A Bitter Sweet Day
First Published 19th January 2020
A Bitter Sweet Day: Six years ago today my dad died. One year ago Michael proposed. Right here. Right by my Dad’s tree.
So today was of course going to be a day very much filled with lots of bitter sweet memories to play a little bit of volley ball havoc with my ever-thinking mind. So, out of all my recent ’firsts’, this was possibly the one I’d been quietly dreading the most. Partly because I hadn’t had the courage to go back there since -which in itself has tied me up with all sorts of feelings of guilt - but mainly because I feared that when I got there all the happy sweet memories would have been trampled over by the big bad bitter ones.
Well, on the whole and thankfully, it turns out that my fears were largely unfounded. And although obviously very emotional, there has also been a sense of comfort, relief and achievement in having gone back.
For someone who has the world’s worst memory, it’s amazing the detail with which I can remember that day a year ago. For a start it was pissing it down with rain. Michael told me afterwards how relieved he was when the rain stopped literally just before he got down on one knee. We both later joked about it being a sign - some kind of divine intervention by my dad!
Michael also shared with me his fears of choosing that particular day, that particular place, and whether it would in some way feel morbid or weird. But he overcame that fear, and as he explained it so well to me - if my Dad was alive then he said he would have asked him first, so this was the closest way he could think of to make my Dad part of things too. For me, it was the most beautiful and romantic gesture, and just so typical of the kindness and thoughtfulness Michael had in his heart. Of course I can’t help but question what he was really thinking that day; were there any dark thoughts there then? Did he have even the slightest flicker of wondering whether he’d really be around to actually marry me one day? Or was he just blissfully happy in that moment and full of all the loving intentions I saw in his eyes?
The truth is - and this is the hardest bit - I will never know. So much about death is out of our control and understanding anyway, but with suicide the unanswered questions perhaps resonate that little bit louder. Just that little bit more deafening and harder to live with. And of course easier to torture our heads with. It’s often referred to as complex grief - and although I could happily substitute ‘complex’ for much more satisfying expletives - I think ’complex grief’ is as good a way as any.
So, January 19th will probably never be the easiest day on my calendar - we all have one or a even a few - but what I’m holding onto this afternoon is that I know it will get easier. And that positive trajectory is so important to cling onto. Michael proposing last year on this day gave so much light and happiness to a shit day, to a point where I figured I’d no longer dread its annual appearance in quite the same way ever again. Sadly, I never did get to experience that lack of dread - but what I did get to do, thanks largely to all the therapy I’ve done, is get to take control of it. I didn’t hide from it’s existence. After 7 long months I’ve finally been back to see my Dad. And now I’ve done that once I know I can do it again. And that makes me happy. There’s my comfort; there’s my relief and there’s my sense of achievement for owning another day.
..Plus I even got to joke to myself about the sun shining down - perhaps some kind of divine intervention again - but this time from Michael and my Dad