This post concludes the series of three pieces, all of which are inspired by the poem below. It was written by my dad, and when I read it for the first time two weeks ago, I cried intensely. I was deeply moved by his words, his love for his wife, and for the desperately sad fact that she cannot read what he has written about her. She died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2011. As a result, there is nowhere for his words to go. Others will read them and surely be moved by them, but the real recipient is not around. The only other person who fully knows what every syllable means, can no longer be touched by his love and his pain. He bears them alone. Except, of course, that love connects across all dimensions of space and time.
His poem is beautiful. Almost 2400 words detailing as much as he is able to recall of her, of their life together, and the salvation she brought him in every word, look and gesture, and in the silence she inhabited. His pain is etched into every line. But so is his love. And that is my point with these three posts. Love lies at the root of his pain. He misses her madly because he dared to love her. Because he was compelled to love her. He had no choice. She drew it out of him, re-awakening the deepest of desires which he himself had buried years – or maybe even decades – before.
His words also remind me of my own true love. I share many of his traits, and I share my life with someone who loves me with the same purity of acceptance, and the same healing, forgiving force. My brother is another good example. As affected as he may have been by our childhood experiences, he also carries love within him. And, interestingly, when it shines it seems deeper and more knowledgeable than my own.
As with the other parts in this series, the whole poem conveys the certainty that, despite all that happens to us, the damage we endure and the subsequent strategies we employ for self-protection, love always – always – remains with us. It is ceaselessly available, ready to flower fully and instantly at the slightest chink in our self-made armour. If only we can learn to trust it more, embrace it more, and to relax into it, we would discover the deepest of connections with ourselves, each other, and with everything in existence.
I’ll Remember You
Things have changed but now nothing is changing.
Time has moved swiftly and slowly.
Flesh has grown and withered.
Tears have flowed and dried and flowed again.
Predicted healing has not happened.
Ageing has continued its conspiratorial stealth through my life.
My missing you has become the only unmoving constant.
I miss you every minute of every year.
I miss you in the frost of dawn and in the dew of evening.
I miss you at noon and at midnight and all that is in between.
I miss everything you did and everything you said.
I miss touching you and being touched by you.
I miss the perfume of your moving.
I miss the fragrance of your presence.
I miss you beneath cold-sheet sleep and in the warmth of waking.
I miss you when I watch other lives from the distance of indifference
and when I hear their scratching voices of swelling irrelevance.
I miss you when my soul has been purged
of all my pointless, wasted history
and I miss you when it is filled with the haunting reality of losing you.
I miss you in my darkness and in my light.
I miss you in my day and in my night.
I miss you when I set a table for one.
I miss you when I’m out walking alone.
I miss you when I need a third helping hand.
I miss your alternative point of view and your second opinion.
I miss your groans as much as your chuckles at my attempts to be witty.
I miss your tolerance of my impatience,
your calming influence over my imagined panic
and your marshalling my chaos.
I miss your intelligence which very often shamed mine.
I miss your quiet elegance, your easy style and your understated beauty.
I miss your sweet disposition.
I miss your natural munificence in accepting my flaws.
I miss your hugging me from behind and your warm breath on my neck
as I am transfixed by something through Spring’s window.
I miss hearing you answer when I called out for you.
I miss you when I lock up at night,
an act I once performed to keep the demons out and our love in.
I miss you as I am climbing the stairs to bed.
I miss your cold feet at bedtime.
I miss you when I see a stranger smile like you used to smile.
I miss your love.
I miss your controlled irritation when I had done something stupid.
I miss your warm, gentle hands, your discerning eyes,
your soothing, settling voice.
I miss your youth which reduced our average age.
I miss your reminding me I was not as complicated as others saw me.
I miss your triumphant smile when you had completed the crossword
I had been struggling to finish.
I miss your athlete’s gait when we went for a run.
I miss your commitment to the protection of your ideals.
I miss your unconditional support for the concept of family.
I miss your power for simple problem-solving.
I miss your unflappable, Irish logic and your faultless commonsense.
I miss your honesty, your trust, your integrity.
I miss the generosity of your belief in me.
I miss your self-assurance in your decision-making.
I miss the softness of your skin.
