Tomorrow I am going to help my old school friend bury her husband.
After decades of pain and depression, he finally ended it all with a brand new white rope.
She found him.
She has asked me to bring my video camera to record the Service, as she explains: “Patty, I always remember you saying, that you might not want to view the images now, or even next week, but one day you will come to a place in your life where it might be good to view the funeral, and the DVD will be there, quietly waiting for you.”
So, tomorrow, I will help my old school friend bury her husband, who loved her, but depression and constant chronic pain won out.
Rest in Peace.
Today I am going to help my old school friend bury her husband. I’ll be the oldest friendship there to support her, and although her nursing friends and old bridesmaids will be there, although her small family consisting of her only brother and his wife and kids will be there, I will be the one with the oldest memories of her; memories of a single girl, a carefree, happy redheaded blue-eyed school girl, in the school hallway bent over laughing at my jokes.
We both travelled to Cooktown together in our senior year, keeping a watchful eye on the young boys as we were plunged into a series of small train tunnels, pitch black and groping hands, to emerge in the blinking daylight, slightly dishevelled with smug teenagers sitting opposite us, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth. It was a game and we played along, much fun.
Over the years we kept in loose touch. If I was staying in the Hunter Valley helping my old wine-maker friend Jim Roberts pick his grapes, I would stay with her and her husband.
Her husband was a soft, gentle man, a large man, a lumbering giant heaving an unworkable broken body around the best he could. In those days he drove a taxi, and could get around a little bit, but the passing years were unkind to him, and gradually depression began to taint his world and the shutters closed in.
Today my husband was showering early, and I heard him yelp from where I was in the kitchen. I called out: Are you alright? Darl? Are you ok? And with his silence my footsteps quickened to reach him.
He stood there, water droplets from the shower covering the paddocks of his back and shoulders. On Sunday he had spent most of the day changing over 45 fluorescent light tubes at his work, and one of the tubes had cut his finger deeply. It was this sore finger that had banged against the towel rail, and it had silenced him with sudden pain.
I gently took the white towel and slowly, tenderly, wiped his back, his legs, his chest. “There you go, the rest is up to you” I said, and left him to finish the job.
Some days marriage is like that, you have to be there and step forward.
“When you first told me what you did, I couldn’t understand it, I thought ‘A funeral photographer? What the hell?’ but now I totally get it.” We speak softly, the phone nuzzles into my neck, and I close my eyes and imagine we are once again sitting in the spa we shared only weeks ago. “I want you to photograph him, and film the funeral, in fact I want to take the DVD over to Ireland and share it with his old friend. She can’t make it over for the funeral. I’ll take it to her.”
Already in her mind, she is moving forward, seeing a fresh day, a new start, a different tomorrow.
A fortnight ago we stayed at O’Reilly’s in the Gold Coast hinterland, the four of us women coming together in solidarity of having some time to ourselves. I spoke to her about everything but her husband. She needed the break, and I made it clear that the topic was always there if she needed to, wanted to speak about him; I was all ears and arms; to wrap around her. We watched an opera DVD, Cecilia Botoli. Eventually, she leaps to her feet, and begins to move to the music.
This is the first time I ever lined-danced to opera she says. I try to keep up with her steps, but it’s not for me, the set routine and boredom of repeating movements. I lash out and wobble my bits in joy, dancing for a moment in the rainforest. We laugh and giggle, like the old schoolgirls we still are.
Neither of us then imagined that we would be arranging his funeral. My friend is my old schoolgirl mate, childless, now widowed. She’ll rise above this, and move forward, and I’ll be there to help if I am needed.