Sunday, January 16, 2011

still listening and learning

In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald
It sure is. That's why the bereaved are always awake at that time. And Cliff died at exactly three o'clock in the morning. So began the first really dark night of my life. I have endured many more since ...
This past week has been one of reflection, remembering and learning for me. It's now been two years and one week, and I've taken this time to think about him so much. To grieve as I knew I would after believing that he'd been gone for two years. I've spent this week remembering him. His words. It has been a week of cine-movies running through the corners of my mind. Listening to all his words. Again, like an action replay.
I've put together the first album ... all the photos of him from before we were together, in chronological order, making notes of the year and who he is with. At the back of the album are pictures of people who were his closest friends. A photo of the hospital where he was born in Malta, his swimming certificate from 1964. There are gaps awaiting other items when I find them.
I was going to write notes ... using his words, beside the relevant photos/time period in the book. But I soon realized that there would not be enough space. So I created a document in word, set up columns and a small font size ... and just started tapping away on my laptop.
I had to stop every now and again to have a big cry because I remembered seeing how painful it was for him to recall some memories. I remembered how I'd glimpsed the little three year old boy who was still part of the man I was in love with. The little boy who had no understanding why the people who fostered him beat him.
I was astonished at how I remembered so many of his words. And verbatim. In my mind's eye, I could see him as he spoke the words. So many words. So many memories of his ... which are now copied and pasted directly to me. And he used to accuse me of not listening. But I did. I remember it all, and more is coming to me. So much that it felt like I was being bombarded with his words. His story. Even though I was writing about his earliest years, more bytes were coming to me, from the times that we were together, bringing more and more epiphanous moments as well as an unbelievable amount of tears.
I've filled up two sides of A4 - 3 columns - font size 8 ... and I've only written about the first 3 years of his life.
It's exhausted me, but comforted me. It has also broken me. I've grieved on a deeper level than I ever have before. I've cried for the three year old and I've cried for the man. I'll stick the pages in by the photos, but I don't think I can share them with anyone else. I know that there are words that would hurt others. The truth often does, but I'm not doing this to hurt anyone. Far from it. I feel as though I want his daughter to read them after I have died, but not before. And I don't know why.
But I know why he was always telling me to listen. Because so much has come back to me about the man he was. Much of what he told me explains how the man - the essence of his heart and soul - was formed. And he was mine. He shared it all with me. He gave me those extra years, the years that I didn't share with him. The ones that were denied us. He shared it all - something he had never done before. It was important - he told me it was.
Completing this has opened up something in me. Like a port-hole. And let more darkness in. But along with the darkness has come more understanding, more learning ... and above all, his love and an absolute reminder that he knew me far better than I will ever know myself.
This week has been an explosion of lightbulb moments. And darkness. And feeling his love and care once more. I could feel him near again.
Unlike most, I luckily knew what I had before it was gone. But it has broken me this week to realize that, in remembering so many things that he said to me, that he had been preparing me for this for years. He'd never expected to make it past 50, and he was right, as he died two months before his 53rd birthday. He wanted to, but he knew he wouldn't. He told me that he didn't care before he was with me, but that he wanted to live for me now that he had me. He knew and listened to his body and read the signs. And he was very "fay". He really was. He told me he would die of a stroke, and he told me he wouldn't make old bones. The hairs would stand up on his arms when we talked about stuff. He only said it once because of the way I reacted. I couldn't bear to hear it. He knew me, like I said. He knew how much I could take. So he made sure that he prepared me for this horror as best as he could.
I listened. I memorized. Back then.
I hear him. I understand. Now.
And my heart is breaking because it is so full of love and emotion for him, it feels as though it will burst because it has no more capacity. But something tells me that it will expand to allow more understanding, listening and learning. Lessons for the journey I am on now. Words he insisted I listen to ... because they would carry me through this when he no longer could be beside me ... protect me.
It has also convinced me, that my initial outrage after his death, when people suggested that I was young enough to find love again was justified. For I will never find love again like his, even if I spent every waking moment of my life dedicated to hunting it down. He was my one. I was his one. I'm not saying I won't enjoy a relationship, but I shan't be looking for love. Make of that as you will because I'm not going to waste any time analyzing myself on that one.
He knew me. He loved me. Enough to tell me things that would get me through this, even in the darkness at 3 a.m. He gave me words to comfort me in my darkest nights. Words that turned into balm to soothe me so I can eventually sleep. Words that he knew I wouldn't truly hear until he'd left me.
And then guilt attacked me. The demon raised his ugly head and accused me ... why didn't I "get it" back then? Why couldn't I have been stronger when he was alive? Been a better wife. Did I really know what I had back then? Yes I did. But what I have lost - well I am discovering more and more of that. And I knew that he understood me better than any other ... but just not how well. Did I know how much he loved me? Without doubt ... but I didn't know that he'd given me enough love to last me this journey.
And he told the demon: I loved her for the way she was. For her naivety. I wanted her to live in her lala-land for as long as she could. This was the way I wanted it. She was my wife. My responsibility. My decision. It's the way we were. It's why it worked. I would not have had it any other way.
And for once I heard him the first time.
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Hi Boo,

    Sending you some love across the ocean <3


  2. I am glad you are learning to listen to Cliff. He really was very wise, wasn't he?
    R was adamant that he would live to be at least 100 - shows what he knew!

  3. the pain and exploration you are going through is really such a gift. knowing so well and so deeply, so intimately his thoughts and words. being the scribe to write down his life for others to know the man you did so well. the gift is for us all to know the Cliff you knew. and yes, when it is so very dark, the stars are quite beautiful. i wish you peace.

  4. What a gift those words are. As painful as this is for you it is such a wonderful outpouring of the love you two obviously shared. I hope that it brings you peace.

    I understand and love your words: "He was my one. I was his one."

  5. What touched me most was you saying that you knew what you had while he was still alive. What a blessing. Your words are beautiful. Somewhere, somehow he feels your love.

  6. Thanks everyone ... I am having a break from doing more on this for a week or two ... then I'll carry on working on it. It's a tricky thing, to find the balance that works for you, isn't it?