Everyone else, are you still with me, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin.
Grief is the price we pay for love
The title is a quote from The Queen. I am neither pro or anti monarchy, but whenever I feel grief about losing someone/something special in my life I remind myself of this quote. June is always a hard time for me, 1 June is the anniversary of Dad’s death, and two weeks later on 15 June it’s Fathers Day.
It surprises me how physically the feeling of grief can be felt. It’s like a physical blow to the heart, I often find, at the most inopportune moments.
I’ve also had two recent losses, hitting me like a hammer each time. I felt the grief pushing down on my chest and I could hardly breathe.
I will explain, using a story – which makes sense since I’m an author. I’m not sharing this to get sympathy, and I know many other people have experienced much sadder losses, of children, partners or siblings, and many people have been carers for relatives.
I am sharing this because the grief anyone feels is real, and is because they have loved. Even if the grief is for a pet, and for an elderly relative who had undeniably, ‘had a good innings’ it is still real grief.
I don’t think we talk about death and grief enough, so this, inspired by the amazing Channel 4 documentary, My Last Summer #mylastsummer is my attempt at starting something.
I think you don’t ever fully get over grief, you just learn to live with it.
*opens first page of book*
Liam came home from a sweaty Tube journey to find a heavy bill from the specialist vet and another envelope from a pet cremation service. He opened them both and sat, hardly able to breathe, reading them thinking he’d better make some dinner soon, and wondered when James, his boyfriend, would be home.
Liam sat next to his mum in the registrar’s office in Essex, as a friendly woman called Sharon, with bright pink nails, silver jewellery and a low-cut black sleeveless top went over the details of the deceased for the death certificate.
‘Do you do weddings too?’ Liam asked.
‘Weddings and births yes. So it’s not all sad.’ Sharon flicked her long blonde hair and adjusted the silver cross round her neck; her silver bangles reflected the sunlight coming through the window. She explained they use special registrar’s ink for signing the certificates.
Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a man called Liam Livings. In 2002 he went to a night club in London. A man called James sat next to Liam, mistakenly thinking Liam was with James’ group of friends. Liam wasn’t, but they talked about music, TV, films, life and ended up dancing to I think We’re Alone Now, by Tiffany.
In 2008 Liam and James moved from their central London flats to a house in suburban west Essex. Liam started to help look after Great Auntie, visiting her every week.
In January 2012 James was worried that Toffee hadn’t come in for the evening as usual. The next day James looked for Toffee and found him, dead in a ditch on the other side of the road outside their house. Toffee was seven years old and Liam and James had adopted him two years before.
In July 2012 Sparkle was hit by a car and died almost instantly. Sparkle was three years old and had been part of Liam and James’ family for five months. Liam and James thought that having been a stray Sparkle would have road sense.
Liam and James had all the treatment the vets suggested, regardless of cost. They just wanted him well and home.
The cat they still have, Domino, is now a house cat. He has a six feet high cat climbing tree. He is allowed into the back garden with a lead and harness, and seems to be adapting well to this change. This is not something James thought he’d be happy with, but it is a compromise and life is about compromises.
It was a big day at Livings Towers when the back door with the catflap was replaced with a new door without a cat flap. It felt very final, but Liam and James didn't feel they had any other options.
*closes page of book*
I think that's enough for today. Next time I will be talking about how the loss of Great Auntie feels.
Liam Livings xx