Where to start? I’ve had a very sad few days and I know it will help to write about it but for a few reasons it’s hard to put it into words. So I’ve felt quite weighed down by my inability to express it all.
This isn’t my first experience of loss and as I put across in my blog post A Hopeful Pondering, I have been finding myself feeling the raw pain of this first experience quite profoundly. Perhaps because it’s easy to recall pain when you’re feeling it like when you go through labour with a second baby. You think, “this is horrendous, how did I ever forget this enough to want to experience it again?!” Or was that just me?! I’m still not up for it 18 months later! Despite that moment I lifted Edith out of the water and Joe told me she was a girl and I had done it all by myself (!!) being one of the most magical moments of my life. I still like to daydream about it from time to time…
Anyway, when I was 17 I started dating a guy called Robb. He was my first serious boyfriend and we were together for two and a half years. I met Robb when he was just coming through treatment for melanoma. He recovered and it was roughly a year after that we started dating. Robb had check-ups regularly in London and I often accompanied him. August/September 2006, Robb had a few health complaints that resulted in him being admitted to hospital. I was with him when the doctor matter-of-factly told him that the melanoma had spread to several organs. I phoned my Dad who burst into tears immediately (not normally his style) and came down to hospital. I remember Robb finding it helpful to see him. Just over a month later, Robb died with me there with him. It was a shock despite everything and that’s all I can face saying about it right now. He was 24.
I hung out with the student group from my church last week and found it so easy to be in touch with remembering what it was like to be that age and found it easy to imagine Robb being there and what he would say and do. It made me feel great sadness. Over the years, not wanting to think about him and his death much for self-preservation but also because I am happily married and don’t want to or need to dwell on memories of being in a relationship with someone else, I’ve realised I’ve just blanked out two and a half years of my life and it felt strange to suddenly be in touch with it again.
During that time I passed my driving test. Robb insured me on his white beamer (an old one he thought was cool). He’d put on larger wheels and always had a mega sound system. He wore aviators and even dabbled with leather driving gloves. Ha.
During that time I did my Art Foundation course in Brighton and one year of a Fine Art degree in Kingston, London. It feels good to remember those times again and to remember Robb – he was a great person and I’m privileged that my husband knew him and loved him and we can share memories together and he is also perfectly content to hear anything I want to say about it all. I feel it has taken me nine years to figure out how to remember Robb. To remember him, as a person, what he was like, his uniqueness, funny things he said and did, what I learned from him, and just appreciate them without feeling like it’s somehow wrong to. If you knew Robb perhaps you might like to share a memory in the comments (preferably not about our relationship though).
The last few days I have realised the truth in the line people tend to say at these times…
“You don’t get over it, you just learn to live with it.”
Fact is, I learned not to think about it so much. The initial wound has healed and I have been happy again since. Very happy. But it still is what it is: a painful tragic experience that I still can feel sad about and feel the pain of. It’s like a suitcase that initially felt hugely cumbersome and I carried it everywhere. Over the last nine years it’s found its way to a shelf in a cupboard and I’ve left it. But when it comes out and I open it the same mess of pain and grief is still in there, perhaps with elements I need to work through still.
Now I have two suitcases – this new one bigger than the last.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Prov 3:5-6.
Well, He’s done it before…