When someone dies

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February 29, 2012 by NH

On Monday, Tuesday called to tell me a mutual friend passed away on the weekend from a heart attack. Our friend’s name was Mario.

We all worked together some years ago in the magazine publishing business. Because he was a work colleague, there’s a sense of, ‘Well, I really shouldn’t feel like this. I didn’t really know him.’ But that’s crap, because I did know him, and I feel awful.

When I’m walking around the city, I hear his laugh. I think of the wrinkles around his smile. His stiffly-ironed shirts. The grey hair combed back across a tanned forehead.

I think of the stories he told me, the ways he made me laugh. The things he tried to teach me.

When someone dies you walk the line of over-playing the connections you had and under-celebrating their life. I’m probably not supposed to say this but it’s easy to play down your feelings; it’s easier for the people around you if you do.

But here’s the truth: grief is deeply tiring. There’s an enormous insularity to it, a ringing-in-the-ears unreality. It’s as if the world has shifted subtly while you’re asleep, and when you wake, you’re constantly out of step.

Funerals are so important. They provide a focus for grief. They mark a time and a place where you’re allowed to go and reflect and feel all the things you need to feel to accept the change, to pay tribute, and to walk away.

I want to go to Mario’s funeral. I need to do something. I feel so sad right now.

My sadness is compounded by the fact that my partner is finding a new place to live. He’s leaving our home, for many reasons – not least of all because he wants to live a fulfilling life.

I can respect this. We should all make good use of the time we have now.

Mario told me that before I die, I must go to the Brazilian Carnivàl, wear a red dress and dance in the street.

I’m yet to do that, but I will.

I will.

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