Alright, here it goes…
I’ve never written about this, never tried to explain how it feels to lose someone you love. Especially in the most brutal of ways; murder. Senseless murder. But I am going to try. Because this year I have already lost too many people I care about, and I feel the need to write it down.
Losing someone you love is hard. No matter how it happens. I’ve lost several people I love over the years. I’ve lost friends, acquaintances, co-workers and various other colleagues over the years. I don’t have children, so I can’t comment on the type of grief that must cause a person, but I can speak about my experiences with loss.
So this, well, this is my two cents on dealing with grief and death in general.
Here is the point where I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But you don’t. I never have. And I don’t ever want to.
The day I can hold a dying person in my arms and listen to their last words and not feel anything, just see it as another death, that is the day I am leaving this world. I don’t ever want to be accustomed to people dying. People getting murdered is something you should never become numb to.
I’ve seen a lot of people die. I’ve held a lot of mortally injured people in my arms. I’ve been there for a lot of people’s last moments on earth. It’s an incredibly humbling, emotionally intense thing. I carry their last words with me everywhere I go. And I always will. I will never forget any of those beautifully brave men and women who have died in my arms.
It still tears a hole through me. Especially when it is somebody I know, someone that I love, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ever ‘not matter’. I don’t want it to be something that I can just ‘deal with’.
The scars that I carry on my body and my soul, they are a testament to the love and the relationship I shared with that person, no matter how brief.
The deeper the scar, the deeper the love. That’s how I see it. Scars are proof that I lived, that I loved. They are proof that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or broken and that I can heal and continue to love. And each scar makes me a little bit stronger, a little bit braver, a little bit more determined to live each day to the full. Scars are proof of my life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, it can be overwhelming to begin with. Like you are drowning in a sea of pain, with no land in sight. Like you can’t breathe. Like there is a physical weight upon your chest, preventing you from doing so. It’s painful. It’s all consuming. Everything you do reminds you of them. Of what you shared. Of the fact that they are now gone. All you can do is struggle to the surface and cling onto their memory, float in that ocean of pain and try and breathe. All you can do is stay alive.
In the beginning the waves of grief are a mile high. They crash over you constantly. No room to breathe. To think. To feel anything but pain. All you can do is hang on. Float. Stay alive.
After a while, maybe it’s weeks or months down the line, you will find that the sea is a little calmer. You can breathe a little easier. The waves of grief aren’t as high. They come a little further apart. But when they do come, they still crash over you and leave you helpless, struggling to breathe once again.
You never know what is going to trigger the waves of grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street, a certain smell or even a colour. It can be just about anything. And then, suddenly, the wave comes crashing. But in between these waves, you can breathe, you can live.
For me, it’s almost always a place. There are certain places in the world I try and avoid because of the people I have lost in that city, in that country.
Later still, and once again, this varies from person to person, you can see the waves coming. An anniversary, a birthday or Christmas, whatever it may be. You can see them coming. You are given time to prepare as best as you can. And when that wave crashes over you, you know that somehow, at some point, you will come out the other side, alive. Struggling to breathe, struggling to find a way to carry on, but you know you will.
For me, the waves have never stopped coming. And I never want them to. I never want to forget those I’ve lost. Forget those I’ve loved. They are proof that I have lived, that I have loved. I never want to become used to the pain of losing loved ones, I never want to become use to death.
Jane was coming back from walking her dog, Sammi, coming round the corner only to find Melissa sat on the steps of her front porch, looking especially glum. Jane went down the street, wondering what was wrong with Mel, she’d never seen her friend looking so glum.
They didn’t have any plans that Jane knew of. The last thing Jane had heard, Melissa’s parents were coming to see her later that day. Suddenly Jane had a horrible sinking feeling, that only got worse when she saw the glum, lost, lonely look on Melissa’s face.
Jane knelt down beside her friend, “Melissa?” she said softly. “Hey, Mel, come here sweetie,” she added after Melissa didn’t even look up, Jane twisted to sit down next to her, wrapping an arm around her, letting Melissa rest her head on her shoulder.
