Photo of Julia’s Stones my own
My next ten days are packed (packed for me, anyway).
Quite a bit of work in the coming days.
A dinner out with new-to-me-friends of Medjool’s.
Some travel to England and then on to Scotland.
(My first trip to the UK since before the world shut down in early 2020).
Some leisure. Some seeing of friends, new and old.
Some work with an exciting new client.
Some learning with a virtual programme.
And even – I hope – a large dose of culture/museums.
All good, rich stuff. The ingredients I feel lucky to have in my life.
Then back home on 30th June.
Julia’s death day.
The third anniversary.
Her third deathiversary.
Sickening to remember – not that I ever forget.
Walking past her “remembrance tree” in recent weeks, I realise how tired, unkempt, forlorn, abandoned, it looks.
The beautiful bouquet of roses left with school friends for her 18th birthday three months ago already dried and shrivelled – even if dead flowers have their own beauty. (“Distressed roses” actually sell for a fee!)
The colourful Tupperware box marked “lettres”, left by some of her friends on the first deathiversary, now faded, damp, letters damp and mouldy, despite protective plastic packaging.
The bottom of the box lined with dead and alive insects.
The painted wooden letters spelling her name now warped, faded, splitting apart.
The previously almost festive, golden helium balloon in the shape of a 2, left last year on her second deathiversary. Still there but deflated. Having given up being able to hold its own.
I want to “refresh” the space, but it fills me with dread and horror.
I feel sick at the idea.
Do I take a bin bag to put the faded, warped, deflated, mouldy items in?
And then what? Throw it all out? Ugh.
Perhaps I will make a ceremonial fire and burn what seems burnable.
I want to go to the tree after I have landed and arrived home on the 30th. Well, I think I do.
But I want it to be “nice” – as nice as can be for such a place. On such a day.
I talked it over with Medjool, who has kept time supple so as to be available to come over later in the day. (We don’t usually see one another apart from at weekends, and this will be a Thursday).
I tell him of my fledgling thoughts, my fantasy, of asking some of Julia’s school friends, to join me on the day, and to help me “refresh” the place. Or to do it in my absence.
I ponder the idea of placing something more durable there. Her name letters on beautiful slates, perhaps. Or the many beautiful stones offered by friends at her funeral placed there (but they need to be protected with varnish first, which would be quite a task).
Medjool is sympathetic and enquiring and encouraging. Through careful questioning and listening he helps me realise that my fear is that I will feel that I am abdicating tending to my younger daughter’s commemorative space. That I will be seen to “not care” enough to do it myself, and delegate the task to others.
And then I talk myself into asking for help. Into making the “tending” a collective event.
I even come to think that some people, some friends – of Julia’s, of mine – might consider it a privilege, an honour, to undertake this task with me.
The plan is still fledgling – filaments of ideas darting off in various directions. But I have summoned the courage to talk to some of Julia’s friends about my wish to have her commemorative space be less “faded, forlorn and dreary” and more, erm, not “jolly”, but at least “cared for”.
There is no specific plan. No timetable. No deadline. Julia’s school friends are finishing up their baccalaureate at the moment, and doing what they – and Julia – should do at this time of year in a final year of school.
I have some willing collaborators who are willing to put their hearts and minds together to co-create something for Julia. Friends of Julia’s who are Julia’s age. And a friend of Julia who is almost my age.
Together we will create something more lasting. To honour her, and her commemorative space.
Something beautiful and creative will emerge.
I have no idea what, and I don’t want to know what.
It will still be hard.
But I don’t feel so alone in the impossible task of tending my youngest child’s place of last breath.
I have asked for help, and more help than I thought might exist, has come forward.
The help was waiting for a spark to develop into something new. Something unknown.
And who knows – perhaps even beautiful – to sit alongside the horror.