Claire King



Posted on: June 23rd, 2011 by Claire - 13 Comments

Today, the 23rd June, is the Fête de la Saint-Jean. Every year a fire is lit at the top of Mount Canigou, and tonight the fire is brought down to all the villages around the mountain, ours included, and villagers celebrate, and leap over the flames to celebrate the summer solstice, and the spirit of our community. The Mount Canigou is a mountain sacred to the Catalan people. There is something magical about it.

I had a friend who loved this mountain. This week he died on it.

This friend, this man, he loved the mountain. He knew the mountain and spent a lot of time there. It was his passion. Two days ago a storm fell as he was climbing to the peak. He was struck by lightning and died instantly.

Today I find myself immobilised by this news. Today I should have been writing. But I cannot even find the right words to express my condolences, never mind a scene in a novel. People say that you can write through grief. That you can turn the emotion into something positive. That writing can be therapeutic, or a tribute to someone we loved.

But this is not my grief. The last time I properly chatted with this person was last year at his 50th birthday party, although I see his wife most weeks.

Andrew’s death makes me feel mortal. It makes me terribly sad. It reminds me that I am profoundly grateful for my own family. It makes me want to reach out to his wife and help her in any possible way I can, and I feel helpless, because I know that there is no real way I can comfort her. But I feel, rightly or wrongly, that writing about the tragedy that has left a friend devastated, would be disrespectful in the extreme.

I don’t feel bad creating fictional grief from my darkest fears and imaginings.

I don’t feel bad creating fictional grief by drawing on feelings of grief that I have experienced personally.

But I find someone else’s grief impossible to approach through writing. It’s personal. I don’t want to write about it.

Although maybe I  just did.

13 Responses

  1. Marcus Speh says:

    i’m so sorry to hear about your loss, claire, thank you for sharing. i’m not sure you did though you just did. as all profound grief, this will probably stay with you. any loss i’ve truly felt has become part of my fabric and part of my writing, too, though i may have forgotten the moment, the feeling, the face even. take care.

  2. Nik Perring says:

    Really sorry to hear this. Nik

  3. Hi Claire, I am sending you a warm hug. It’s so soon – no way can you write, if you are anything like me, that is.
    I just spent the morning sort ing out my darling Dad’s clothes…(he died three weeks ago – aged 95, after a full and wonderful life) and kept finding notes in his pockets from the last couple of years. he had dementia in the end – so there were things like my phone number, his own, his date of birth, mixed up with a list of the names on the village war memorial and the name of the grocer. I sat on his bed and smiled… there’s lots of funnies turning up these days. Black bananas in the share certificates…

    Maybe it’s trite – but your friend died exactly where he loved to be, and wouldn’t have known a thing about it.

    Sending another hug.


  4. Marisa Birns says:

    What incredibly sad news, Claire.

    Yes, there are no words that can truly comfort your friend’s wife. But, as you said, being there for her in any way she needs will give her strength and help her navigate this very devastating and frightening turn in life.

    So very sorry for the loss of your friend.

  5. claire says:

    Thank you everyone, I really appreciate your comments and understanding. You’ve made this afternoon less lonely.

  6. I’m sending you a big hug through the ether. You’re in shock. Wrap your fingers around a hot mug of sweet tea. I’m so sorry you’ve lost a friend. xx

  7. Pete says:

    Terribly sorry Claire – that’s so sad. Give yourself some time to grieve. Sometimes writing has to wait

  8. I’m glad you managed to write something, Claire. My thoughts are with you and, of course, with his family. Unbearably sad news 🙁

  9. hpretty says:

    Yes I think you just did. And it’s a lovely post. Go with it – it will come out in your writing if that’s what you need. I haven’t had much control over mine.


  10. I’m so sorry, Claire

  11. Susan says:

    I am very sorry.

  12. Writers live in a world defined by words. We also live in a world where the words are only little dots of outcry against the enormity of death, representations only … of things we can’t really say because the words are never big enough to contain them.

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