“I’ve got get you a key,” Jane murmured, not sure exactly what else to say. Jane had no idea what was wrong, and Melissa obviously wasn’t in the mood to talk. She seemed very wrapped up in her own thoughts. Jane knew she needed to say something to pull her out of her own head. That seemed to work.
“What?” Melissa said.
“Then you wouldn’t be sitting out here in the cold, waiting for me,” Jane explained gently.
“Oh,” she said quietly. Then slumped back against Jane. “I don’t even know if I’d have thought to use it even if I did have one. I’m not thinking straight.”
‘Damn. This is bad.’ Jane thought to herself.
“Come on Mel, let’s go inside,” Jane suggested, pulling Melissa to her feet, she then lead her up the stairs and inside.
As it turned out, Jane was right. Melissa’s parents had once again cancelled coming to see her. Leaving Melissa once again feeling lost and unwanted. Her parents had never spent any real time with her as a kid, and weren’t all that bothered about keeping in touch with her now that she had moved out. Glum didn’t even begin to cover how upset Melissa was feeling.
A part of Melissa would always be that little girl who struggled to find her place, who felt alone and unwanted. Part of her would always be that little girl whose parents cared more about their careers, travelling and each other more than they did about her. Part of Melissa would always be that little girl who was seriously neglected for the majority of her childhood. Part of her would always have problems trusting people, believing that people loved her, that she was wanted, cared about. And that part of her had been exposed for all to see, after her parents had once again not bothered to take the time to see her. They had once again put their careers, themselves before their daughter. They hadn’t seen her in almost two years, and instead of being excited to see her again, to see where she lived, where she had made her home, they had cancelled on her last minutes and left her upset.
A year ago today I lost Chris.
When someone dies in a random accident, you can view it as a cruel twist of fate, or him being unlucky. When someone dies of old age, or illnesses associated with it, you can almost bring yourself to understand it. As much as anyone can ever understand death. As much as you can ever understand the grief of losing a loved one.
But murder… murder is senseless. It’s the brutal taking of someone else’s life for reasons that, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to begin to comprehend.
I guess after so many years in the Service, you should come to expect that sometimes, those you love won’t make it home. You like to imagine that one day the time will come when you are emotionally equipped to deal with it. The truth is though, you never are.
I was calm when I received the message that he had died; I was in the middle of a meeting, halfway around the world, there wasn’t the time to break down and cry. I held it together the entire flight home to London. I comforted his brother, and held his little sister while she sobbed on my shoulder. I was composed when I said my final goodbyes and watched the casket being lowered into the ground.
I held it together the entire day for his family; I looked after them just like I knew Chris would want me to. It was only as we were leaving the graveyard that it hit me. His brother placed his dogtags on top of the grave, and suddenly the memories hit me with full force.
I remembered the day he’d first arrived, with them hanging around his neck, so proud to be a part of MI6. I remembered all the late nights, his feet up on my desk, twisting them between his fingers as he shared a hundred and one stories from his days in the military. I remembered the first field operation he ever ran, and how, just before leaving, he handed them to me and asked me to keep them safe. I remembered handing them back to him when he came home. I remembered the cheeky smile when he threw them across the room to me when he stepped into the training ring for that last time. And all the moments in between.
Chris had grown up a military brat and literally bled God Save The Queen. I’ve never known anyone more proud of his country and prouder to be serving it. Those dogtags were his life. He had entrusted me with them. He’d trusted me with his life.
That life was now over.
It wasn’t really until that moment that I realized he was really gone. He wasn’t going to walk back through my office door, almost knocking it off its hinges, he wasn’t going to come running down the corridor in a few days time and pick me up and swing me around, that bright smile almost splitting his face in two. He wasn’t going to turn up on my doorstep at 2am on Friday nights and we were never going to go driving around London again hashing out various operations with the music turned up loud. He was never going to take another flying lesson with me. He was never going to buy that Porsche that he wanted. He was gone.
