THE SIXTH ANNIVERSARY
It is just another day; one of 365 in every year and 2190 since he left. Every year I think this arbitrary date that is mentally ringed red in my mind might just slip past without me noticing. But in the weeks of ‘lasts’ running up to the anniversary of his death, memories and reminders flash into my mind unwanted, yet desperately needed.
The digital memory remains most potent. I pocket called his number one day. He’s still the first on my list of favourites. When I saw the call in my list of recent numbers, for a blissful moment I thought he’d called me.
On Friday I needed to find an email from the lost and found office at Munich airport. I’d left my Kindle there by accident and needed to have it collected. The search term ‘Lufthansa Munich’ of my inbox threw up a long list of emails from Christian with details of his regular flights…the abstracts of the emails prefaced with “Can’t wait to see you!” and “Will you book somewhere for dinner?” And my heart broke into a thousand pieces at the thought that I’ll never again have the butterfly thrill of waiting to meet him as he comes through arrivals at Heathrow, grinning before his eyes even find mine.
It’s been six years since he died. It does change, but it never really gets easier. The loneliness bites at me as painfully as ever. And yet, although I long for the intimacy and companionship that left with him, I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone. I couldn’t take the pain of losing something like this again.
Sometimes I torture myself remembering the bad times – and there were a few in our relationship: betrayals and hurt, lies and deceit. Through it all I never doubted my love for him. I often doubted his for me. When it becomes too much to bear I find something of his and throw it away. I finally put his pyjamas into a bag for the charity shop. Then spent the weekend wearing his bathrobe as penance.
Today is the anniversary; a day of hours and minutes. I remember everything that happened with such clarity: The phone call from him at lunchtime that ended with his uncharacteristic declaration of love. Lorenz’s call a few hours later telling me about the heart attack. My frantic drive the airport. The begging of the BA staff to find me a flight to somewhere close to Munich. The reassuring call to say it was all going to be fine. The drive home during which I planned everything from moving to another apartment (he wouldn’t be managing 4 flights of stairs for a while) to hear-healthy diets and arranging a leave of absence from work.
And then the call to say it was all looking very bleak. The angioplasty had not gone well. He had a ‘fatal arrhythmia’. Could I get there? No. I could not. For 5 hours I sat alone in silence. The phone rang every 20 minutes with updates and then, at 2am, the voice of a son said, “He’s left us. Christian has left us”.
It truly feels like it could have happened yesterday. I run my fingers over his picture willing the image to come alive.
As I write this now I have a physical pain in my heart. I have worn today like a shroud. No-one else has remembered. Nobody has called to ask if I’m OK. I did not bear his children. My isolation feels total.
I have only cried twice though. Once as I write now and another moment earlier. I’d made myself go out. I walked for a while and then stopped for a coffee. It was damp but had stopped raining. I sat in a coffee shop and realized my sweater was outside in. I’d been walking around like this for ages. I’d ordered coffee and sat reading. I’d felt utterly invisible but somehow the humiliation of this highlighted how alone I felt. If he’d been with me he’d have noticed. On our wonderful relaxing Sunday he’d have laughed at me and I’d have ripped off my sweater and turned it the right way out before I’d left the house.
It’s still the little things that kill me.
In a little over an hour, the sixth year will have passed.
The seventh will begin. The minutes will become hours, hours become days and I’ll live every one of them without him. But I shall live them.