I don't often receive phone messages from my dear friends in the UK. They are facebook averse and communicate mainly through email so when I got the message to call, I knew it was going to be bad.
We did not see it coming.
Dear Friend 1 and I have known each other for 24 years. We met in the early days of parenthood; I can't actually recall the exact occasion, but it was early. The kids were still in those baby capsules we carted them about in. I had met Dear Friend 1's partner through baby massage classes and then in one of those complex webs of connection that happen in small cities, been introduced to Dear Friend 2 and his partner through mutual friends V and D and probably Dear Friend1 at the same time. We formed a tight knit group supporting each other through all those early minefields of child rearing, with good food, good company and the occasional glass of wine.
This group were my lifeline. They became like family. Even this year as I visited the UK I said to them that after 16 years in Adelaide I still felt more loved and accepted coming to Southampton and meeting up with them.
L-R:Dear Friend 2, Dear Friend 1's partner, Dear Friend 1, Dear Friend 2's partner and me. NYE 2018-19
DF1 was in good form, if a little slower and enjoying semi retirement. We only caught up a couple of times as I had opted for a shorter trip but we hugged goodbye and were pleased to acknowledge that, given my Mum's condition, I would be there next Christmas as well.
"See you next Christmas!"
When I learned he had gone, my first thought was how much I would miss him.
I can still hear his laugh, still feel his energy and vitality.
So many of his wise words still echo in my brain.
Christmas Eve 2018
In the morning I awoke to realise I would never again receive my annual CD of the best music he'd discovered in the past year. I have 17 of these CDs. With liner notes.
His loss is mind numbing and gut wrenching and world shaking. But he has a partner.
Somewhere in my own grief I have to make room for hers.
And here are the twin strands of grief. How do I help, love and support my dear friend in her massive loss, whilst wrestling with my own?
A number of times recently, I have succumbed to the bottle and ended up sending wine smeared, self indulgent messages to her, reflecting my grief, only to wake up and feel awful for inflicting that upon her.
How to navigate this?
I am clueless. I am also 12,000 miles away so I can't bring her a casserole, not that casseroles are my strength.
This morning (her time) I called and we had a good conversation. She is vague and in shock, struggling to make day to day decisions and to keep herself moving forward. I managed to stay calm and (relatively) upbeat, affirming her feelings, sharing memories that had us both giggling and commiserating over animals who will not play the 'bodily functions go outdoors' game. After I got off the phone I howled again. Long and hard.
I'm just not sure how to do this.