“Like jazz on a summer’s day”

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A year ago today – October 12, 2015 – my novelist uncle (and my godfather) died. Incredibly, my mother would follow her brother on October 26. It has not been a “good year.”

But my recent personal “trials” had actually begun a year and some earlier: on February 2, 2014. On that day we were told (while we were in America) that Kam, our friend of two decades, had died (in London) after several years of illness. Upon hearing the depressing news, I felt sadder and sicker than I had ever felt over a death before in my entire life. A few days later, I wrote about her here.

Naturally afterwards we others out here all have to live on, but being unexpectedly confronted with a reminder of a deceased loved one can be a harshly unpleasant and emotional moment that no one else quite comprehends. In this case, I was taken aback last weekend when I saw a late 2013 photo of her – only weeks before her death – in our Irish friends’ lounge. A little while ago, I ran it through the Prisma photo app, which in one format converted it into almost the otherworldly:

Prisma photo art app: "Tears". [Original photo, 2013.]
Prisma photo art app: “Tears”. [Original photo, 2013.]

My wife dislikes the photo and asked me why I wanted a copy. She said she didn’t want to remember her that way. I agree that it does not represent her at her best: beautiful, vivacious, elegant, full of life, and “so cool, she was like jazz on a summer’s day.”

However, what caught me about that picture is her soft, weary, yet still unbroken, expression. It is eerily much how I recall her looking at me at one point a few months before it was taken. Then we were all saying “goodbyes” at the end of a get-together (in, ironically, Ireland) until the next time, which would be soon, of course.

I will also remember until my own dying day that as she hugged me “goodbye” she squeezed me so tight I almost couldn’t take a breath. Certainly she then still had a degree of physical strength. She had never said “goodbye” to me so intensely before.

I never saw her alive again.

I know I am not really the same person inside who I was when I awoke on February 2, 2014 – hours before the telephone rang. After coming closer than you might imagine to then and there giving up on writing after only one book, deleting this then less than four month old blog, and just vanishing (After all, I thought, what the hell did I really matter in this world anyway?), in weeks to follow I actually instead found a renewed resolution, drive, and wider purpose. I rewrote parts of the then early Frontiers manuscript, fitting her into the story as herself in a cameo, and decided to dedicate it to her.

A small measure of immortality as well as a more permanent “goodbye,” one supposes. Giving up and disappearing solves nothing in this life. These last few ugly years have been such that I feel I also increasingly understand this unfortunate reality: in facing pain, heartache and loss we invariably also learn more about ourselves.

And, as a writer, bitter experience is, sadly, usually “good” for you.

Thanks for reading. And have a good day, wherever you are in our world.

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