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The emptiness of Father’s Day

18 Jun

Its Father’s Day here in the UK today. All day long my social media feed has filled with messages from doting children talking about how great their fathers are, or how much they miss their dead dads. Friends and relatives closer to my age are celebrating recent births and there’s hardly a bad word to be spoken.

My own relationship with my father is frequently fraught, long-time readers know this already. But it is my own status that leaves me a little torn up as each father’s day passes.

I’m not a father. I haven’t passed on my genes into a miniature person. I’m still very much alone in the world, and while that’s mostly okay, its also a little sad. I’ve been a stepfather, I am a godparent, I am an uncle. But it isn’t the same. Every father’s day I find myself dwelling on the children I didn’t have. Not the decision to not reproduce, but a series of miscarriages between me and partners. I’ve talked very little about this publicly over the years out of a desire to protect myself, and the other people involved. Not all the incidents as it turns out were pregnancies at all, and that has left its own mental scars. But at least one seems to have been an actual foetus that terminated its journey. I’m still reeling from that if I’m honest.

We talk so much (and rightly) about women’s experiences with miscarriages – they are the nurturing vessel that protects the developing child, and the ones with the most intimate bond. But we too often forget that fathers-to-be have a place in the stories too. The knowledge that we created a life that came and went too quick, is overpowering. I wept, wandered confused, completely stricken by the events that unfolded for me. Looking to confide and talk to a partner that was also trying to deal with the situation in her own way. I still wonder what might have come of the relationship and that family unit had events not overtook us. I wonder was that my last chance at bringing a life into the world with someone I actually trusted and cared for, and knew would be a good mother. It wasn’t in the life plan at that stage for either of us, but I am sure we would have made it work.

The only way to keep going seems to be to push it to one side. To bury the feelings that a conversation about it encourages. I’ve had to write off biological fatherhood in my head, as something that simply isn’t for me. The reality is, that after being lied to, to then go through the whole process again with someone who was being open and sincere, I’m not sure I could cope again. One day I guess I’ll have that conversation with the person I need to.

So Father’s Day – the day that reminds me that I’ve failed at being a dad. Meh.

 

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The thing about the movies… 

19 Dec
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The thing about the movies is they perpetuate an impossible promise about people. They suggest that hope doesn’t die,  that redemption is always possible and reconciliation is only a meaningful glance away.

They tell us it’s OK to bombard and harass our exes to get their attention. They teach us that we should never take no for an answer. They delude us into a belief that there is one magical moment in which our futures are clinched.

Loneliness is a temporary state and secret admirers are waiting for us to see they exist. Friends are waiting to bed us if we’d only look up. Mistakes happen and are admitted. Lessons are learned. Changes are made. And everyone gets a happy ever after.

They don’t teach us the real pain of rejection. The crippling agony of feeling for someone until it hurts and them feeling nothing back. The way a photograph,  a sound,  a scent sends us into a spiral of pain.

All those happy endings tell us pain is an illusion, worth it,  that we’ll find release and understanding. But that’s not always life.

Films may give us a warm sensation of acceptance, and optimism,  but they don’t warm our beds or our bodies. They don’t satisfy the craving for mental and physical stimulation. When they end, we can hit replay and experience it all over again. When our relationships end we can’t do that – we can spot the things we did wrong,  what should change,  but we don’t get a second shot,  no matter how strongly we feel about it.

So much of actual life involves the absence of hope. We’re programmed to think we’ll get what we want,  a perfect partner, one who accepts us and who we can feel for completely. Life is about compromise and imperfect people and chance. Chances are you won’t find a happy ever after,  you’ll be let down by those you focus on.

I’ve stopped hoping. I’m still feeling. I ache. But it doesn’t matter. No words from well-meaning friends and observers can mend me. Time doesn’t heal – it just lets you remember differently: perhaps you’ll forget, maybe you’ll remember. For a while I was alive – more intensely, more fully than ever before. Now I am as Cesare, sleeping through my existence. I want to feel again. I try to feel. But no conversation, no interaction, no thought hits me in the same way. I have loved before, but it was not this.

I heard a voice in the darkness and my brain fired up, every spot on my skull spluttering into life, a cacophony of sound and sensation. A Vertov stimulus. A euphoric beginning that builds but gets no release. A nitrate fire fills my head, and nobody can prevent the combustion.