All that is left is the emptiness that comes from knowing he should be there. To sit in that armchair, and put his big size fourteen feet on my coffee table, wearing that same plaid shirt he’d had for years. It’s knowing that he will never pick up that old scarf that he left over at mine one night the winter previous. It’s knowing that I will never get to hear what he thought about that Reba song that I’d sent him the YouTube link to only hours previous. It’s knowing that the liquorice that I kept in my cupboard, just for him will remain uneaten. It remained there, the packet opened, barely touched until I brought myself to finally throw it out. It’s knowing that never again will I sit in his backyard, laughing at him as once again he hits his fingers with the hammer as he tries, unsuccessfully, to once again repair the deck. It’s knowing that never again will he bring me flowers from that garden, just because he knows how much I love sunflowers.
When we lose someone, we search our memories for our favourite moments with that person, for those memories to cling onto as time passes, we look for the biggest, the most brilliant, laugh out loud moments, for the sentimental and the sensational. But really, the most important ones are all the ordinary moments in between.
Today, a year on, I walk past what was once his office, and I wish so much that I could walk in there and throw down the latest case file and tell him to write his report once again, because, as usual, his grammar is appalling, and watch him pout childishly and beg for me to let him off ‘just this once’. I wish I could sit down with him and watch stupid movies and throw popcorn at each other when we get bored, or just kick back in the break room, while he makes both of us hot chocolate, because it’s almost midnight and both of us are still working. That hot chocolate always sucked, he never made it right, but today, I would love to drink it just one more time.
But most of all, I would love to get a hug from him just one more time. For him to pick me up and hug me so tightly I would complain I couldn’t breathe. Today, I wouldn’t complain, I’d let him hug me as tightly as he wanted to, for as long as he liked. I would do anything to have him stand in front of me, alive, in the flesh, touchable and huggable.
So today, for me, please tell those you love, that you love them, take a moment to savour the feeling, their smile, their hugs, all those little moments that make up your life with them. Because one day they’ll be gone and those moments will be all that you have left. Hold onto the value of each moment before it becomes a memory, you never know when it will be the last time you’ll ever experience it.
Chris, I still miss you buddy. We had a good ride. I’ll treasure the laughter and never forget the tears. You left me with a million and one memories that will burn forever in my mind. Thanks for being my own personal big footed clown. Thank you for believing in me, inspiring me and pushing me to go further, to do more, and to live up to my own potential. I wish you were here to see all I’m doing now. You were the best friend a girl could wish for, and a truly incredible man. I hope you know how proud of you I was.
“I feel like I’m on cloud nine,” I murmured, collapsing in the sand.
“Me too, this is fantastic,” Kat said, as she sat down in the sand next to me.
“I insist that we do this more often,” Naomi smiled up at me, as she lay sunbathing.
“Maybe, if you’re lucky,” I returned with a wink.
“I am beyond lucky,” she replied.
“This project is already behind schedule, we can’t afford to waste any more time,” Keith said.
“Seriously, how can we already be behind schedule, we’ve only just started?” Danny moaned.
“We are behind, and that’s final,” Keith stated firmly.
“I swear the Boss thinks we’re all superhuman or something,” Danny muttered under his breath.
Louis loves food. There is virtually nothing that he won’t eat. I’ve never known anyone to eat as much as he does. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night, you can almost count on the fact that he will be eating something.
One night when I came home, I saw him sat in the kitchen, with what looked like the entire contents of the fridge around him, most of it already eaten.
“Wow, you’ve been pigging out,” I commented.
“Yeah, I got kinda hungry,” he replied.
I just looked at him in disbelief. He was always hungry!! But this was a whole new level. I shook my head, and wandered off, not bothering to say anything. I knew no matter what, Louis would always be addicted to food.
Nat nearly always wore her hair in pigtails, I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’d seen her without her hair up like that. Most of the time she braided her pigtails.
Which is why when she opened the door, and I found her hair loose, I was so surprised. That almost never happened!!
I remember several years ago now, when Connie was studying for her last set of exams in medical school, her room turned into a complete pig sty. There was stuff everywhere, you could barely see the floor because of the amount of notebooks, research papers, and study notes that were scattered all over the room. It was a miracle she actually knew where anything was, because I certainly couldn’t have made sense of the pig sty that was her room!
LJ can be pretty pig-headed when he wants to be. He’s stubborn and has an intense dislike for politicians and politics. He doesn’t ever want to play the game.
