By Bryony King
Three months ago, I was sat in a pub with my friends, a dog and the man I loved more than I ever thought possible. We had Chinese food & I drank too much whisky & proceeded to tactically throw up as soon as we got home (something he never let me feel embarrassed about but probably should have.) We spent the next day wrapped around each other, not one singular care in the world & basking in the warm glow being in love gives you.
A week later, I was sat on the floor in my living room, surrounded by moving boxes and in silent despair, reeling from the phone call I’d just had from the police, confirming they’d found his body in the canal he’d been boating on.
I’ve always had a strange relationship with death. As a child I was terrified of it, to the point where I probably became a bit neurotic. I would plan my exits out of whatever building I was in in case anything untoward were to happen; I was inconsolable at the deaths of my pets (or any animal for that matter); I had recurring nightmares about my family dying. I would get my tiny child brain into varying degrees of anguish & preoccupation thinking about it.
I was reassured it was a phase – it was. I grew up to accept that death is a part of living. I developed what some may think of as a morbid fascination with memento mori, taxidermy, forensics, mourning rituals, spirituality. I don’t think of them as morbid. Your time on earth is finite. That’s what makes it so special. Otherwise we’d all be moping around, centuries old with no motivation to do or achieve anything.
Part of the human condition is caring for & loving others. When you ask people what their worst fear is, & ask them to really think about it, apart from all the existential shit I’m sure 90% of people would say losing or any harm coming to a loved one. The other 10% are sociopaths (you do you, just don’t kill anyone, I beg.)
When your worst fear is realised – when the one thing you were most scared to happen, happens… you lose your mind a bit. You lose faith in a world that could be so cruel as to snatch away something so precious. Your whole belief system is challenged. The world you thought you knew crumbles in front of you. But what comes with it is this sense of fearlessness. If the worst thing imaginable has already happened, any other shitty thing in the world kind of pales in comparison.
I feel invincible now. I also feel hollow, jaded, broken, bereft, but invincible. Like I’ve eaten one of those sparkly Mario mushrooms. I feel like I’ve had two lives – the one I had before all this – the one I was living and planning with him, which seems a million light years away now; and this new life, one I never would’ve wanted, dreamed up in my wildest nightmares or asked for. But it’s just that. A life. Whenever I’m feeling like I can’t possibly go on (which I feel very frequently) I think about the fact that I have a choice. He doesn’t. He wanted to live. He had so much to live for, so much to be excited for, so much planned. So to throw my life away would just be like slapping him in his lovely perfect face.
“Your whole belief system is challenged. The world you thought you knew crumbles in front of you. But what comes with it is this sense of fearlessness.”
I’m making it my life’s goal now to do every single thing we planned, no matter how stupid or how challenging. I feel like I owe him that. It’s very helpful to have these goals & ambitions, but simultaneously if I were to die tomorrow, sure I’d be annoyed that I couldn’t do all those things. Much like I’m sure he would be kicking himself. We could’ve travelled the world, rescued a load of animals, started a family, built our own house, learnt how to make blades, bought a boat & drank quite a lot more rum, but if I were to drop down dead today, I’d be happy in the knowledge that I was a good person, with unique quirks, great hair & an appetite for beige food. Also animals really like me.
The most important thing though for me, is knowing I have loved & been loved equally. I have known a love & bond so strong with another human, so passionate, that it prevails over death. He would’ve given me everything I ever wanted in life, as I would’ve for him. While he was here, we did. That’s all I could ever ask for.
Having these beliefs doesn’t make losing your love any easier. You can be accepting of death and still not want it to happen. Untimely death is the most unfair thing of all. Accepting life means accepting death. Life is for living, and he packed more into his 31 years than most people will in 90. I’m inspired by him everyday.
“You can be accepting of death and still not want it to happen. Untimely death is the most unfair thing of all.”
Accepting love means you are putting your heart on the line to be ripped apart at any moment. You risk the pain of love dying. You risk the pain of betrayal. You risk the agony of grief. But to me, that’s part of the joy of it. To open yourself up to another human in such a raw way, to expose your soul & share a love so intense & deep, also means to feel pain just as intensely. & it’s worth it. I promise you, it’ll always be worth it.
Bryony is a wordsmith of the weird based in the South-East of England. When she isn’t writing it down she can be found collecting bones or taxidermy, or telling it like it is here.