Sunday, August 19, 2012

Who leaves; what remains.

“They leave”, we say of the dead in “Leave To Remain”, “and they remain”.

Remain in a flower they loved that is still growing. A sudden scent carried by the wind. A scrap of fabric, or a bowl of soup.

Or a letter addressed to your dead wife.

Last week I wrote to my mother-in-law’s housing association to hand in notice for her flat, which she is leaving to go to a care home. They replied back, addressing the letter to my late partner. 

Seeing this letter addressed to Dr Susan Innes struck me with the force of a physical blow. It reminded me that the most painful times soon after her death came on waking from the dreams in which she came to me so very much alive.
The dreams came because, I imagine, the enormity of her death was just too great for my subconscious mind. What hurt so much was the contrast between the pleasure of seeing her alive in the dream, and the agony of remembering she was dead when I awoke.

It's all been echoed in the experience of going to her mum's house to try to sort out what to throw out and what to keep. For some reason I'd forgotten there would be photographs. Of us on holiday. Us on the canal boat. Us on the beach.

But seeing the letter as far far worse. I couldn't read it. I was so upset I didn’t notice at first that having acted as if my dead wife was alive on page one, they then wrote as if my very much alive mother-in-law was dead on page two.

And as if the only issue involved in her death was when she would stop receiving Housing Benefit.

I could only marvel at Viewpoint Housing (motto: “We deliver excellence in care”). As I told them, they had managed to create the most crassly insensitive and incompetent letter I have ever received.

It was strange trying to get myself together to go to see her in the Care Home. Cycling along the Grassmarket past the Festival crowds, who all seemed to belong to a parallel universe. But something to do with the physical activity calmed me. Not long before, I'd been sifting through letters to do with housing benefit assessment and rent arrears. All things that meant so much at the time, but now mean next to nothing.

And this too. This too will pass.

Difficult I know when you are caught off guard and your head is full of pain, but I wish you and you Mum love. Please don't let the ignorance of office workers and faceless organisations damage your wellbeing. Graeme xxx
Wishing you love. xxx
Being very much in love with life means you travel the whole world of emotion in a day, and you took us there with you... Thank you.
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