I miss your warmth both physically and mentally.
I miss your taste, your feel, your touch.
I miss your arms, your legs, your breasts.
I miss the things you did with your fingers and your lips.
I miss our love-making.
I miss witnessing your self-confidence expand
forcing self-doubt beyond the boundary of significance.
I miss your driving off my shyness
even though it was only ever temporarily.
I miss the tales of your working day – good or bad,
I listened attentively ready to congratulate or console.
I miss being happy with you by my side
and walking hand in hand like new lovers.
I miss your making me happy.
I miss your concern about my health
even though I didn’t ask for it or expect it,
remembering of course how you once saved my life.
I miss being concerned about your welfare.
I miss how you handled my strange moods
without judgement or criticism.
I miss your restraint when I had been an embarrassment.
I miss the ordinariness and the normality that was sometimes there
as a respite from our love rushing to make up for lost time.
I miss the beauty that was inside you that you’d always let me see.
I miss the high energy of living that flowed from you to me.
I miss you when I think I may be creating a memory without you.
I miss all the things we created that belonged solely to us.
I miss your accomplished Irish dancing after a couple of drinks.
I miss saying ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’.
I miss your passion for living the life you had.
I miss our love.
I miss our celebrations of Christmas and birthdays.
Special days have become ordinary and unidentifiable.
Days now melt into one another creating one interminable period
to such an extent that I don’t know what day it is when I wake up.
I miss your leading me to safety whenever my darkness descended.
I miss how, metaphorically, you showed me the colours,
previously unseen by my colour-blind eyes.
I miss your disdainful expletive to describe an absurdity
followed by your endearing show of embarrassment.
I miss our holidays together and, surprisingly, going shopping with you.
I miss how beautiful you were when you were tired, when you slept,
when you were active, when you were idle,
when you were annoyed, when you were fulfilled
when you laughed, when you cried,
when you were solemn, when you were lost in thought,
when you were happy, when you were sad.
I miss my soul-mate. I miss my saint. I miss my guardian angel.
I miss my perfect wife. I miss my passionate lover.
I miss my guiding light. I miss my best friend, queen to my pauper.
I miss your laughing eyes.
I miss you being here with me.
I miss you, the only person I ever truly believed in.
I miss all the time we shared.
I miss the grace and determination with which you met every challenge
and there was no greater challenge than I was.
I miss your kindness, your humanity, your compassion.
I miss your indignation when some people had maligned me
in voices just loud enough to make sure you heard
and you asked me to say nothing so as to avoid any confrontation.
I miss your smoking, your taste for an occasional glass of whisky
and your contentment with both.
I miss you to talk to and be silent with.
I miss your calm simplicity with which you eliminated awkwardness.
I miss standing in the light of love from your eyes
and telling you I will always love you.
I still utter those words but it is to your photographs
on cold, unsympathetic walls in eerie, empty rooms.
I miss how hard you worked and how easily you played.
I miss the opportunity to reminisce about the early years
when we were getting to know each other.
I miss recalling with you that September day we met
when you restarted my life
and energised and refreshed my ailing happiness.
I miss your tongue in my mouth and mine in yours.
I miss lying beside you.
I miss moving inside you.
I miss your love.
I miss being able to share our memories of a special May day –
the day we were married,
the day that still is the best day of my life.
I miss the chance to learn so much more about each other.
I miss seeing the bottles of lotions, the pots of creams
and the many items of make-up
that adorned every flat surface in our bedroom
and which left me wondering
if any of these treatments actually enhanced your beauty.
The answer was always no.
I miss your accumulating pile of unanswered mail
and I miss your ignoring my gentle reminders to sort it out.
I miss your worn clothes strewn across the floor by your side of the bed
and which mysteriously appeared bundled together
in the front of the washing machine’s gaping mouth.
I miss monitoring your bank account,
making sure you were never overdrawn.
I miss your passive reaction to someone’s verbal aggression.
I miss your hand in mine, showing a spontaneous gesture of affection.
I miss your arms around my waist, your head against my shoulder.
I miss the smell of your hair.
I miss the importance of you.
I miss your significance.
I miss the beauty of your love.
