Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Death, final and absolute - Enid Richemont

          During the morning of March 14th, David - my partner and husband of a very long time - was putting the final touches to our ebook version of The Magic Skateboard


          Before the end of that afternoon, he would be dead. Death had nosed at us, with its unpleasant breath, on a number of occasions before. There was the time we'd driven back from a long weekend in Cornwall when David had forgotten to bring his blood pressure pills, so when we came home late at night, he took some, along with a small whisky. We ended up in Casualty.

David raising a glass

          There were ominous happenings at the Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy in October last year, when he complained of feeling unwell (the lighting at the exhibition seemed to disturb both of us, but David especially). Then, in one of the rooms, a man suddenly collapsed, and couldn't be revived. Neither of us could recall that exhibition without the image of the man falling.
          In November, David had a mini-stroke - a TIA. He was fast-tracked into UCLH, and survived. I even blogged about the experience. He was going to be fine.
          Then, on that afternoon in March, we between us made some small, but erroneous, decisions which would prove fatal. We were visiting a late friend's exhibition, mainly to please his widow, and, instead of driving, we decided to use public transport, then walk. We misjudged the distance and the steepness of the hill, and as we entered the exhibition, David suddenly fell. He'd died of a heart attack.
          Nothing had prepared me for the physical brutality of the attempted resuscitation, or for the shock and subsequent numbness of my reactions to his death. It's May, and I'm still numb. Friends have recommended books. I've been reading Joan Didion's 'A YEAR OF MAGICAL LIVING'. Her writing, as always, is wonderful, but I could find nothing magical about her year of extreme distress and loss. Books on the subject of grieving abound. They tell me nothing I don't already know. Poetry helps, as poetry always does. Emily Dickinson's 'Because I could not stop for Death/ He kindly stopped for me' seems to say something, and also anything by Yeats. I even find myself researching mediums, so great has been my need to communicate with him. Our affair began with a conversation at a party, and went on from there - conversations which ended for ever in early Spring 2013.
          My first picture book comes out later this year. This has been a new departure for me, and we were planning to celebrate. Thanks to David, I became an Electric Author, with eleven of my out of print children's books re-published as ebooks. We were working towards indie-publishing a number of unpublished children's and Y/A texts, and at least one adult novel. David had a professional IT background, and was meticulous in his work. I can't imagine doing this for myself.


20 comments:

CallyPhillips said...

Enid - no words to express and nothing which can help. But thanks for the bravery of 'getting back on the blog bus'! Now we've seen a picture of your David we can hold him in our memories too. The poem that helped me deal with bereavement best is Christina Rosetti 'Remember Me'
Thoughts are with you. Life will go on. Not the same, not as good, but your love for David is something which transcends parting. Hold onto that.

Rosalie Warren said...

Enid, your post really moved me. Like Cally, I admire your courage in blogging about your loss. David sounds (and looks) like an absolutely wonderful person and you must miss him terribly.

I know what you mean about books on grieving. None of them have helped me either. Perhaps we are all just so different in the way we grieve, or perhaps some things just can't be put into words - or not in prose, anyway.

Anyway, my thoughts are with you.

Jan Needle said...

mine also. condolence

julia jones said...

Dear Enid, I'm so sorry for you. However I will just say that when I die I hope I'll be walking up a hill with the person I love. Not mad and alone or in hospital and exhausted by disease. with love from Julia

Enid Richemont said...

Thanks for all your comments. Julia - so many people have said this to me, and I agree in priciple, but it's nevertheless horrendous for the person who's left - no chance to talk, to say goodbye, no preparation. I was psychologically prepared for the possibility of his mini-stroke op going wrong, as one is pre-any serious operation, but not this. If I lived in a war zone - Syria - a sudden loss like this must be an everyday occurence - how do people cope? We are so protected.

julia jones said...

Dear Enid
It is hell for you. My father died just like that. Gone. And I have never got over it. My mother is doing the living death of Alzheimers and I find myself meditating, approximately every week, how I will manage to do away with myself quickly should this fate ever be mine. Which genetically it probably will be.
Last summer we endured the expected death of a dear friend and neighbour - life expectancy prognoses whittled down from five to two years and then to months and week and come tonight if you want to say goodbye. Then he went a few days later after appearing to rally and it's no easier for his grieving widow and children than it would be had he stepped into a minefield. Coping with death is simply awful. There it is. We have no choice. I hope you and your family will find a way through xxx

Susan Price said...