Being gaslit was easier than this pain. This pain that will not end. That I cannot control. That leaves me spent.

Cinema teaches us to be voyeurs, to watch complicit other people’s relationships, to engage vicariously with their worlds. But that is not this one, a world in which we have ceased communications, in which my name is no longer on your lips, in which our time isn’t even a memory. I am the spectator, unable to view, forced to replay the memory of a past, seeking a conclusion denied, a sequel impossible. These remakes and reboots are pale imitations, the casting feels wrong. There’s no chemistry on the screen. The characters lack conviction.

I don’t want to be a script doctor, helping other people’s stories flow. I want my own story, my own happy ending. I’d take the grief if I thought that was next. From childhood the screen says: boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl back again. This act 2 has fallen flat, I thought you needed space to make your own film, but we should have stopped sizing each other up and just collaborated. I know there will be no act 3 for me, and I sit in the theatre, watching a darkened screen with tears cascading down my cheeks. I accept everything about you, I love it all, I see your potential and I’m proud. I wish you could see and accept mine; I’m worth the investment – the hard work has been done already. No cinematic edits to colour the narrative needed – I relish every frame of the rushes, the raw material from which something magical is constructed.

No blue pages to take account of my changes, no pink to rework the ending, no yellow to line up the next installment. Oh for a romantic comedy to accompany our heartfelt drama. But its all dreams, fantasy and wishful thinking and no amount of rewriting can change your mind…

 

Trigger me this Facebook

16 Nov
A LIFE magazine still for Hans Richter's film Dreams That Money Can Buy (1946)

A LIFE magazine still for Hans Richter’s film Dreams That Money Can Buy (1946)

Trauma and depression are difficult enough to live with, the scars left by episodes remain raw no matter how long the healing has been. The tiniest scratch and the wound starts weeping. Before you know it, you’ve been transported back to another place and another episode is in full flow. At least that’s my experience.

You will no doubt be familiar with the idea that certain smells in particular can transport you back into your memory banks – that waft of perfume as you walk along the street, an odour in a restaurant – but it isn’t unique to scent. Images and sounds can do the same thing. I’ve written before about the importance of memory and images, and there are songs that take me back to very specific moments in my youth and revitalise long-forgotten feelings. While this can be a therapeutic and pleasant experience for those of us who have lived with abuse, or suffered mental breakdowns, memory is a tricky terrain to negotiate.

Social media is rich with trigger potential. Many of us share the sort of insights into our private lives that a decade ago would have been deemed inappropriate. We detail our travels, our partners, our dinners, our very bowel movements. Go far enough back into our public profiles and we’ll find traces of a life we’ve moved on from – our younger selves, warts and all.

Facebook in particular provides a daily digest of memories without any sort of filtration system at all. Their ‘On This Day‘ brings up posts you made or were tagged in on/around today’s date in years gone past. Among the cute pictures of animals and family and work outings are things I don’t wish to recall, let alone reshare with those around me. This time of year it turns out is packed full of them, and those Facebook memories are at least partly responsible for triggering my last break down.

I like to recall nice memories, but I’ve been on social media long enough now that there are also memories of previous partners and my lives with them, which played out at least partly in a public/semi-public sphere. Friends/spectators will recall at least some of the drama, but generally have the good decency not to bring it up when we meet. Unlike Facebook, which deems it appropriate to regale me with anecdotes from not only the partners I remain fond of, but also those I am not.

Today’s memories include jaunts to London (no change there then), moving house, publicity on the magazine I edited that I later learned was being published by two con-artists, photos of my abusive partner and examples of comments that might have come across to some as wit, but which read now like mild examples of the abusive treatment I lived with for too long.

I cannot completely avoid this. I’ve untagged myself from various things, made other images and posts private. But I also have issues with denying the past ever happened. Much of it is a matter of public record anyway, so editing seems somehow disrespectful and false. And unhelpful to my healing. Being reminded of the shit that was foisted upon me simply serves to strengthen my resolve, but there is a cost. Some of the memories trigger further memories and its frightening. I don’t want to delete my profile and start again because within the memories of abuse there are also stories of friendships past, loved ones lost and much positivity – how to balance that? A friend of mine with very similar experiences simply deleted their profile completely – too overwhelming was the triggers from the past, the negative memories. For me doing that would remove what little good I had from my own period of abuse and would run counter to my policy of being open as a coping mechanism.

