My first day back goes well. My boss Sue is totally protective of me and says that she just wants me to settle in, see people, and find my feet. I don't actually do any real work but I AM taken for lots of drinks in the deli and find that each time I do so, I have a few tears. This is because I can with these colleagues who are more like friends after working with some of them for 9 years.
I have a cup of tea with an old Manager of mine, also called Sue, and break down when I describe what happened on that day. I tell her that my worst fear has been realized, that at least I know that he is safe now, no one else can hurt him, and that I will never get that dreaded visit from the police to tell me he has been killed in a road crash BECAUSE HE IS ALREADY DEAD.
EVERYONE KNOWS. This is a relief to me because there is no way I am strong enough to say the words. The people in the deli, the toilet cleaners, everyone just stops what they're doing to give me a squeeze. I feel like all the squeezes and messages and words are giving me strength.
I work on clearing my emails and before I know it the day is over. On the journey home, I feel so tired and Faye tells me that David wants to keep picking me up and dropping me off everyday. It makes him feel like he's helping, so please just accept the help. I am secretly relieved to have one less thing to do each day and say thanks.
I am home. I put on a cheerful front and say bye to Faye and David and my heart grows heavier with each step up my drive. His white van is on the drive. That normally makes me happy because it means he is home! But he isn't home and I dread opening the door. I do though and the door becomes the trigger for the next three or four weeks ... the catalyst that starts the tears, reminds me that he's gone, and it is amazing to me that I can go from outwardly normal to a "mess" in the space of a nanosecond AND BECAUSE OF A DOOR. The door now symbolizes PAIN.
Added to this, I have no heating or hot water and there is still 12" of snow outside. I turn on the blow heaters and it makes me so sad, that I would never have been this cold without him. It really magnifies the fact that he looked after me in such a fundamental way. I feel so alone in this world, even when I am in the presence of other people.
Then something startles me. The phone is ringing. It's Vicki, then Jenny, and it doesn't stop ringing till 21h00 that night. At one point my cellphone and my landline are ringing and I have to promise to call someone back. There are also loads of texts and messages on Facebook. It's lovely to talk.
I decide to go to bed, instead I wander around the house feeling as though I am not me anymore. I have been shattered. I am fragmented. I AM BROKEN. I am not sure of anything anymore. I touch walls that he built, walls that he plastered, I kiss walls because his hands have touched them, and I stand, completely leaning on a wall that he has built, plastered and painted with his own hands for the longest time. It is cool on my face, on my body and seems to calm me a little. Wandering in and out of rooms aimlessly, looking for something but I don't know what.
I take a bowl of cereal and hot drink to bed with me, and my dogs, who are now used to their routine, head straight for the stairs, instead of their basket. Then I remember that I have no hot water, and go back downstairs and fill a kettle and take it back up with me, so that I can wash in the bathroom sink. This brings the sobs back to me. I spill some scalding water on my toe but don't even react to it, instead I blindly grope around in the laundry basket to find one of his unwashed shirts, and stand there for I don't know how long, sobbing into it and holding it tightly. This calms me down - HIS SCENT - and I settle down for sleep. Exhausted. Can't sleep. Ring Brian for a tele-marathon.
The next day I ask my boss if I can go and have dinner with one of Cliff's oldest friends Saeid, instead of with the team at our Team Meeting the following week in Manchester. She says that I don't realize how much the team wants to see me, and suggests that I fly up with her the night before, have dinner with him then, so that I can have time with the team the following night. It takes me an hour to book her flights and my flights - it would normally take me 10 minutes. I can't concentrate and am therefore not confident that I am doing it properly.
Saeid is now married with three children, their fourth expected any day and therefore he could not attend the funeral. His wife has diabetes and I told him that Cliff would be cross with him if he left her on her own when the baby was due. I can't wait to see him and meet his wife and have to think of a gift to take, eventually deciding on a Mecca Compass because of their faith. I send my flight and hotel information off to him by email and I am surprised to find myself smiling and actually LOOKING FORWARD TO SOMETHING.
My routine is much the same for the next couple of weeks, except that at weekends I stay at Vicki's or with Jenny for one night.
Seeing Saeid and Mona, as well as Adam (his son from his first wife) and meeting their three adorable girls is a real tonic for me. When Saeid picks me up I run along the road and into his arms. He hasn't changed. What can I say about Mona? I love her. I speak as much Arabic as she does English, which is not a lot. Yet we communicated all night, and if we really struggled, Saeid translated. Despite being heavily pregnant, she has cooked me lamb, couscous and chickpeas (my favourite Arabic cuisine), as well as delicious soup, pastries and fruit. Eat EAT EAT she keeps telling me. Saeid asks me if his friend cried when he died. He wants to know that he died a good death. I understand this culture and am very happily esconsed in it. I know that it is not etiquette, but ask if she will open my gift now because I want to see her reaction. They love the compass and are extremely touched. I will wait to get back to the hotel to open my gift from Mona. Saeid asks if I will be alright financially and tells me I am to go straight to him if I cannot manage because he says, it is his duty to look after his brother's wife. And besides, he adds, I have always been like a little sister to him. I don't want to leave them, but notice that it is 01h30 and I have to be up for my meeting in the morning. We agree that every time I go to Manchester for a meeting, I will fly up the night before so that I can sleep at their home for the night.
I seem to be coping fairly well during this time period, outwardly at least. My boss tells me that my Director is worried because I am acting "like normal" and he is getting very concerned. In all honesty, I have a split persona - at work I am fine, at home I cry and cry and cry and cry ... ad infinitum.
I have always had a tendancy to delay anything "unpleasant" emotionally. True to form, I have been ignoring the life insurance company's demand for the original policy. I have tried looking for it so that they will put the money in my account, but I can't find it. The more I look, the more upset I get ... an endless viscious circle. In reality I don't give a shit about the money, I don't want it - I WANT HIM. And the unspeakable? Oh, that little matter of IF THEY PAY UP THAT MEANS HE IS REALLY REALLY DEAD. AND GONE. NOT COMING HOME. EVER. So, true to form, I ignore the whole matter as if it will go away. Yeah right.
Eventually, with a lot of coaxing, gentle probing and support, I email them to say that I can't find the damn policy. They send me a form that a Solicitor has to sign and then they will send me the money. I ask one of our corporate lawyers if she can take a look at it and she turns up at my desk 10 minutes later and it is done. SORTED. I post it off. And I wonder why I work myself up in these states about stuff that really isn't that hard to deal with.
Two days later I get home after work and there are two letters on the doormat. I am making myself open these letters upon receipt, even if I don't do anything about them.
Letter One tells me that they have put the money in my bank account.
Letter Two tells me that Cliff's ashes are ready for me to collect.
And, that's when I lose it. BIG STYLE