Over the years, most people had gotten used to his stubbornness and had long stopped asking him to deal with politicians. Instead, they left that to others.
I, on the other hand, never had a problem with his stubbornness, probably because I can be just as stubborn when I want to be!
Over the years, I’ve worked frequently with the police. Some are great. Some are complete pigs. Some are even extremely sexist pigs and they bothered me the most.
I guess, because I believe in equality and treated people with respect, that we were never going to see eye to eye on certain matters!!
Last week i went and visited my friend Nat at her apartment in Washington DC, I’d never actually been there before, normally we’d meet up elsewhere in the city and go shopping or something like that. So this was a first.
Nat and I had known each other a while, and were good friends, there were very few secrets between us, we liked a lot of the same stuff, listening to the same kind of music, and absolutely loved spending time together. And when that was not possible, because I was travelling, we would text each other every single day.
However, one thing I did not know was that Nat kept a piggy bank. An actual piggy bank in her living room. That came as a surprise to me. Nat had always been good at handling money, and also had a lot of savings behind her. So I couldn’t help but wonder about the purpose of having a piggy bank. It wasn’t like she needed one.
As we sat down to eat I asked her about it, and Natalie explained to me, that it was her savings pot for tattoos. She generally gets a new one every year, and they are absolutely gorgeous! So every years, she buys a piggy bank, spends all year saving up, and then gets a new tattoo around the time of her birthday. Personally, I thought that was a brilliant idea!
Piggy Back Ride
I’m pretty short, five foot two and a half (and the half is very important), and most of my friends are taller than me. In fact that guys are almost a foot taller than me. So naturally, they have been known to pick me up. It doesn’t bother me really. Everyone expects it to, but nowadays it would kinda weird me out if they didn’t pick me up. They’ve even been known to give me piggy back rides! I don’t question it anymore. I know it’s just how they are, and I wouldn’t want them to ever change!
I am pretty even tempered. I don’t get angry easily, and it takes a lot to stress me out.
Generally speaking, I am pretty laid back.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that nothing annoys me, and I don’t sometimes passionately
explode over certain things, however, as a general rule, I keep my fiery side tamed.
If I do get angry or annoyed, I tend to be cold. Ice cold, in fact.
It always surprises people when I act like that, I guess they just don’t expect it.
I never appear cold.
I am a naturally curious person
Annie owns a ridiculous number of jeans. I’m not joking, she probably has a different pair for every day of the month. I’ve never known anyone so obsessed with jeans. Every time I go shopping with her, she is almost certain to buy another pair. Why? I don’t know. It’s not like she needs any more. But she always finds a pair slightly different that she simply must have. Though, I say that, she has even been known to buy several pairs of the same jeans. Again, for reasons beyond my personal comprehension.
I hated doing washing. I always have done. It bugs me, having to wait around for my clothings to finish washing, when there are so many other things that I could be doing with my time. Another thing I’ve always noticed is that whenever I go to do my washing I can always count on there being a pair of Annie’s jeans left in the washing machine. I swear those things get everywhere!! I normally end up washing them for her. And that bugs me too!
To Get Cold Feet
Perhaps that was way Naomi ran. Because she got cold feet. Because she got scared. So she ran. Half-way around the world actually. She left LJ in Berlin. She was scared of how much she loved him; she got cold feet, and decided that she needed to run away, to leave him before he broke her heart.
If only she’d realized that in the process she would break her own heart.
To Be In Over Your Head
I guess to others it looks like I’m in over my head. Maybe it some ways I am. I don’t know. From where I am standing, it doesn’t seem like I’m in that deep. I’m just having fun with life, and seeing where it takes me. Okay, so I don’t really have a plan. And I’m currently living in a country where I don’t speak the language, where I know absolutely no one, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is I am meant to be doing. But that’s okay. You only get once chance at life and you might as well make the most of it. So that’s why I’m here. Because if I don’t take chances, and if I don’t try someone new while I can, I will forever regret it.
To Your Let Your Hair Down
Everyone needs to let their hair down sometimes. Everyone needs to have fun. Now, Izabelle wasn’t one of those people that needs a lot of encouragement in that department. She was always up for a good time, letting her hair down and playing the field.
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