So I’m in my shed today, and I’m painting the walls. It’s the final stage of turning this rusty old garage into a studio space, a place where I can make my art and prepare for my workshops. I’m standing on a raised platform my brother-in-law built for me to protect my gear from the damp. I’ve laid down Greg’s old wheelchair ramps for extra stability. It feels kind of significant but I don’t really know why.
I’m in unfamiliar territory, I’ve never really painted walls all by myself. How hard can it be? But pretty soon my gloved hands are too slick with paint to hold the roller properly, and they’re all achy from all the gripping and the rolling.
Several realisations occur almost simultaneously.
- There’s a good reason this is unfamiliar. I really don’t like painting walls.
- This is mind-numbingly monotonous and quite uncomfortable.
- I’m going to have to have some music playing. (For someone who always prefers total silence, this is quite a revelation).
The music does the job and distracts me from the monotony and discomfort. I decide to focus on the fact that, despite the banality, covering a wall in white paint can be strangely satisfying.
Things begin to improve… Dido is singing…
“I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life.
Just to be with you is having the best day of my life.”
All of a sudden I’m weeping.
Pull yourself together, woman. You know they weren’t all ‘best days’.
Three decades of togetherness can result in some days were Pretty Ordinary Days.
… But there were so many Best Days.
One of the great things about my bereavement (there’s a weird sentence right there) is that even though I remember the awful times, they’re a bit like a faded photograph. The Best Days, however, are in full, vibrant Colour. Strong. Clear.
And I realised that even though I am so mad at him for leaving me in this world without him, mad at him for dying, I am so, so lucky that I had those Best Days.
So lucky that we had an Epic Romance.
That it morphed into a Very Long Friendship.
That we survived the Horrible Times.
That I experienced his strength and loyalty and musical genius.
That he left me his beautiful Rachel and our lovely Mary.
That I took care of him for four years as he navigated his illness and disability.
That he died right in front of me, in our home, while I was stroking his forehead and his whole family and mine were gathered to send him off.
I’m still painting. Now I’ve finished a whole wall. I notice John Mayer is singing,
“Someday I’ll fly.
Someday I’ll soar.”
Yep, that’s it right there. I decide that I’ll etch those words into the wet paint of my new studio.
Today is the four month anniversary of his passing.
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