“Sadness feels good”: after the death of my wife, I found comfort in poetry and music | Life and style

EEvery morning my eldest daughter calls from London. “What are you doing today?” Um… she’s very concerned. She really checks that I’m not checking – that I didn’t wake up dead, that I didn’t have a stroke or dizziness, that I didn’t plunge down stairs or I passed out somehow. That I am still on the surface and that the multiple pills I am forced to take to prevent extinction continue to take effect. “So, what are you doing today?”

Uh… that’s it? Until? It’s a little too happy. Active. Midshipman. I am 79 years old. I was lucky: I’m still here, a lucky baby boomer with privileges and a triple pension. A war baby with free orange juice, free milk and free education for life. They paid me. I even passed the 11+. Everything is fine. It went more than well. Then it wasn’t. My wife, Jill, died. Cancer in the time of the plague.

We were both English teachers in West London for almost 40 years. It was especially exciting. Then we moved to the sea, at the end of the world, for almost 10 years – wild, empty, elemental. We had just planned one last big trip, a much-anticipated getaway to the heart of the American South, the rock ‘n’ roll South, the haunted, gothic South. The best time of our lives. And then blame, we ran out of time.

We never went to the voodoo cemeteries in New Orleans. We only arrived at Yeovil Covid Crematorium. There were three of us – me and our two daughters – standing helpless in the rain, lugging a coffin in a basket. A miserable trinity – and without witnesses.

I went through a few therapists and people of faith. It didn’t take. I was immune to the online grief industry. Grief does not go through phases, has no boxes to check, rather it is a perpetual cosmic dizziness. And I resisted all religions. Jill hasn’t “succeeded”, she’s not somewhere else, she’s not sleeping in a cemetery. She is dead. Extinct.

So I am alone on the edge of this world. Sometimes I’m okay. Other times, I’m everywhere, searching through the rubble. My moods are extremely diverse.

I have some good friends, although they also tend to get angry. I guess I should look for distractions, joyful group activities like Zumba or Quakers or quilting or bell ringing or dancing or Morris hiking. But collectives irritate me. I give the piano a little tap. I cultivate a garden. Well, Jill’s. Its flowers are vibrant. I became totally abstinent to banish all self-pity and rampant self-centeredness. I walk a lot. I swim a lot, miles offshore. I have revelations in the blind waves of the sun.

But the crucial source of comfort is poetry and music, blues and rock’n’roll. It works. Things I thought I had forgotten can resurface at any time. I’m ambushed by quotes, killer lines. They fly like butterflies. They fall like confetti. They connect me to the passing of time. They give dignity to things. They give them grace.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

The Nerves are ceremonial, like the Tombs.

(…) Quartz contentment, like a stone.

Wow! Emily knows it. When I’m feeling a little moribund or melancholy or facing the whispers of mortality, lines like this almost make things better.

“I’m not afraid of death, it’s the ‘foreplay,’” said the patron saint of gloom, Leonard Cohen. Gloom is necessary. Gloom is good. When things start to fall, collapse, fade, crack, crack, contract, or explode, it helps. When I run out of importance or relevance, when things are stacked against me. And lately, things have been coming together. I just had epiretinal membrane eye surgery. I panic. Things are getting irrevocably darker. Am I going blind?

My only companion, Dolly the cat, has passed away. Medical assistance in dying was more prohibitive than Dignitas, so I dug his grave – too shallow – and the foxes devastated his limbs.

“So, what’s going on today?” »

Uh… like yesterday, like tomorrow. Daily repetition. A Sisyphean activity. A day will pass like this, it will unfold like this: I get out of bed after a restless sleep, punctuated by podcasts on inner peace, cosmic harmony, satori, happiness. Zen calm, the spheres clink, the charlatan gurus preside. I am urged to be “aware” of the absurdity. I am advised to cultivate “an empty mind.” It seems quite empty. These podcasts don’t work. Forgetting does not happen. I just laugh. I’m getting up. I stagger through the twilight darkness towards the bathroom, unable to find my ravaged face in a mirror. My goodness, these bags under my eyes are extremely heavy (the grandchild calls them “plums”).

“It’s a funeral in the mirror and it stops in front of your face.” Shut up Leonard!

