Magic Mirror….

November is always the cruellest month. For me. Not for Harry Potter. At Hogwarts, November heralds the heroic moment just before the monster gets slain and everyone gets to sit down at a fabulous banquet. For me, it’s never a good time, because it’s also the month my father died. 

Like most days, he left for work.  Like most days, he kissed my mom.  Like most days, we thought he’d be coming back. He didn’t.  A pilot, he died from a massive heart attack in his early forties.  He was reading a book while his co-pilot flew the plane. At least he was doing something he loved.

I was sixteen, my sisters nine and six respectively.  Losing a parent at such an early age has left an indelible, but distinct mark on each of us – and although the scars have faded, they are still there if you probe hard enough. Anyone who has lost a parent, a lover, a sibling or a child will understand what I mean.

Harry Potter lost his parents too, and in one of his adventures, he finds The Mirror of Erised, a magic mirror that shows the ‘deepest and most desperate desires of ones heart’. He stares at that mirror for a long time, because in its reflection, he sees his parents as if they were alive.  I’ve always found that particular piece of the story very moving.  No piece of shiny glass would bring my dad back.

What I didn’t realise was that eventually, I too would find a magic mirror of sorts. An acquaintance sent us a YouTube video link which shows footage of my dad.  It’s part of an old TV documentary filming the Shackleton bomber. It’s extraordinary, because we never had a video camera, so we only have photos of my dad.  I can’t really describe how it felt to see him on that clip – captured in time, but very much present, very much alive.  It made me feel happy and incredibly sad at the same moment. 

So…this is my own reflection for today. The people we love and lose are never far from our hearts. The magic is in the remembering.

Howl…

I was up all night finishing an assignment and happened to check my inbox as part of my ‘work avoidance strategy’, which usually alternates with the ‘I must-clean-the-bathroom-strategy’ at times of academic duress.

One email.  From a friend who is grieving a parent. My own dad died when I was sixteen and my sisters were much younger, so I’m familiar with the emotions. It happened at a fairly critical time in our lives and we all had to grow up quickly…but it’s a long time ago now, and although it hurts from time to time, we’ve adjusted to life with loss and carried on living because that’s what you do to thrive in the present.

Still, as I read the words on my screen, I felt tears stinging my eyes and running down my cheeks. Everyone deals with sadness in their own way, but somehow this note made me want to howl and sob. I couldn’t stop myself.  Of course, I know it’s more than just an empathetic reaction to a friend’s bereavement. And though I could put it down to sleep deprivation, the real reason my heart aches is that I’ve lost someone too.

There is grace in grief, and strength in allowing yourself to mourn. Absent friends. A much-loved pet. Dreams that have passed their sell by date. There’s also a time to wipe your tears away and make a conscious choice to savour every moment.  I’m going to do that today.

Nine lives…

I lost a good friend yesterday.  As with most serendipitous things, Loulou arrived by pure chance.  I didn’t choose her.  I inherited her. It was only supposed to be six months, but ten years later she was still with me… Sometimes its the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.

Designer she was not.  Battersea born and rescued she was.  Lovely with it, though.  Despite being a feline fashionista.  And in case you don’t believe me, I kid you not…

Favourite gay man: Gok Wan. Favourite designers:  ‘Miaouwschino’, ‘Miaow Miaow’, ‘Georgio Armiaowni’ and, of course, ‘Prrrrrada’! Favourite words: ‘Sushi’ and ‘Nobu’!  Go figure. For someone so small and furry, she did have big ideas!

Actually, I could never work out whether she thought she was human. Maybe I was just the Alpha cat in the pack…?  I had many parties where Loulou sat at the table and was part of the conversation.  Not on the table, mind you (we do have standards), just at the table. Daintily perched on a chair. Listening. Observing. Taking it all in. Perfect guest. Good manners, great listener and an even better radar. Could sniff a love rat at thirty paces! Useful skill if champagne has numbed your owner’s common sense, but that is another story…

In the end, Loulou’s exit was quiet and dignified, much like her life. She was much loved and I will miss her sorely. Mostly because when my own life was pretty pear-shaped, she was the reason I would get up and go on. Well…she needed feeding, and  – at that time – I needed a reason to fight the despair that threatened to overwhelm me. And maybe, just maybe…it’s because she is the last connection with a life I had, but no longer aspire to. 

Sometimes, we have to be ready to say goodbye to one life in order to understand what we are to be in the next…