If I’m completely frank, I fucking hate this. I never know which memories are going to be revived on which days. I don’t know which will trigger a period of negative association. Sometimes I can see a photo from then and its fine. Other days, I’ve encountered other triggers and the cumulative effect becomes too much to handle. My abuser has always denied any form of abuse took place (a common practice with abusers it seems). But images provoke strong memories from me. And sometimes the words, photos, video, audio files support my memory of events which causes even more triggers.

Immediately before I had my most recent breakdown I had been going through old files. A bunch of Facebook memories had started the process, then I came across a set of old photographs – images in that tricky area of not being enough to set off a trigger by themselves, but in association with other data they do. And then there were the recordings – listening to my own voice filled with terror and anxiety, voice mails left by my abuser – I daren’t even contemplate it deeply because of how they set me off last time. That narrative I have repeatedly been told (by my abuser) that suggests I am a fabricator of facts, quickly vanishes and accompanied by solid proof I recall exactly how things were. How alone and fragile and scared I was. How vulnerable it has made me today.

Our social media accounts are usually rife with false positivity. We cultivate an online image that presents ourself in our best light. We admit to our successes and over-egg minor achievements and ignore our failings, our stresses, our depressions. Consequently when the shit hits the fan, those around us sit bewildered by the sudden change. The late Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner used to remind audiences that ‘the memory cheats’, and the same can be true of Facebook memories. The false positivity can ignore much of the problems, and the casual observer might be lulled back into a false sense of nostalgia and lost hope. In an instance of an abusive partner they might forget the problems with drink or drugs, they might overlook the coercive controlling behaviour, and almost certainly will never find a trace of the physical abuses suffered. We forget the warning signs and we end up repeating our mistakes, and push away those who offer an alternative. Certainly I’m scared of those in whom I recognise myself – but they’re the only people who really get it, because they’ve lived it and neither they nor I wish to suffer like that again. Others can be sympathetic, but they lack the true empathy needed to keep us strong.

My own social media history fluctuates between the brave face of positivity – and I can usually tell when I’ve been coerced into posting something vaguely positive – and out and out cries for help. I’ve seen them come up in my feed before – moments where I’ve been threatened, where I’m struggling to make sense of a relationship spiraling downwards. Times where I’ve outed myself before some dark aspect of myself is utilised as a weapon against me. It still happens. I’m free of my abuser, but not their impact on my life. So afraid have I been that I’ve been overprotective of myself, family and potential partners. Just when I think I’m okay again, Facebook reminds me of what I went through at their hands and why I remain on my guard.

For someone who has made his professional life based around the past and nostalgia I am at a loss for how to proceed with my own past – particularly one which social media has decreed I must recall when I really don’t want to. Deletion is denial. It absolves those who persecute our thoughts. Admission provokes anxiety, tension and further depression.

Punctum II: Locale

18 Jan
image for my upcoming exhibition 'In Plain Sight'

Image for my upcoming exhibition ‘In Plain Sight’

In May I will present my first solo photography exhibition, ‘In Plain Sight’. While finalising the list of works which will be on display is still some way off, I’ve been dipping into my archive of images from the last decade, revisiting photos I haven’t looked at in years (and in some instances, ever). Naturally, not everything was conceived with any artistic view – photographers and artists are as likely to take candid snapshots for personal consumption as anyone else. But in doing so, I must take a journey back to when and where many of the images were taken. There are thematically linked works around death and hurt – some will be shared, some will not. But at times, even the most aesthetically pleasing and happy image has cause to wound me – for every image hides a story.

Three years ago, physically sick with stress, and trapped in a space with no heating and only my dog for company, I packed up the last of my things and formally walked out on everything that made me unhappy and began on the real and metaphorical road to recovery and healing. There are images created during the worst days of my life which are among those I am proud of – moments of inspiration, visual notes for projects not yet begun.

The memories stirred by images may hurt, but the images themselves cannot – they record what was, not what is, not what will be.

Just as meaning can be placed upon a two dimensional image, a representation of a past reality, so too then can meaning be placed upon three dimensional spaces – actual present embodiment of past reality. Unlike images, spaces live and combine visuals with audio and aromatic cues. The combination can be overwhelming, and a much surer way to put one back mentally into a previous life experience. Where trauma existed in those spaces, a revisitation can be catastrophic.

