I have to tell you about what has happened, I really cannot put it off any longer. Many of you know the situation, either those who have met us or Facebook friends, but it’s something I haven’t felt able to post here. This is my happy space, if you know what I mean, and if that means that I don’t tell you everything, it usually means that I tell you the best.
Back in July, I said that Russell was having a gastroscopy and afterwards I gave the impression that all was fine. He wasn’t ready to disseminate the information and I didn’t want to talk about it on the open internet – but it wasn’t. He was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. This was unlucky. It’s mostly a smoker’s cancer and he never smoked in his life, otherwise a tendency to acid reflux and heartburn, or excessive alcohol intake would increase the risk, but neither applied to him. However, that was that, and nothing could be done about it. There was every hope that he’d be at Ronan and Dora’s wedding, but little that he’d be with us for Christmas.
He didn’t make it to the wedding. He died, very suddenly and unexpectedly – I was still talking to him, I only realised when he didn’t answer – in my arms on the 20th August. That I was with him, never mind that I was cradling him, was fortuitous, there was no warning. But it was painless and, I’m sure, spared him a more difficult and tortured end.
Several of you dear, kind internet friends came to his funeral, where we managed to introduce a quirk or two, in proper homage to a very individualistic man. And I’ve been cared for since then in phone calls and visits and I’m very lucky to have such wonderful friends. I’m so sorry, if you are learning about it here and I haven’t been in touch with you. I ran out of words to write a couple of weeks ago and I still have a list of people to tell.
I had realised that he wouldn’t have long, back in the early summer. Even before his cancer was diagnosed and when we still hoped it was something that could be cured, I knew that the weight he had lost had weakened him so much that he would not have more than a year or two. It’s been a miserable summer, forcing myself into acknowledgement of that, whilst trying to bolster up his well-being and also trying to save him from getting into too many scrapes – he was still buying at auction, still giving away or lending (with no paperwork) alarming amounts of money, I’m thousands of pounds down with no hope of retrieving much of it and he’s managed to lose various vital pieces of paperwork, though I hope they will turn up in due course. His cheery insouciance turned into recklessness over the past few years and I can only choose to forgive him and remember better times. Sometimes, this takes its own effort.
Now I’m alone. I’ve never lived alone in my life before. I married when I was nineteen and went from living with my mother to living with my husband. I’m so busy that I have to keep rigid control over my emotions, letting feelings out for a few minutes with tears or howls of pain and then clamping down again, planning little treats and appreciating moments of happiness – I know it’ll catch up with me and become unbearable at some time, but that can wait as long as possible, not least because I don’t really believe it yet, I don’t feel that he’s gone forever, which I suppose means I’m still in a state of shock. All the same, giving in doesn’t help, I find. Hitting the depths only means that there’s a long, long way to climb before breaking through into the air again. It’s kinder to myself to swim below the surface, bobbing up to take in air when the waters are calm. If you’ll excuse the laboured metaphor.