Today I ran into an old friend. My heart soared when I saw her we embraced and caught up. It was so delightful to see her and see how happy she is. Then she grabbed my hand and told me of another very special mutual friend. One who has been both amazing friend and surrogate mother to me. One I had been giving space to as her daughter was unwell and I know this daughter was more than a little confused by my friendship with her mother and how I was referred to as ‘another daughter’. My friend told me that this daughter had passed away. I went numb. I drove home attempting to contain myself. I wanted to drive straight to her house and take her in my arms. Instead I sought conversation with my man first and emailed her to arrange a time. What do you say to the inconsolable? How do you fathom the loss of a child? This is not the first time this has happened to me. Each situation has been unique and I responded to each in the way I felt most appropriate at the time. I feel I have failed her by not being there enough, by not even knowing when her daughter died. When her daughter first became sick she called me to tell me of the diagnosis and we talked for hours, we kept talking she would message me to call or just call. She was so optimistic about the treatment and that many people lived for 25-40 years after treatment but not in this case, it was only six months.

I think I started distancing myself from death when my friends three year old daughter drowned. I was with them daily supporting them and as they were practicing Hindus I even sat with her tiny body for hours on end. My son was 16 months at the time and was with his father when this happened. I had experienced a strange premonition beforehand and at the time of her death I was raving at my friends that we had to go to the beach where she was dying. They thought I had lost my mind and were trying to calm me and would not allow me to leave the house. Then someone came to tell us the news. None of them stopped me when I went straight to be with them. I supported them right the way through including looking after their younger daughter throughout the initial grief time. I was honored when I was sought out during the funeral to take the littlest member of the family into my care. After about six months I moved in with them for nearly a year. At one point I had hallucinations every time I was near water, I would seeing her floating. It was a pretty intense time.

The next time was when my male friend, a big strong playful man, lost his nineteen year old son. It was a very odd situation. His son was found in his car on the side of the road with massive head injuries but no damage to the car. Eventually the investigators deduced that he had hit deep water on the road and smashed his head on the steering wheel killing him but the vehicle just drifted to the side of the road. This man, this beautiful man buried his child, his only son. He dug the hole himself and I helped him. This was a practical man, this was his final act of love for his son, to see he was buried well. We filled the hole back in on top of the coffin and stomped the wet clay down over him and collapsed embracing in the rain covered in the clay that now encased his son. Everyone else stayed back except the boys beautiful girlfriend who sang Coldplay’s ‘Green eyes’ at the top of her lungs.

Death the poignant reminder of life and living well. Do we know how lucky we are? Are we grateful for the love, pain, joy, fear, the inconsequential, the sublime…

Are we really living?

Am I really living? I would like to think so.

Today we celebrate the dead.

Milonga Triste’ Mercedes Simone