I will never make peace with death, or the way it shows up uninvited into people’s lives. No matter how much time someone has, no matter how hard you desperately try to brace for its cruel claws to rise out of the dirt and cradle your loved ones into the ground, it’s never enough. You will never be ready and it always feels so painfully unexpected, even when you have spent months preparing for reality to come crashing down. This summer was the hardest to endure. All the days started off long and langued with slow echoes of sadness. The air was thick with hurried heat and misplaced emotions. We laid down all the time, leaning on each other’s shoulders and sticking to faux leather sofas, constantly feeding on salted crisps that stung our tongues and left our stomachs hollow and empty. There was some solace – falling asleep in rooms that had absorbed the heat from a relentless sun burning against the walls, lying awake while a fan lazily breathed over us in the dark. Walking through the dappled green grass and fallen leaves to see a sleepy rhino bathing under sputtering water oozing from a swollen pipe. The fresh air ripping through our hair as we drove hard and fast down country roads. The childish laughter that consumed you after you ate pot brownies for the first time. The ridiculous games we would play at night until our eyes became lazy and our limbs sore. The dirty jokes, from you especially. The balmy summer nights that seemed to stretch into eternity.
It hurts thinking about it, which feels alien, because for a long time I was numb. I used to imagine being confronted with death, my intrusive thoughts would run riot in my head and I always felt it would rip me to shreds, but in reality, I was paralysed. I wondered what was wrong with me – to go from bruising so easily at the slightest touch to feeling absolutely nothing at all. It felt like there was a thin layer of glass between me and my feelings. Every now and then, fleeting cracks would appear along the surface and darkness would trickle in. In these instances, out of nowhere, I would cry uncontrollably until my chest ached and a red ring of raw skin would circle around my eyes. My pain is nothing compared to his, and I hurt every time I think about him breaking down on the bathroom floor. I can feel the abyss opening up and pulling him in. Even as he sleeps next to me at night, I can feel the hollowness in his chest through the sheets and all I can do is hope that I brought comfort to him at the time he needed it most.
It’s the hardest thing anyone can do, watch someone deteriorate to the point of no return, and until now, none of us had felt helplessness like it. Your humour never faded, even when your anxiety fought through the morphine and drugs that kept you asleep. You still had the dirtiest mind and it hurt us endlessly, knowing that your mind was so full of life while your body slowly broke down. Everything was so surreal that it felt like the inevitable would never happen. None of us could imagine you finally slipping away, even when death held you so close in its clutches and promised not to let you go. Now, there’s this empty, gaping void that was once overflowing with your warmth, constant love and selfless attention that knew no bounds. It will always hit us in small ways, like a bitter aftertaste that sits at the back of our throats when we pick up the phone to call you. Catching a glimpse of your favourite flowers standing tall and growing wildly out of the ground. Finding bits and pieces you haphazardly left around the house that once served a purpose but now only exist as tiny relics of you. Sometimes, it’s hard to comprehend that you ever existed at all. How can someone so real, so tangible, suddenly just disappear? Death will always feel like an eternal mystery to the people left alive.