I miss the times you replied to my question with an unrelated answer
and when I asked the question to your answer,
knowing what I was doing, you gave the same answer
with the grin of a cheeky child.
I miss your lifting me when I’d been down.
I’m down all the time now
but there’s no one who cares enough to lift me like you did.
I miss the Sunday morning Costa coffees
that presented us with quality time
to idly chat about all things and nothing in particular.
I miss your casseroles and even though they took a long time to cook,
they were well worth the wait.
I miss the feathery tingle of your long, dark hair against my skin
and how it danced freely and gracefully to the tune of a summer breeze.
I miss the comical way you managed to blow your hair from your eyes.
I miss using your straighteners on your hair
at the back of your head –
a place you couldn’t see to reach with any accuracy –
and teasing you that my efforts weren’t working.
I miss your refusal to countenance the consumption of vegetables.
I miss the quality of your healing all my sorrows.
I miss our love.
I miss your deep breathing and your soft voice at times of intimacy.
I miss the words of love,
whispered, almost inaudibly, as though someone might overhear
and absorb their power,
erode their impact
and steal their sincerity to claim them as their own.
I miss watching you, waiting like an excited child for me to respond.
I miss responding.
I miss the richness of life
that the power of your love had bestowed on me.
I miss witnessing your morning ritual of gently smoothing creams
into your youthful skin
and I miss your laughter
whenever I had suggested the same treatment might be good for me.
I miss our holidays together,
the planning and your repacking my suitcase after inspection.
I miss your endearing self-consciousness
when you realised you had been naive.
I miss your coping mechanism, a trait I needed in and around my life.
It was a quality I could not replicate.
I miss your making space for my eccentric mannerisms,
my unorthodox whims,
my singular passion,
my ridiculous foibles,
my unconventional habits –
a space that had declined to question
and had avoided the demand for answers.
I miss seeing you reading
with your quaint spectacles perched on your nose,
drawn in to a world of romance
or a harrowing tale from Ireland’s religious history.
Your spectacles still sit on the mantelpiece where you left them,
but they are empty now –
no smiling eyes, no swooning eyes, no questioning eyes,
no concentrating eyes, no horrified eyes, no tearful eyes,
no loving eyes, no tender eyes looking back at me,
just an accumulation of dust
gathered around a few words from your last, unfinished novel.
I miss seeing you drive down the road as I tended to the flower beds,
the high excitement I felt never varied, never wavered.
I miss your change of mind and clothes
five minutes before we were due to leave for some function.
Both outfits had been stunning
but your comfort and contentment with the final choice
was always the only important thing.
I miss your love.
I miss sitting with you on our garden bench
in the quietly-soothing warmth of evening,
inhaling the mingling scents of the summer flowers
before the setting sun closed their eyes for the night.
The garden still has its summer life of scents and colours,
but the bench is and always will be redundant now.
I miss the most recent period of my life with you –
a period you had filled with limitless exuberance.
I miss the light of my life.
I miss your light in my life.
I miss being able to thank you for just being there.
I miss you reaching out to hold my hand in the middle of the night.
I miss your coy expression when you caught me watching you.
I miss your company.
I miss our love. I miss your love.
I miss your beauty. I miss the beauty of our love.
I miss our life together, I miss you.
Things that could have changed have changed.
Time dawdles and stumbles, but is never still.
My flesh is creased and mottled by unwanted years.
Tears still flow with predictable regularity.
Ageing persists with its insidious war on my vital organs.
It is too late to hope for any promised healing.
The benevolent social meritocracy fails time after time.
My missing you remains the only unmoving constant.
It was my burden that I was hard to like and even harder to love,
but you changed everything and threw down that burden.
Now you’ve gone,
my missing you has become my new more cumbersome burden,
but I will always remember you as my safe place.
I miss how the air moved whenever you entered the room,
charged it seemed with an indeterminable, but pleasing, force.
I still feel that force from time to time when there is no one there
and your absence reminds me
of what once was and can never be again.
I miss you most when someone speaks your name,
when a hint of your favourite perfume is carried
solely, but briefly, to me on a secret breeze,
when a fleeting thought, a word, a song, a gesture
or a memory washes through me unexpectedly
inducing the unsettling sadness of missing you and your love.