Sundays are a Day of Rest – by which I mean a Day of talking about the Rest of my life; that is, outside linguistics.
I like to see books as not simply books, but as a way of looking at life.
Nearly four years ago, my best friend came around to my house. It was snowing outside: the first snow of the winter. We watched Wimbledon and then went outside to have a snow flight, make snow angels and some little snow men.
Little did I know that this was – metaphorically speaking – the end of a novel. He went away to see the next day, for his first trip in the Merchant Navy, and, unfortunately, never made it home.
Of course, initially, a day never passed when he didn’t cross my mind. When I managed to get through a day without thinking of him, I felt so guilty.
I remember going to see a film in Edinburgh, and my mind was absorbed by the film for an hour or so, and when the film was over, I felt guilty. I’d forgotten to think about him.
Well, it’s nearly four years ago now, and I know now that I don’t have to think about him for him to know that I love him. I know that me thinking about him these last few days, after the first snow of this winter, and me waving to his photo when I see it, is enough.
My friend’s death taught me a lot: not least that life is like a series of novels.
A story doesn’t have to end
There’s always an opportunity for a writer to pick up their pen and write about another set of people. It’s a different group of children who make a journey into Narnia, and so we learn to let different people into our lives. We don’t forget Peter, Susan, Edmond or Lucy; we just learn to accept new people. The deaths of animals in Redwall, a series of books which I devoured as a child, were always a cause for tears. But there was always another book; another generation of cute voles and mice to fight the baddies.
The end of a life isn’t the end of a story
We know so little about death; we don’t know what happens on the other side. Until a few years ago, I didn’t believe in life after death. That changed. Unlike the deaths I had experienced up until that point, my friend’s death was not a slow process. It wasn’t a slow physical deterioration, a loss of energy and life over time. It was an accident at sea. My friend had the most energy I’ve known anyone to have; mental as well as physical. That can’t just have evaporated, disappeared. There must be life after death. Just as Gandalf the Grey comes back with cleaner, brighter clothes in Lord of the Rings, and just as Dumbledore comes back to save the day in Harry Potter. I have no idea what form this will take, but if it’s the seeping back into the world that Roger experiences in His Dark Materials, then that suits me. I’m glad J. K. Rowling didn’t define anything in the final Harry Potter, though.
The show must go on
It’s fine to spend some time mourning. And, even four years on, everyone needs a moment to cry every now and then. But it’s okay to not be upset. You don’t need to feel guilty to remember things happily, or to not think about someone who’s died. We have to move on with our lives. To be honest, I know it’s what he would have wanted. I have a degree to get, a job to find, a future to look forward to. Remembering fondly, while you’re doing something fun, is still remembering. The fellowship in The Lord of the Rings had a world to save, and some ugly orcs to slay along the way. They didn’t let nothin’ bring ’em down for long.