I believe in constantly creating new memories, new images, new associations. Life is organic, transitional, evolving.

Cycling through County Down today I found myself whizzing along a route that used to form my daily commute. A road which led to unhappy memories. And yet I found myself content in the quiet countryside, exhilarated with the exercise, surprisingly safe in the space. I allowed myself to recall the reasons I was attracted to moving out here in the first place, the days of solitude that brought temporary serenity to me.

Over the last decade I have turned some of my worst days into positive ones by saddling up and setting forth on two wheels by my own steam throughout the Northern Irish countryside. Often with my camera secure in my panniers. Rather than feelings of fear, oppression, I clicked with the joy of escapism, revitalised. Out of the lion of the past came forth honey.

And so I return to my images, my photos, and my memories, and with the confirmation of experience, I am not afraid.

A biographer or family historian of the future may see my (or your) photos, and make connections, assumptions, interpretations. Perhaps they see something there that means nothing to you, or perhaps they hit upon some thread that you bury in your subconscious. Why has the photographer returned to a scene of trauma? Is it because they are looking for answers, unfinished business perhaps? Or is it simply because the past is no longer poisoned, and a new book has begun?

Annadorn Dolmen - Jan 2016

Annadorn Dolmen – Jan 2016

The Avengers and Me

26 Jun

As a teenager in the 1990s my bedroom walls were, like many, plastered in images taken from popular culture. Only mine were a little out of step with the time. The ceiling was covered in Doctor Who imagery, and on the walls were posters of Christopher Lee as Dracula, and a very large collage I’d put together of Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in The Avengers. A show which aired some thirty years previously.

I first stumbled on The Avengers during the early 90s, when Channel 4 reran the show on Thursday nights sometime around 11pm. After I came home from my weekly Boys Brigade evenings, I’d sit up doing my homework with the tv on in the background. I had it timed that I would finish just before The Avengers started, and I’d watch it immediately before bed. Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman played the stylish spies embroiled in an unceasing string of subterfuges. They had great screen presence, and I loved the slightly surreal stories they took us through.

In time Channel 4 took to repeating the Diana Rigg episodes, and later the Linda Thorson ones, while over on BBC2 the under-rated 1970s revival The New Avengers got an airing (albeit out of its proper order). I’d acquired a VCR by the time of the Rigg repeats, and dutifully taped the run, watching and rewatching over the following years. The shows got stranger, and yet more convincing. I developed adolescent crushes on Blackman, Rigg and Thorson (I did admit the latter to Thorson when I met her years later at an event in Birmingham, and instantly flushed scarlet).

Through it all was the singularly solid performance of Patrick Macnee, the old Etonian, exemplifying a caricature of the English upper-class. A dapper dresser – pin strip suits, chelsea boots, bowler hat, ruffled umbrella and flower in his button hole. A little more ‘of society’ than Connery’s Bond ever was, this was someone who would exchange witty banter while wrestling a ruffian and quaffing gallons of champagne – a role model indeed.

Patrick Macnee as John Steed in 'The Undertakers' episode of The Avengers in 1963 - note the revolver.

Patrick Macnee as John Steed in ‘The Undertakers’ episode of The Avengers in 1963 – note the revolver.

There’s a myth perpetuated by Macnee that Steed was in marked contrast to Bond and would never carry a gun. And while its true that he would more inventively use his brolly and bowler hat (which was frequently shown to be steel plated), in the early days in particular, Steed would carry a revolver as the job required. The emphasis though was on ingenuity. And Macnee, a dashing dresser but not exactly matinee idol material with his full face, became a sort of sex symbol – aided no doubt by the succession of attractive actresses that played alongside him.

The show left a mark on my consciousness and I freely admit that there were little things that I picked up as a direct result of digesting the show so regularly. Those early episodes contributed to a slight leather fetish, and those images of Rigg in ‘A Touch of Brimstone’ set my pubescent heart a flutter. I think I took a little more care in how I dressed at the time, and certainly after I left school I retained a touch of dandy in my dress sense, and can’t help but think of Steed when I’m out in inclement weather with my umberdoodle. Such are the gentle influences of a classic television series.