I have nothing to add to what's already been said better than I can say it - but Enid, I am so sorry for you. Death is the terror that all religions have formed around, I think - and often the fear is not so much for death itself, but fear of losing the people we love to that absolute finality.
And since Cally mentioned it -


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by dayYou tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

From what you write of him, and his picture, I think it's clear that David, if he's anywhere, doesn't want you to be sad. Although, of course, you can't help it.

Jen Alexander said...

Thank you for talking about your grief here and on facebook, Enid. The more people talk about bereavement and grief, the easier it will be for people living in that nightmare to feel at least that they are normal, and will somehow find their way through. When my sister killed herself, the most helpful thing someone said to me was that losing a close one is like losing a limb. You'll always feel that loss, and that terrible absence, but you do learn to adapt and walk again, and the pain does ease.

Bill Kirton said...

As Cally says, no words to express. Even if I were a poet it would be hard. Losing someone you've loved and who's loved you for so long is unimaginable. I'm so sorry for your loss and sadness, Enid, and wish I could offer something that would help.

Pauline Fisk said...

Enid, I've just got to say that I think it's amazing that you're back blogging, that you're sharing your photograph of David, that you're talking to us all about him. I can't imagine the hole I'd crawl into if it had happened to me, but it would be deep and very silent. What you're doing, here and on FB and I'm sure other places too, and to other people, is absolutely the right thing. Whatever instinct is propelling you to share, is one that's taking care of you - which of course is what David would want. xxx

Sheridan Winn said...

Dear Enid,
I'm so sorry. What a terrible shock for you. You're a brave lady. Thank you for sharing this - and take care. It will take time.
Love Sherix

Lydia Bennet said...

thanks for sharing this Enid. Very brave of you. What a terrible loss. There is no easy way to deal with these sad events, we learn to live with them because we must. But you have a long and happy relationship to remember, and a working partnership too. I dealt with the loss of both parents, witnessing their deaths, by researching the science of the dying processes, and writing my poetry collection All That Lives, rather than looking for work on grieving. But that's my way of coping. One sudden death, one slow death, and really there are always things you can say about which is 'better' or 'worse' but either way they just happen. It's our very helplessness to control what's happening that's so hard to understand as well as the loss of a person we love.

Hywela Lyn said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Enid, and I know from personal experience that nothing anyone can say can really ease the pain. I lost my first husband suddenly, when he was 35 and we'd been married just ten years.

A dear friend who had also lost her husband young, said that the coming year would be like the Grand National. The first Christmas, birthday and anniversary, and every anniversary without him would be like a hurdle to be got over. The next time round would be a little easier, and she was right. It does get easier with time, and the pain and sadness becomes less raw as you cherish the happy times you spent together, and know he will always live on in your heart. My thoughts are with you at this terribly sad and difficult time.

Reb MacRath said...

Enid, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm glad the Didion book helped out a bit. But, just as there's no preparation for the death of a spouse or a loved one, there's also no real consolation in words. Stay busy and let David's spirit shine through every word you write. In that sense he will still be your partner for life.

Kathleen Jones said...

My commiserations too Enid. It's something you can never 'get over' - just something you have to learn to live with which can be very hard. I lost both my parents in the last ten years - one suddenly, one slowly with time to say goodbye. And I've lost two grandchildren who died at birth - much harder, and for my daughter and her husband something that can't be come to terms with. Talking about it helps - the person much loved lives in the words and memories. Thanks for sharing David with us.

madwippitt said...

Thanks for sharing. Poetry is a wonderful resource that can help in a way that prose that doesn't seem to at such times in your life.
Sending e-hugs.

Dennis Hamley said...

enid, what a brave post. I'm glad you gave us a picture of David: it shows just what a great man he must have been. Bereavement shows itself in strange ways. After my wife died it was some time before I was able to go around the town and talk to people. But when I did, I often found myself in conversation about her with friends and it was never long before we were all laughing. That helped me so much - and what a legacy to leave!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

It's so brave of you to write about this. The truth, I suspect, is that there is no easier way. If somebody goes quickly, the shock of loss to those left behind is hideous. If somebody dies after a long illness, the rawness isn't the same, but the loss simply gets to you in other ways. As you say, sometimes only poetry can help. Can I recommend Douglas Dunn's Elegies, written after the death of his wife - a sad, angry and beautiful book.

Elizabeth Kay said...

Enid, I've only just seen this and my heart goes out to you. The husband of a dear friend, and a dear friend himself, died very suddenly four years ago at only 49. It still seems like yesterday, and the shock makes it all the more harrowing.

Lee said...

I'm so very sorry, Enid.