Since You’ve Been Gone

You died ten years ago.

Ten years is a long, long time. I am 43 now and my hair has turned grey. A lot of things have changed in these ten years.   

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Sometimes I daydream about you suddenly turning up, as if nothing had happened, and I marvel at all the catching up we’d do; there would be a decade of things to talk about, to laugh over. Sometimes you appear in my dreams, tantalisingly real; I know you are dead, but for a brief moment before I wake up, you are living and breathing again. Ten years may have passed, but I know that you would still be you, and I would still be me, unchanged; we’d click right back to where we were. Best mates, always.

It is easy to say I miss you; indeed it has been said so many times that it inadequately conveys how I really feel. I have learnt that grief never truly goes away; it just gets tucked up, deep inside, but sometimes it escapes, often when I least expect it, and sometimes when I do. The pain has lessened, the wounds have healed. Sometimes the scars itch, but for most of the time they are just there, a permanent reminder of what once was.

The place that really, really holds the heart of our friendship is the one place that I hardly dare visit; The Angel pub. I have been there once, just once in these past ten years. I went in with a couple of friends, and sat at table for a drink. My eyes moistened, but I made myself stay. Our favourite spot, in the window, is still there, where we would spend hours, drinking, laughing, talking. I yearn to sit there with you again. You were you and I was I, and that was all we needed. I want to go there now, to sit, and drink and remember you. I am afraid it might be a form of torture, but it is what I must do. It is time.

Here is a secret about grief. It’s kind of an open secret, because everyone who has experienced it knows it to be true, but here it is anyway. Grief never really goes away. Time doesn’t heal. Not fully. After a while – a few months, a few years maybe – grief retreats into the darkest corners of your mind, but it will lurk there indefinitely. It will leak into everything else you do or feel; it will lurch forward when you don’t expect it. It will haunt you when you sleep….In these dreams I know about the accident, yet it makes sense that he is back again. ‘You’re OK’, I say, ‘you’re safe’…Often I wake up convinced that it is real and it takes me a long time in the cruel darkness to work out that it isn’t. Time doesn’t heal, it cauterises.  

(From A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart)

If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.  

(Michel de Montaigne, On Friendship)

 

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