Patrick Macnee made the part effortlessly cool, sailing through scenes with a mischievous glint in his eye. With Rigg as Mrs Peel they demonstrated possibly the finest run of sexual tension ever – with a hinted at but never confirmed sense of romantic entanglement. And when Macnee stepped back a little for The New Avengers, we felt his absence – the show was always much better when he had a decent chunk of the action.

And so with Patrick Macnee’s death at the age of 93 an era has passed, but the influence of the show will continue to be felt for years to come (there was a little Steed in Colin Firth’s recent stint in Kingsman), and Macnee’s status is surely secured as one of the great British icons of the 20th century.

Wintertime Love

14 Dec

A couple of weeks back I was chatting with a friend about our experiences of the dating scene, and they happened to suggest that this time of year is perfect for finding a potential mate. The colder, darker nights and run up to Christmas seem to encourage folk to put themselves back out there – something about new years and fresh starts.

A fair enough proposal, but one I was somewhat more cynical about. It strikes me that December and January are as likely to see a relationship end as to begin. After all, all that fresh meat must be coming from somewhere – I find it hard to believe they spend the entire year happy in a solitary state before bursting forth with the dying days of the current 365-day cycle.

I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to start a relationship in December. With Christmas looming there’s going to be an expectation for gift-giving at a time when you’re still just beginning to get to know your new beau. That’s potentially a lot of additional pressure. And spending small fortunes to impress and then being promptly dumped as January is ushered in is a rather bleak prospect.

I’m jaded though. My first ever girlfriend proper was a wintertime romance. We’d met I think in the September and were dating by October. Because she was my first its tempting to be a bit more rose-tinted about the whole affair. It was as intense as anything I’d experienced before and for six weeks or so we had (I thought) a great time. As December ushered in though she set off for foreign climes with her family, departing on a lingering kiss and promises to stay in touch.

I think I might have given her a letter before we parted. I wrote endless letters in those days, something I don’t do nearly enough now. At any rate, a week or so later I received the distinctive thin blue envelope of an Airmail delivery, and devoured the pages of teenage longing. It was all very positive, and I’ve still got the letter in a box of old correspondence somewhere.

I dutifully wrote back. Fortunately I don’t remember a huge deal of the content, but it was no doubt overdone with promises of love and commitment at a time when I didn’t fully understand the tinglings in my loins. It also didn’t help that I was very fond of quoting poems and song lyrics in my letters, often not really understanding the innuendo that was contained therein. I know that at least one lady received a note with bits of Monty Python’s “Sit on my Face” scribbled in my precise penmanship! Oh dear… I mean, I get it now, but then I didn’t understand. I can only apologise for my inadvertant smut-peddling retrospectively.

With that in mind, you won’t be surprised to know that when she came home I was met not with a “Honey, I’m home” phonecall, but instead a pronounced silence. I’m pretty sure I wrote back trying to get a response… In the end it was a mutual friend who let me know that I’d been quietly dumped. While all my friends copped off with her friends, I was left unspent on the reject pile.

So winter loves to me seem to be full of promise, excitement and anticipation, only to leave one dissatisfied. A bit like so many Christmas presents…

A Parting of the Ways – part 1

24 Sep

Parting is such sweet sorrow. Or so Shakespeare says.

Certainly, even with the various warnings we’d had over the last couple of years, I wasn’t quite prepared to part. As I’d gotten to know more about my grandfather’s life, I’d come to know his personality again, and we’d shifted the balance slightly. There were times when I felt he was talking to a friend rather than a grandchild, though that may simply have been because I was finally of an age he could relate openly to. Or perhaps it was because I was paying close attention to everything he said to me, jotting down facts and interesting points for further exploration.

When it came to it, I didn’t say goodbye while he was alive. I couldn’t, it just seemed so absolute that to do so would have been drawing a firm line under his life. When we visited at home, we always assured him we’d be back to see him soon, to which he would remind us in that mid-Antrim brogue of his “The door’s ae open”. In hospital, I simply told him I’d be back shortly.

Once he’d passed I tried talking to him, but it seemed strange. I’ve talked to myself since childhood, so that isn’t particularly new for me, but the absence of his spirit was so pronounced it felt more like talking into a vacuum.

From death, the actual goodbyes become symbolic. Its important to make sure one gets a proper goodbye in person – on the phone, or face to face. My own proper goodbye came a few weeks earlier, in person. It felt like a parting then, and history proved it to be so. But for the wider circle of family and friends we must come together to see them off together.

