Five

**This post was written this morning, finished tonight. Just so you know I don’t take my lunchbreak at 9pm**

So I promised a relaunch of sorts, and this ain’t it. And it’s not my lunchbreak yet and heaven knows I have work to do. But it’s that time of year again, when emotions tend to throw a blanket of “meh” over any work motivation I may try to muster. I find myself staring blankly at my to-do list, and drawn to this place.

It’s the fifth- the FIFTH- anniversary of Helen’s death on Friday, and it’s on my mind and heart, moreso than the demanding deadlines of British TV. So I’m back, for today, with the sad song of the long bereaved. Too gone, too long.

I watched the Michael Jackson memorial extravaganza last night, along with the rest of the world . I wasn’t a superfan; I loved the man’s music and couldn’t quite decide on his character. Who are we to know who he was, really?

There was pomp and performance, and preachers yelling, and hyperbole. But I found it moving. And despite rather obvious differences in scale and tone, it made me think of Helen’s funeral.  The preacher didn’t yell that day in 2004- instead, my beloved late Grandpa in his vicar’s robes signed the cross with a heavy hand and spoke for the family. And Helen didn’t pack out a stadium with thousands of mourners- though the church was bursting with hundreds of her fans. But the flower-laden casket at the front of MJ’s memorial reminded me of Helen’s day, with her willow woven casket heaped with pink and white at the front, love and watered eyes turned towards it. The video montages of his work reminded me of the video we played on a not-quite-so-large screen at the front of the church, of beautiful Helen dancing. She was better though, of course.

Most of all, Jackson’s siblings sitting in the front row  brought to mind my own family, bearing the weight of the day. Janet Jackson in particular….. I know that place she is in. Her teeth gritted against the awfulness of her loss, moving mechanically through the motions. Lost. Clinging to her surviving siblings to stop herself spinning forever into the weightless endless darkness of despair.

People criticised her and the rest of the family for laying on this public spectacle. Those people haven’t felt it, I can only assume, that shock of unexpected grief. God I wish that Helen could have 15,000 people (and millions worldwide) to bear witness to her loveliness, Stevie Wonder singing her a mournful song, hours of speeches and mountains of flowers. I’d organise it for her if I could. The Taj Mahal was built as a monument to a lost wife; I’d build a shining marble palace to dwarf the whole of India if I had the time and resources, and if I thought it would capture anything of her dancing spirit in its walls. It helps, this public testament.

But I know, as  Janet Jackson knows- I could see it in her face- that you can’t build your loved one from marble or words of sorrow, or songs, or blooms. You can’t magic them into life again, no matter how many pairs of eyes you train on their image. It’s a comfort to try, but it won’t work. And though I wouldn’t go back to the crushing days of early grief, where the Jacksons are right now, the realisation that none of these things are possible grows more bitter as the years pass.

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4 Responses to “Five”


  1. 1 Thursday July 12, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Your articulation is poignant, sharp, spot-on – whenever I read of your grief, my own comes creeping back with that hollow blackness under my ribs.

  2. 2 Min July 13, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    As ever, you say the unsayable so beautifully. My heart goes out to you, and your sister, Helen. If janet Jackson could read your words she might feel that little bit less alone in her grief, as I have done.

  3. 3 mwdebbie July 25, 2009 at 5:04 am

    Where have you bean? come back please!

  4. 4 rgryan July 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Sorry it has taken so long for me to get around to this. Having lost a dear, dear friend in May, grief is still quite close to the bone, as they say. Empathy is running strong as I read your words. My soul is in tatters. Such loss. Such loss.

    Graveyards are the richest places on earth, for therein lie the seeds of so many lost dreams and destinies. Sweet Helen’s among them. Running out of words…

    rg


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