I am 28 years old, and up until now there have been three times in my life where somebody has died, somebody I have felt connected to, somebody with whom I am left lamenting words which were left unsaid.
My father died when I was almost seven years old, murdered by persons unknown for reasons unknown. Most of the immediate emotional reactions I seem to have blocked from my memory, perhaps because I was too young at the time, perhaps because it was such a long, drawn out affair; he was missing for two months before he was found. Despite this, I know that there were many things unsaid between us, and it bothers me that I remember so little of a man who went to great lengths to kiss me goodnight every evening when he returned from work; trying so hard not to wake me while I tried so hard to pretend that I wasn't awake past my bedtime. This still haunts me today.
It was thankfully twenty long years before I had to experience loss again, this time a close friend from whom I had regrettably grown apart. At one point, and very briefly, she had become more than a friend, but this came to an end when she began traveling around the world. Facebook messages flew between us to begin with, but when she settled in Thailand as a teacher and I began a new job at home in London they grew more and more infrequent.
Last year I sat down on my lunch break at work, opened the newspaper and saw her pretty, wide-grinned face smiling out at me from page 5 of The Sun. She had tragically drowned while swimming in India. I grieved, I shed a tear, I revived my long-dead facebook account to leave a message on her profile page, partly for myself and partly to let her parents know how much her daughter had meant to others. It was here that I realised that the last message between us had been from her, it ended with a question, and a message of 'I love hearing from friends in the UK, it can be lonely here'. This still haunts me today.
My aunt lost a long, drawn-out battle with cancer last year and I still remember her last words to me, 'bye Ben'. Whispered from her bed as I walked from the room having kissed her my final kiss goodbye. At the time, I hadn't heard her say it, I had assumed she was asleep. I was informed by my mother the next day that after my departure she had become agitated, continually asking her sister to check whether I had heard what she had said. She was afraid, like me, afraid of leaving words unsaid. After a phone call to me and a compassionate lie on my part, she was re-assured that I had heard her. This still haunts me today.
I joined Everything2 some time ago now, long fascinated by the website and it's users, by it's long-steeped history and almost nostalgic, echoing halls of personal literature. I posted some average write-ups before getting caught up in other things, new jobs, new friends, and my visits became more and more infrequent, my write-ups even more so. One user, however, sent me a wonderful message of welcome, praising my first piece, offering advice, offering to be a mentor. We exchanged a few messages on a few occasions. I suspect, once again, that the last message was from her, left unreplied.
Today, on one of my infrequent visits, I found out that she had tragically passed away. Somebody that I had never met, but whose kindness I had felt. Somebody whose life interconnected with mine ever so briefly in the form of a few kind messages on a faceless internet website. Somebody who reached out to help me for the love of a community, somebody whose writings I have just spent hours pouring over and whose writing talent, honesty, bravery and sheer strength has just taught me something that before now I had never realised : that there is nothing to be left unsaid, nothing to be haunted by.
I now realise that there are infinite things that can be said between two people and infinite things that never will. There is no sense in being haunted by words that were never spoken when what is most important is to remember and savor the words which were.
When you lose somebody, the only fact that really matters is that in this lonely universe, you both existed together at the same moment in time and that, however closely, your lives were intrinsically connected.
There is a certain beauty in the fact that any relationship between two people is now a part of history; no matter what happens from now until the end of time, that fact will never change.
in memoriam - Dad, Aunty Di, Christina & Grundoon