From. I brush the rare squeaks, apply the sexy prosthetics – not always in the right way. Dear me. It’s time for medicine. I pull out a shoebox full of pills – bendroflumethiazide, ramipril, atorvastatin, omeprazole, hemlock. You are as good as your last pill.

Then it’s time for multiple eye drops: Maxidex; chloramphenicol; iodine. They’re supposed to give me my sight back. This is not the case. Things are still a little foggy. Then move on to the daytime cardio blood pressure monitor, a non-invasive blood pressure monitor. It monitors anxiety. This can make you more anxious than ever. It monitors whether you plan to live beyond the next few minutes. If the batteries are dead, you could be dead. This is no way to pass the time. This is no life for an old man. Then I leave some water for Dolly. So remember she’s dead. Then I look at Jill’s ashes on the piano. I hear her healthy, sunny voice.

“All right?”


“So what are you doing today?” she asks.

Um… she always seems to have my back. Then, wired on caffeine, I’ll attempt to play Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues verbatim to make sure tiny strokes haven’t destroyed the memory. “Johnny’s in the basement…” Yeah. It’s done. The lot. So far, so good. Then I will check online Guardian securities. Then I want to eat my gums.

From. The day starts well. Vertically. I set off towards the hills, fields and forests, covered with hyacinths, I contemplate the glow of the crashing waves, “whose home is the light of the setting suns”. I left. Ah William!

But it’s not just transcendence. I can get bored with all this useless beauty. Samuel Beckett surfaces. “The sun shone, without alternative, on nothing new.”

The afternoons are a highlight. Then comes music time. Ah, the healing power of rock’n’roll! I play it loud. Very strong. At a breathtaking volume. Howlin’ Wolf goes Goin’ Down Slow.

I had fun

If I don’t get better

(…) Whoa, my health is deteriorating

Oh yes, I’m going down slowly

“This is where the soul of man never dies,” said brilliant Sun Records producer Sam Phillips. Enough.

“Awopbamaloobopawopbamboom!” » shouts Little Richard. The rock quasar. We can only agree. I first heard this when I was 12 years old. It has never let me down. This destroys any shady morbidity. This cancels out all sorrow. Sometimes I put on the 40s flash costume and dance really badly like there’s no one there. It didn’t – although the postman was perplexed as I rushed out the door. Sometimes I pretend I’m in the Village Vanguard club watching Billie and Lester or in the Mean Fiddler getting shipwrecked with Shane and the Pogues or in the 100 Club watching Jill Lindy Hopping. Here it is. There she went. From.

A little TV during the day? No. It’s emetic, especially those bright, happy people who flog nursing homes, twilight zones, eternal youth, cheap crematoriums, cheap funerals, erectile dysfunction, fjord cruises. This stroke advert is very discouraging, this melting gargoyle might give you one.

There are minimal variations on this day. My moods can be fleeting, fleeting, bored, lonely, absurd, happy, angry, fed up, fatalistic, scared, haunted, amused, blessed, deprived, harsh, brooding. Backtracking. There is a current fashion for denying these things. I am pushed to go on a trip, to look for stupid solutions, to adopt positivity. It all seems doomed to failure. Dummy. Morris dancing won’t solve anything. I need stronger, more nourishing things – like poetry, blues, rock’n’roll and ancient wisdom. These voices could well be ascendant. They might just prevail over the daily carnage. The panics have diminished. I feel calmer, more peaceful. Even, whisper it, a little zen. What is the word we are looking for? “Beat”? That’s it. Kerouac. Silly, immature, sentimental Jack. On the road was another of my first passions. Kerouac relished those that “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

I hear Jill laugh. God, I miss your laugh. “Terrible stuff. Pure and selfish male bollix. Well, there is that. Jill was more of a Jane Austen fan. Well, back to bed and restless sleep. Back to rendering in Subterranean Home Sick Blues. And there it is… the phone rings. “How are you?”

Jill? Of course not. She’s my youngest daughter. Every evening she calls from New York. “So what did you do today?” Uh…

Bir yanıt yazın

E-posta adresiniz yayınlanmayacak. Gerekli alanlar * ile işaretlenmişlerdir