I’d ignored the blinking red light all day imagining that it was a Christmas offer of a loan, or a missed doctor’s appointment for the tenant before me or unwanted car insurance for a vehicle I didn’t own.
Finally I played it “Jo, please call me, it’s serious. Call me whenever you get this, whatever time of night you get it.” From my mum.
That sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, that wild racing of the heart and mind imaging every possible scenario as you fumble to dial digits, cursing yourself for not responding to the warning light earlier.
“Are you sitting down?” Why do people ask that? Do they really bad news is more bearable seated than standing? Perhaps it is.
It was the death of a friend. A friend who’d been tormented for years by mental demons that persisted and no one could cure. A friend who’d suffered more than anyone should, with physical manifestations of her pained mind, endless operations to fix, mend and remend what the previous surgery had been meant to cure. On December 23rd, she’d finally ended it. All of it. Forever.
How do we react to grief and loss? Numbness, tears, disbelief, frustration and perhaps in part, a sense of relief that the call we’d been expecting for so many years, had finally come. No more waiting. No more nervous intrepidation.
A blinding headache, sensory overload, memories and flashbacks of teenage exploits, late night chats, consoling calls and encouraging words to say that life could be good, that things would change, that things would improve, that magic and wonder and excitement and success would once again appear.
This Christmas day I spent in service at a Homeless Shelter. I was probably rewarded more than the people I went to see. I met Willis, a mid 50s tall good looking gay black man. We played checkers. Then we got to talking.
Willis had lived in 20 odd countries; he’d been a male model, a teacher, an HR manager, a Buddhist, a traveler, an explorer. Willis made me laugh. We talked about Gestalt therapy, Buddhism, life, death, being free, going to the edge of life and back again.
He introduced me to “Madame loneliness - he keeps her in his back pocket” and doesn’t let her get too large as he cackled “She told me, sometimes ya know Willis – you make me too big, you give me too much importance, I travel with you and I help you too – keep me in the pocket and know I am here for you, I am your friend.”
Willis told me he lives in gratitude. He loves DC as it challenges him. He is on the up.
This Christmas has taken me down and brought me up. It’s been tough, painful and enlightening.
For that, I too give thanks.