In talking about these personal experiences at all, I’m aware there are those that will regard it as a somewhat dubious task to undertake. For me, this is a way of processing my grief – the scale of which I’ve not previously encountered. He is the first close family member I have lost in my 33 years. I’m an adult dealing with something many first do in childhood. There is much that I’m choosing to keep private, but others may be going through similar experiences and may find a comfort here. I guess that’s the hope at any rate.

The funeral is for most people a public affair. One doesn’t have a guest list in the way that one does at a wedding. A book of condolence on display at the funeral home records many of those in attendance, but that isn’t surveyed until after the fact. Anybody could walk in and claim knowledge of the deceased, or a close family member, and it wouldn’t be questioned.

But it is also something of an exclusive occasion. Only the handfuls present really fathom what has gone on, and it isn’t that unusual to find attendance dwindles as the deceased gets older. We were fortunate in that a number of individuals made the trip out of respect and to show support to my grandmother, uncles and other family members. Granda seemed to strike a chord with many of those he met, even briefly. Some arrived after many years apart. All were welcome.

We’d talked about the funeral before he died. I’d tried talking about arrangements and so on in years past, but he acted as though as I was writing him off before his time. As I explained, if he had certain wishes it would be sensible to make them known and put them down on paper so we did the right thing. In the end, we had to question him in hospital and were able to ascertain one thing – his intention to be buried in the family plot in Portglenone.

I’ve always wondered what happens when someone dies. It seems a lot can be left to the funeral director. This takes much of the pressure off the family, who are in many cases novices to the whole dying business.

Once I’d had time to accept the events of the morning, I made a call to the 24 hour number for the funeral parlour so details could start being defined. As a family, we discussed and negotiated with the Derry-based funeral director just hours after Granda passed. They were efficient and friendly, and put us at ease. Only minor problems were posed while taking into account the various views of the family – with a series of compromises facilitated. Timings, locations, rough order of service and choice of coffin were all finalised. The only thing that I never heard mention was the cost of it all – a week after we buried him, I have no real idea how much the process has cost his estate. And we were relatively modest.

The first goodbye came in the form of the death notice. A formal announcement to the citizens of NI that Robert/Bob/Hubert had passed and the arrangements for the funeral and burial. He’d have appreciated his notice appearing in the Newsletter on the Monday alongside the notices for Ian Paisley. Both were mid-Antrim men in their 80s. Paisley had died on the Friday, Granda on the Sunday. Paisley celebrated his birthday the day before Granda (although was three years older). [I’ve often wondered if Paisley encountered the evangelistic preachers in my own family before he started his ministry – something I’ll never know for sure.] The death notice is simple, detailing children and their spouses, grand-children, great-grand-children as being principle mourners. You could do it yourself, though the Funeral Director will add this to his tasks.

Most newspapers will publish their death notices online too. We were asked if we wanted an online memorial page, but that wasn’t Granda’s scene at all – I’m not sure he ever went online, though he did Skype on occasion. I suppose when I go, someone might write something vaguely complimentary on my Facebook page. And other people will lie about their connection to me, and yet more will tell you I was an utter shit. But that’s how people remember the deceased. One doesn’t take that into account when planning a funeral.

The Funeral Directors also pick up the body from the hospital and prepare it for viewing. We elected not to have him at home for various reasons. Instead he rested in an ante-room at the funeral parlour where pre-arranged friends and family could visit. I called twice – on the Monday and then on the morning of the funeral. Seeing the body at rest in the coffin one is struck by the absence of self. The energy that existed around him while he was alive – even when dying – is now utterly absent. Unlike some bodies, I thought he looked more like himself than he had down for quite a while, but ultimately he wasn’t there.

Attitudes towards whether one should touch or even kiss the deceased vary between individuals. I can’t say what the best response is – those who don’t sometimes regret not making a final contact, and some that do are haunted by the change. For me, the certainty of absence has been affirmed by the stone-cold touch of the body in repose. I can understand where the detachment can sink in. How can I love this shell, when the man is no longer present? It may look like him, but this is no longer my grandfather. I didn’t want to embrace him, hold him, talk to him, because he no longer existed, just the shell he inhabited. There were no farewells here.

The main goodbye is the funeral itself…

to be continued….