heaven. He never partook of unleavened bread so according to the Mighty One on High there can be no resurrection.
He went to the office until the day he died. Retired at eighty three, from all he’d ever been. Range-rover lover, fan of corned beef and sardine eggs, beach walks and silver smoke cigarillos. He taught me how to shoot a pistol, smiled when I missed and couldn’t taste a damn thing. Considering a green marrow and raw mince moment on the part of his wife, it was maybe a blessing in disguise. There were owl statues in the hallway, and he knew each garden creature like he’d raised them from the ground. The badgers loved his jam sandwiches.
Curious, Sorrow sits as a grey companion, mourning more than you remember – why would you hurt so, if the memories that sit in your skin are so fragmented, sibilant and seductive, calling you to flirt with tears or guilt? Surely grief recalls more than you do and begs the question: is life exalted in death or vice versa, does the pomegranate grow in us before we consign ourselves to Persephone (which is funny, because I always figured her for a drip anyway)?
So many literary greats are regular Khalil Gibrans: good old Hamlet and his musings and soggy Ophelia, R+J, lost in themselves to the exclusion of sanity, Macbeth and his carmine split-lip splendour – all candles, flickering afflicted, in one long draughty night. Longing for gloried shadows of themselves, their ghosts withstand the tests of time, but at the end of the day, they weren’t my Grandfather. He wore tartan trews every time he came to Scotland and carried a picture of my Granny on their wedding day in his wallet all the days of his life.
She still doesn’t know about it.
It takes the dead to make the living worth it. Dusk will always hold more secrets than the Dawn. We will always mourn: those who are left behind. I will always want to hold his hand in mine one last time.