The reduced traffic of lockdown meant I arrived at the burial ground in almost half the time I had allowed. I had received numerous message of support in the morning. As I pulled into the car park a friend called to let me know they were thinking of me. She asked if I was ok. Until that moment I was. But that simple question brought tears to my eyes and everything suddenly became difficult and a challenge. This has happened before. Walking around just holding it together when a simple gesture or sign of concern, such as touching my hand and asking, “are you ok?”, results in the sudden release of things being held tightly within. “I was until you asked”, would be my reply as I went into an awkward spin.
It was a slightly chilly but very rainy morning. Having arrived early, I had an unexpectedly long time on my own before my brother-in-law arrived. Is he still my brother-in-law now? The semantics of (widowed) relationships is very difficult and I haven’t reached a satisfactory conclusion on them yet. My dead wife’s brother or my childrens’ uncle seems one step removed and remote.
It took me a while to find the grave. Since I had last been there, before the lockdown, the trees had developed leaves, the grass was long, plants had grown. Everywhere looked different. It should have looked better all in green and full of life, happier even, but the grey sky and the incessant rain painted a sorrowful shade and dampness onto everything.
I stood there, under the constantly beating drum of my umbrella, and began the strange one-sided conversation to a small wooden plaque atop a mound of earth. In part, the monologue feels like a news report relaying what is going on with the world, with the children, with me. This evolves into something of a confessional, reporting all things I should have done better at, reporting the things that I have done or bought that, were my wife still alive, I know she would not have approved of. Then follows the awkward requests for permission for things I would like to do. Of course, I am doing this all for myself. After all, no answer will come back to me (I will let you know if it does once I have changed my underwear). I am just trying to assuage any guilt I might feel that I am living and doing my thing now. I am trying to push forward and move on to the next chapter of my life.
I finish my talk by thanking her for allowing me to share her life with her and that I am proud and honoured to have done so.
I stand there awkwardly for a while before seeing my brother-in-law drive up and park the car. He wanders over, the spot now easy to locate as I am standing there. We talk. We talk some more. We talk for over an hour, perhaps ninety minutes, before walking back to our cars. As I sit I notice my boots, and now car mat, are caked in pale brown mud. Luckily I had brought a change of clothes including shoes. As I sat there changing my shoes I suddenly feel how cold my legs are. Having stood out in the rain and cold for nearly two hours I was freezing and damp. I had not noticed until then.