I’ve been struggling as to whether I should press the ‘publish’ button on this particular blog. My judgement regarding my blogs has been patchy in the past to say the least. Some things are just so terrible that you cannot wrap your head around them. You try to comprehend the magnitude of their level of awfulness and it just slips through your head, impossible to hold on to for more than a few moments. Today I was confronted by one of those things, albeit indirectly I hasten to add.
I was walking along in my own little world, lost in thought. Not nice thought I must admit, just the usual low grade resignation, frustration and depression that has of late set up home in my head, kicked it’s shoes and socks off and got nice and comfy. Then the phone rang, it was that funny tone that signifies a Facebook phone call coming through. It was one of my first Hastings friends. I met her around nine years ago when I was involved in an abusive friendship and, after I had been drained of all the money I had, and was left vulnerable and friendless in a strange new town. She had some terrible news for me, which was that another friend I met at the same mental health hub’s little boy had just died after a long illness. I remember this child being born, I even knitted her some baby clothes for him I seem to remember. I knew he had been ill for a while now but I just figured he would get over it…
I had last seen him and the rest of his family about a year ago under the oddest of circumstances. It was a lovely day, my then lady friend and I where sitting on a bench in the middle of nowhere in the South Downs. We were road testing some new thermos flasks and admiring the view across a valley. Things were already taking a bizarre turn as the air began to fill with a flock of paragliders, their multi coloured canopies floating through the sky in front of us. We watched for a while, marvelling at their exploits as we sipped our coffee and nibbled at an impromptu picnic courtesy of the petrol station’s co op shop. I heard a very distinctive voice in the periphery, that of a lady from the beginnings of my new life in Hastings. She had her family in tow, including her husband, her son and her youngest whom I had not met before . I remember thinking what a lovely family they were and after a little chit chat they were gone, off on their own outing.
The future is a funny thing, I didn’t know then what sadness in a mundane and self indulgent way awaited me and in a truly hideous way the nuclear family unit that had just wandered around the corner of the path and out of view. The person at my side had her own ordeals to face too, of which I won’t comment.
Back to today and me standing, shell shocked, in the street. My brain going into ‘does not compute’ mode. Death is not an unfamiliar thing to me, my own father died almost twenty years ago now and his loss still feels like a punch to the chest every time I think of it. I made matters worse by not dealing with it at the time, burying myself in work and filling my head with anything to make the pain go away, being booze, drugs, ridiculous projects to help tie up my thoughts and generally anything and everything but looking at the dark void inside me where one of a human beings anchors resides. In a sense, we are our mothers and our fathers and the loss of one leaves us flailing about in the wind, struggling to redefine who we are. When we don’t deal with that pain as we should it can eat away at us from the inside. As for losing a child though… The mortality of those much younger than ourselves is something mercurial, it slides away from our conciousness, too painful to comprehend. It’s something that is filed away under ‘somebody else’s problems’ as we should be long gone from the world and know nothing of it. Except sometimes it isn’t, it is very much someone’s problem and problem then is the most insulting of under statements.
I was asked by this caller to design an image for a sympathy card, an image to celebrate the life of a boy of seven, gone too soon. The question is, just how the hell do you that? Nothing is going to make a difference, nothing will get that child back, certainly not a piece of artwork. But yet it’s something, and sometimes something is all you can do. And something is sometimes better than nothing. Hopefully this is one of those times. It had been a strange day already, a heavy sea mist hung in the air. It was going to be one of those cold lonely days that I would struggle to get to the end of, of which there have been far too many of late and it was a slightly macabre way to be given a purpose but purpose it was nonetheless.
I took a phrase on a Facebook photo as a starting point “our supersonic boy” imagining a rocket ship, trailing a rainbow with a child going on an adventure, waved off by his family. I had in mind that Shakespeare quote “That undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns” or in Peter Pan terms “death is an awfully big adventure “. I do really hope what I have done is ok, to tell you the truth I honestly don’t know, my judgement has completely gone on this. I don’t even know what to say any more, I think I will end this here…