In our world the smallest things can have such impact.

An out of the blue text, a friend, a real friend from the old world, who lives miles away would be passing. Was I free? Could we meet? The last time I saw her we visited with our young son to see her new baby and we cooed and compared and remembered the times working together while our husbands struggled to find something in common. Over the years and the miles we have had less contact, life getting in the way like it used to do. I moved again, she had another baby and contact was down to a Christmas card. But we started out together, we volunteered and trained together and we cried and held each other when reality was too much. And somehow it was ok because somehow she was still a close friend, we just didn’t talk that much.

Sometime last year I found her on Facebook and an infrequent catch up began. She was the same person though her world was quite different and earlier this year after reading a book I knew we should talk about I emailed her and promised, really promised that week, one evening , when all the jobs were done I was absolutely positively going to ring.

And then came The Severing. The screaming. The inferno of confusion. The carnage of a life. The crushing terror. The Void…

Some point later, quite early I seem to remember, I sat at the computer. I really didn’t do much else then. I stared vacantly at the Merry Widows website not really close to approaching any thought that this would become my home for months. That a string of letters would be a necessary gateway to a tumble of people who knew, just knew and would be there to hold me. I clicked to Facebook found her and typed. I don’t remember what I said, I’m not going to look back at it, I don’t need to but do I recall the feeling. The desperate longing, the anguished emptiness as I attempted to put some words together which explained why I hadn’t got around to ringing her. I thundered out some garbled reference to what had happened, some wounded hollow cry, a whimper. The horror, the panic … Help me and hit send.

She was there.

She didn’t have my number but reconfirmed her own. And while the endless stream of cartoons bleated out from downstairs I shakily tapped out the digits. She wrapped me up in her voice, the same tones from years ago when she was younger and when I was real. She held me with her words as I retched and gagged out my shock. My son came upstairs to investigate and I tried to capture some breath to say I was ok, just needed to chat to my friend. (What did he feel in those moments? I have such work to do. I have to unravel his story soon…)

She was there.

The years were irrelevant. She had known him, she had her own shock but she cradled me from miles away and bandaged me up in her prayers. I was destroyed yet felt so loved. She couldn’t do anything practical from many counties away, and I didn’t know what I needed anyway. But she could listen, hold and love. She did it in that bleak brutal chasm of a February night and many times since. She put me in contact with another young widow who had travelled further, she sent me a special book and on Friday I got a text. She would be in the area Saturday. I’m writing out these feelings because they overpowered me. I couldn’t wait to see her but I was scared too. I lay quietly in my morning numbness waiting for reality to find its level while the varying veils of distorted dreams started to lift. I hadn’t cried, Then I read the text and sobbed suddenly with fear and understanding that her hug, her real there-in-my-lounge-hug would bring reality. She would come into this house, our house, our home and he’s not here, he’s not here, he’s not here …

And she would come with her love but also her past and mine and all the people we used to be. All of us walking in behind her. The free crazy girl from the Youth Agency in my bikers jacket that he raised an eyebrow over but secretly and not so secretly, liked. The same jacket that he said I shouldn’t wear as a new mother because it was so incongruous. “You can’t push a pram wearing a bikers jacket!” Well, of course I would have done had my back not been so weak that the heavy weight of leather was too much for me.

And she’s would be followed in by The Bride, so excited to see his reaction to the dress I designed and his face at the altar. Then the clambering up the fire escape of the Hotel where we had our Reception, (seemed like a good idea at the time – we left tin-canned and ballooned and they wouldn’t know that we hid round the corner and sneaked back in later,) but I was still in my wedding dress (because the zip had stuck on my Going Away outfit) with my bustle un-bustled because ‘someone’ had managed to tread on the train and accidentally (I’ll give him that,) unhinged the carefully scaffolded creation. So there I was, an unfurling cloud of taffeta, in 4 inch heels, pushing a drunk husband, shh-quietly-shh-gigglingly, up a spiraled staircase. I remember it with such clarity, so frivolous and absurd. He, unsurprisingly had a more veiled recollection due mainly to the large amounts of Southern Comfort consumed to aid delivery of the speech. Even now, here in pain, it still smiles out as one of the outstanding moments of my life.

And she was there in the crowd beforehand, clutching her gift to us. The smooth wooden bowl still sits on his bedside table crammed with essential bits and bobs of life. Its solid carved permanence will outlive me too.

And she visited when I was pregnant, glossy and billowing, full sail in the thin lilac dress. She unpacked her wishes while we tried to catch the baby turning, drank and gossiped, hoped and dreamed. I was full of beached promise and she was full of possibilities, and some time later I leaned on my pushchair full of toddler to take the weight off my aching back while she smiled and stood with flowers in her hair.

And I was worried about seeing them again, who they were and what they bought. But she couldn’t travel alone, so they would be welcomed as much as my friend. I knew them all intimately. Their games and faults and gifts and the intrinsic parts they played.

And then

She was here

She arrived like the sun coming out and all the years and miles were wiped away. And she didn’t do what others do, no ‘it’s ok, come on, you’re doing so well.’ She held me, said ‘let it out’ and I did. And she knew what I needed and she just let me talk. She told me she didn’t know what to say, but she did. The pain tumbled out on her lovely purple coat and we slotted back in with no spaces. And through the tears I almost caught up with her life and saw where time had taken her. And behind us all the girls and women that we were chattered and laughed in their potential. They had it all ahead of them and they couldn’t know. And we sat on the same settee where she bounced my new baby back then but now it was me she cocooned. And I missed all of us and the life in full throttle and there was never enough time and there still wasn’t now. I felt it all layered around me under the weight of the inescapable present. And she reminded me of who I was and I saw how I’d got here. And the love was so strong it countered the transience. Despite it’s fleeting moments the visit burrowed deep beyond the plans and dreams of youth to a permanence of connection. To what lies beneath, to the things that bind us. Through joy and pain, ecstasy and anguish to the very soul of being here: to connect and to love. The hug went on forever but the family had arrived so it was time to go. And as quickly as she came, she went, like a fading rainbow and I tried to hold onto to the moment, straining my eyes to search out her colours. It had been crystal clear, a beautiful refracted light but no matter how hard I stared I could only see the sky.

I called out her name in my hallway and cried for all of us, for the girl who didn’t know, for the woman who did and for me, now and all I’m becoming.

People come into your life for a reason. She underlines it.

This post is for you, you know who you are.

Thank you x

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