Monday, 2 April 2018

My friend, grief

We’ve met a few times before, grief and I. 

Sometimes, it’s been a passing hello on the street. Occasionally, it’s been a short stay. Other times, grief has taken up residence in my soul. This time it’s the latter. 
The return of an old friend.

Late at night, grief comes knocking. When I answer the door, he stands there apologetically with two full suitcases and a carry bag. A long stay, then. 
Who is it this time?

In the first hour, denial is a friend to me. She shoos grief away and shuts the door. Assures me that he has the wrong address and she’ll see about finding him somewhere else to stay. It is all a terrible mistake. 
She’ll sort it out. 

But in the spare room, grief is quietly unpacking his belongings. Settling in. Putting on the kettle. Patting the dog. Making himself at home. As he knocks on the door to hand me a cup of tea, one look says it all. 
So it’s true, then.

Organisation rushes in, pushing grief into the corner, demanding the phone calls be made. Messages must be sent, she cries. There are people who need to know and we must step into the role of responsible one. She thrusts the phone into my hand and my fingers blindly dial; a voice that I’m sure isn’t mine calmly speaks.
News breaks, and grief’s empire spreads. 

Yet he still sits quietly in the corner. Apologetic that his presence is such a bother. A crumpled black suit hangs loosely from narrow shoulders. He’s a man who is called to do his job but does not enjoy the process. He does it because nobody else can. 
Nobody else will. 

Wailing and howling, sorrow arrives. Never one to shy away from expression of feelings, he takes over the place. This is his show, after all. He’s the star here. Let there be no death marked without sorrow. Let it out, he says. Let it go. Feel the pain; that sharp, burning, nauseating pain from your very depths. 
Let me out. 

I reach out to grief and take his hand. Nod my head and pull him into an embrace. I feel his boney shoulders tense and then relax. Welcome back, friend, I whisper. You are not reviled here.
You are the price I pay for love. 

Insomnia creeps in and takes over. Tonight will be a night for staring blankly at the ceiling, kicking off the duvet, compulsively checking Facebook. She sits heavy on my chest, bearing silent witness. Somewhere between witching hour and dawn, she slips out. 
Uneasy sleep takes me.

Grief shakes me awake just as birdsong starts. For a brief, blissful moment, I am unaware. Then his face comes into focus and he hands me a taste of my new bittersweet reality. It all comes rushing back, and for a moment I am breathless. Behind him, denial, organisation, sorrow, and insomnia sit and wait. 

They’re all here to mourn you. 

Kath Teeboon

Copyright: the author asserts her moral right to be recognised as the creator of this work. Do not reproduce without permission.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant personification. I loved it as a device when used in 'The Book Thief', and I love the way you use it here. So much of what I felt in 2017, but seemed unable to say, is summed up here. Well done for wrestling the words out and sharing them. You're an exceptional writer, a great friend and doing all off that during a sad and trying episode of your life. Keep burning bright, Kathryn.