Tuesday 18 March 2008

Ignorance and the passing of a year

It's has been one year since my friend Gilly died. It's strange, but up until now I've thought that I've been fairly calm about how quickly this anniversary has come around and about how I feel about it.

A year ago today, following the frantic flight back from Texas to be home in London and able to say my goodbyes properly, it was a Sunday. I remember spending the whole day on the phone, talking and listening, from about eight in the morning until well past midnight. It was a pattern that continued for a couple of months afterwards, although not with the same intensity. Whilst I never really understood why some people chose to unburden themselves to a practical stranger, I was glad of it. It gave me something to do (which believe me was a massive benefit) and it brought me closer to old friends at a difficult time for everyone and to those who have become new friends over the last 12 months.

That period seems like a long time ago. And then last night, at a gathering to mark and remember Gilly's passing, I was asked to say a few words to those friends about the building of the Memorial School in India - and I panicked. It wasn't dignified and it makes me burn with embarrassment just thinking about it.

In the space of a few seconds, the following flashed through my mind: how can I talk about the school without saying a few appropriate words about Gilly? What on earth constitutes 'appropriate'? How can I possibly hope to sum up the complicated ways I know these wonderful people feel in any meaningful way? How can I even talk about by own thoughts when I don't even know what I think and feel? A year of talking and listening and I realised that still don't have a clue. But rather than just saying so, which I'm sure everyone would have understood, I tried to wriggle out of the responsibility and felt feel terrible for attempting to do so, even though I eventually managed to pull something reasonably coherent out of the bag at the last moment.

And this morning, I got to thinking that whilst no-one ever really 'moves on' from loss, everyone I know exemplifies the way that people are still capable of 'moving forward'. Perhaps the degree of ignorance I suddenly felt last night is an indication that I've jumped over a couple of steps, that helping to raise a sackload of cash for the Buwan Kothi International Trust is great but not quite enough. That it's time to finally think about the impact of the death of a really, really special friend - a brother really - rather than just spending so much time banging on about Ken Livingstone, the media and the Archbishop of sodding Canterbury.

What's the point of being stroppy and opinionated about the world at large if the really important questions are avoided, because we (well, me primarily) assume foolishly that no-one will ever ask them?

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