real life

How do you honour the memory of a loved one?

Recently Michelle Williams spoke out about her short pixie haircut admitting that the only people who like it are gay men and her girlfriends. Even her six-year-old daughter Matilda would like her mum’s hair to be longer but Michelle says, “I cut it for the one straight man (Heath Ledger) who has ever liked short hair and I wear it in memorial of somebody who really loved it.”‘

Heartbreaking. As heartbreaking as this incredibly moving post from blogger Lori Dwyer who writes:

The day before my husband’s funeral.. it felt just like the day before my wedding.Those of you who have been married may remember how the day before felt, right? You’re nervous. There’s this feeling that there  is something huge happening the very next day, an age old ceremony that you are going to be a part of. A feeling of trepidation and uncertainty because you’ve never done this before, you don’t know what it will be like.

Remember the day before your wedding… and then remove any joy, any happiness, any sense of excitement. In fact, you can replace all that with guilt, fear, dread and more pain than you thought you could bare… and I guess that’s what the day before your husband’s funeral feels like. That’s what it felt like, for me, in January this year, when I buried my strong, dependable man, just fourteen days into the new year.

I remember that day, the day before, more clearly than the funeral itself. It was like walking through  thick, rough surf, trying to keep yourself upright, being knocked and pushed and sucked under, time and time, by waves of pain that just will not stop long enough for you to get your breath back.

The only thing you can do, really, is put one foot in front of another, until it’s over. And you can try, and fail many times, to remember what it was to breathe again.

The day before my husband’s funeral, I went shopping with my best shopping friend, the one I always take with me when I want to spend gratuitous amounts of money on clothes I will probably only wear once. I remember walking into the huge, brightly lit shopping centre, and staring at people, blithely going about their business. I wanted to stop them, to scream at them “Excuse me? What on earth are you doing? Don’t you know my husband is dead, I’m a widow at 29? I have two tiny children and we had a life and how dare you just go about your business?”

I didn’t do that, of course. That’s the most difficult thing about grieving for someone who was the centre of your world- the rest of the world, it keeps turning. And you wonder how on earth that happens, when your centre of gravity has been effectively erased.

That day, when I went shopping, I bought new clothes, clothes to wear at my husbands funeral, where there would be so many people looking at me. Peep toe flat shoes and a silky, flowing scarf in a pale powder blue. Underwear, a new bra.

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And new lipstick. I had to have new lipstick. The only one I owned, I bought it for my wedding.. it would have broken my heart, to apply it for my husband’s funeral as well.

The woman at the make up counter panicked when I told her I needed lipstick, that my husband was being buried the next day. Tears filled my eyes as I fumbled in my bag, searching for my wedding lipstick, telling the sales woman I wanted one exactly the same, only different.

She complied, babbling nervously about the shade of this new lipstick, slightly more orange, it would bring out the blue in my eyes…

Blue. The colour of the ocean I felt like I was walking through. The colour of pain, the colour of tears.

Blue, to match my shoes.

“That one… that’s perfect.”

The saleswoman’s hands are still shaking as she puts the lipstick in a tiny, stiff glossy bag, takes my money, hands me my change.

“So,” she smiles, too brightly, far too perky, I think she’s trying to cover how nervous I have made her, without trying to, just by speaking the horrible truth I’m living. “Err.. what’s the plans for the rest of the day? Relaxing…?”

I smile, wanly, wanting to make her feel better. I know how uncomfortable it is to be in my presence at the moment.

“Shopping…” I answer. “Retail therapy…. It seems like the only thing for a day like today.”

And at that, she relaxes, She can understand that, relate to that. I think it must almost be a comfort to know that women, we still shop.

The next day, I wore those shoes, that scarf, that lipstick. It was the worst day of my life. I spoke in a shaking voice, and told the assembled mourners, spilling out the doors of the chapel, how much I loved being married, how important my husband was to me. And then I sat, and I cried, and I used that blue scarf to blot the tears that streaked my face.

I can’t bring myself to wear that scarf again, nor the shoes, nor the lipstick. They are all tucked away in a box in the very top of my wardrobe, and I try to forget they exist.

Have you lost someone close to you? What do you do to keep the memory of them alive?