Monday, 3 February 2014

My favourite photograph... reminding me a year on just how much I lost

This is my favourite photograph of Diane and me. 
It was taken almost 20 years ago during a great evening in the company of two very dear friends.
We look happy, because we were. She looks radiant, full of joy... just as I remember her. You can see the warmth of her character, sense that special something which made her so wonderful. The hopes, plans, dreams and wishes on a star we had then can be seen in those beautiful eyes.
I can sit for ages staring at this picture, this memory frozen in time of a moment in our lives when we thought we had it all and that we would have it forever.
I see those eyes, that smile, that bright and loving look on her face and I realise just how much I have lost and how much I miss her. I see in this photograph the woman I still adore. I often hold this picture close again and remember that golden time when we both knew how much we meant to each other.
I’m holding it now, it’s the one I always turn to when the going gets tough.

And it doesn’t get tougher than this week.

This Thursday, February 6, it will be a year since Diane lost her battle with cancer. It is the anniversary I’ve been dreading, the day when I think back a year ago and have to relive the pain of seeing this beautiful woman be taken from me.
She slept a lot of the time in the days previously. I hoped she was dreaming nice dreams, free of the pain she felt when she was awake.
I hoped she would be running somewhere, perhaps riding her bike as she often told me she did all the time, every day, growing up in Rotterdam.
I hoped she would be laughing, playing with her brother John and their friends in those innocent years. I prayed for her that in her dreams she felt as if she didn’t have a care in the world. And I hoped that somewhere in those dreams, she would find room for me.
I had stayed by her bedside each evening, watching her sleep. Even as she slept, I held her hand, and I would kiss her forehead as I said goodnight and told her I’d see her tomorrow.
I knew that one of those tomorrows wouldn’t happen. And so it was on that Wednesday.
I remember the phone ringing early in the morning, before dawn, and knowing when I heard it that it could only be one thing.
She had become worse during the night, they said. I should come quickly, they said. I immediately started to get dressed, but before I’d even pulled on a shirt, the phone rang again. It was the same nurse. She was sorry, but Diane had gone.
I still rushed to the hospital although there was no need to hurry. She was always going to be waiting for me when I got there. I held her hand and kissed her forehead as I always did. I held her close, one last time, and told her yet again how much I loved her.
She knew that anyway.
She remembered the evening that photograph was taken as well as I did...

I tried to fix you, Di...

Little things can trigger the most intense memories. One of those things of seemingly little significance which remind you of a particular momentous time or event, forcing you to take a moment to regroup such is the impact of this recollection.
Sometimes it’s a phrase someone says in passing, something as daft as a TV show, even a scent or smell that reminds me of Diane. 
Today, it was a song we both loved. 
It's a song which today stopped me in my tracks. I know I’ll get a load of stick for admitting this, but hey, I have toughed it out liking Sleepless in Seattle all these years so I can take it. Coldplay’s Fix You is one of my favourite tracks. And hers. But after Diane was diagnosed in 2006, it became difficult to listen to.
Maybe I was being silly, too precious about it (after all, the lyrics probably mean something entirely different) but the words seem to hurt all of a sudden, instead of warm the heart. 
The lyrics might indeed not necessarily mean what they came to mean for me, but that doesn’t matter. They still hurt when I heard them. So I stopped listening to it.

Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.

When she was diagnosed, our lives changed in an instant. The sky turned dark and it became in a split second a future full of fear instead of hope.
I looked at Diane on that day we were told all our suspicions were true, and I saw the joy that was so obvious in that favourite photograph drain from her face, I saw the look of fear and worry in the eyes that shone so brightly in that picture... and I just wanted to fix it.
And I couldn’t. I couldn’t promise to make it all better this time, like I had in the past. I couldn’t be the person who put my arms around her and held her close to protect her from all the bad stuff. This was bad stuff I couldn’t fix.
I felt helpless.
We had our moments of respite, times when we genuinely believed we could get through this. But then she would have a bad day and we would be back to thinking the worst. But still we tried to fix it.
But, despite all our hopes, despite the belief that at the end of 2012 we had finally come through the worst, despite all that, I was there at home early that Wednesday morning, numb with grief.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something that you can’t replace

So today, when the song came on the gym TV halfway through a work-out, I feared it would bring me down again.
But strangely, it didn’t. It didn’t hurt any more. I felt inside me a fresh resolve. It made me, if anything, more determined to do this for Diane as I remembered how over the years we had held each other close while we listened to it. Oddly, today it seemed to have gone back to making me feel I was with Diane again.
Maybe I couldn’t fix her, couldn’t stop cancer snatching away her body. But I can damned well stop it taking away that special thing we had.
I can and I WILL fix that on April 13 in Rotterdam. I’ll fix it so the love you can see in our eyes in this photograph can never be taken away from us. 

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