We all lose people every day. A friend emigrates, a partner decides they don’t need us in their life anymore, or we grow apart from someone we used to know very well.
The worst loss of all is death. Its permanence renders us useless and all we can do is grieve. Within that loss of control we can feel many emotions: anger; guilt; and longing to name a few. All ebb and flow but what never leaves us is that overwhelming sense of permanence.
Permanence plays an awful trick, as it tries to alter that person in our memories. Gradually dismantling them piece by piece into an abstract being devoid of the human traits we knew and loved them for. Although as long as we’re aware of this forever game, we can try to counter it.
A poem I stumbled across during a stroll in Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, captures this sentiment really well. How fitting that a graveyard famous for being the final resting place for artists, actors and writers so eloquently summarised all those swirling thoughts I’ve had in my mind for almost twenty years.
The tomb of this husband and wife made me stop, sit and really think about how we perceive those who aren’t with us anymore. And why it’s so very important to remember exactly who they were as people. I slowly translated its beautiful words into English from my rusty French.
For anyone who might have lost someone recently, for any reason, here’s my rough English version of this lovely verse.
Death is nothing. - I have only moved into the room next door, I am me, You are you, What I was for you, I will always be. Give me the name that you have always given me. Speak to me as you always have. Don't use a solemn or sad tone. Keep laughing about what we used to laugh about together. Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me. My name should be pronounced in the house as it has always been, Without emphasis of any sort, without any trace of a ghost. Life means everything that it always did. The cord is not cut. Why should I be out of your thoughts? Simply because I'm out of your sight? I'm not far, ...just the other side of the path.
If anyone reading this knows who the original author is, please do get in touch.