Claire King


Death and Life

Posted on: January 2nd, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

A dear friend of mine died suddenly on New Years Eve and since then I’ve been grieving, in its various guises.

Whilst most have my thoughts have been about the loss of Annie in our lives, and the pain of those left behind, other strange thoughts have crept in.

Here is one that I’m not proud of. Annie was always very encouraging about my writing and so delighted when I told her my first book was going to be published. We talked about the novel and she was really looking forward to reading it. Of course now she never will.

It’s an odd thought, and not relevant at all to what has happened. Why would I even think about that?

I suppose that we all project how things will turn out in the future – times we are looking forward to, who will be there and what will happen. This story evolves, of course, but when we are forced to re-write that story abruptly it knocks us off balance.

In amongst all of the sadness, there is something healthy about this rupture, because it reminds us that the future is not certain. That there are no guarantees which of our loved ones we will get to keep, or for how long.

It should tell us how we ought to be living.



15 Responses

  1. Pete says:

    I’m really sorry to hear your bad news. I think these are entirely natural thoughts and nothing to be ashamed about. Relationships are built on our shared memories and experiences. As adults , we have far fewer ‘defining’ moments in our lives as when we’re children but that need to have our friends and family around at those points when we ‘achieve’ something is just as important. It’s not the same achievement if people aren’t around to see it.
    When my Mum died, I had the thought that she would never see me receive my MBA. The MBA wasn’t important in the immediacy of her death but it was an established event in the future. It stood for all the other events that I couldn’t yet imagine and that I wouldn’t be able to share with her. It was part of the loss.
    My ski instructor friend Eric died last year in a logging accident. I still can’t believe he’s gone. Each day, he would say to whoever was around ‘Let’s make this the best day ever.’ It’s a hard thing to do at times but there’s a richness in it about the need to live in the present that I love.

    • claire says:

      “It stood for all the other events that I couldn’t yet imagine and that I wouldn’t be able to share with her.”
      That’s a perfect way to describe it. Thanks, Pete, and I’m so sorry about your friend. Love his philosophy.

  2. Catherine says:

    Hello Claire,
    Very sorry to hear your sad news and I think that your reaction is honest and completely normal. In a way a life lived close to death makes us grasp every day and squeeze it to our hearts. We had an early and tragic death in our family which has never really left my side, and so your photograph in the snow captures everything that I hope to achieve each day. Of course bad things will happen, and I panic if I think they lie there in waiting, but that is the trick isn’t it? Knowledge of this, our short time for making the best of ourselves. Wishing you and loved ones the best in 2012.

  3. claire says:

    Thank you, Catherine. It’s hard sometimes to make our days seem worthwhile when there are piles of laundry and unpaid bills and crosspatch kids wanting to be taken to the park. It’s not all rainbows in the snow of course. But even on the most prosaic of days, a little kindness and laughter goes a long way to calling it a good day.

  4. Debi Alper says:

    Kindness and laughter … yes. As you probably know, I attended a very sad funeral recently. New Year’s Eve was also the first anniversary of the death of another friend. And my mum never met G or my children or knew I would be published. We have to live – and laugh – because they no longer can but would if they could.

    • claire says:

      They would. Annie was like a mum to everyone I know, full of simple wisdom and joy. And if she could she most definitely would. Maybe being able to say that about someone is the best testimony to their life.

  5. Janetyjanet says:

    One thing I find now with my mum and dad is that when I was younger, I could be quite intolerant and impatient of their beautiful idiosyncrasies. Nowadays I listen and think that one day I will give anything to listen to the minutiae of their day or their particular worries so find it much easier to go with the flow and appreciate them while I still have them. I am so very glad and happy to have this knowledge.

    Very sad to hear about Annie, big hugs xxxx

  6. Susan says:

    Why would you be ashamed of that thought? I had a friend who enjoyed reading the first story I got published and shortlisted for the Hennessy Award. She would have bought the paper and enjoyed the second and third too had she survived. I am sorry she will never now see anything else I write and publish. It sounds she was a good friend to you and very encouraging – it is naturally very sad that she cannot see the final result.

    My condolences, Susan

    • claire says:

      Thank you, Susan. I’m so touched by your kindness and understanding.
      There are so many parents and friends who miss seeing grandchildren born, novels born, happiness at last. We wish them there anyway, but for those moments we wish them there more because we know they would have been happy.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I think it makes absolute sense that you would think of her and your novel, how she won’t now be able to read it. No matter how different what we write is from our real lives, it is always a window into the very deepest parts of us and I’m sure most of us write with the people we love in the corners of our minds. Annie reading your novel would bring you even closer together; she would know you even more through reading it. Of course you will be sad that she will never get to do that: you will be sad about all the ways in which you and she will be apart.

    Wishing you all the strength and courage for the coming months.

  8. claire says:

    Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful response. I really appreciate it xx

  9. A thoughtful reminder, Claire.

    Re your strange thought that Annie won’t be able to read your book now…
    I remember having a similar experience when my father died. He was too ill to go to the Chelsea Flower Show and see the orchids – his passion. So I spent an entire film (yes, film) in the orchid tent, taking photos of everything I thought he might find interesting, but I found rather boring.

    Duty done, I took them to the chemist, but by the time I collected them, he was dead.

    He wasn’t expected to go so quickly, but I was racked with guilt. Should I have paid for 24 hour express service, instead of the usual week? A silly thing, but afterwards I realised he had deteriorated so quickly that he wouldn’t have been able to see the prints. I did describe everything to him the day after my visit and he seemed to take pleasure in that, but it didn’t stop the guilt.

    Now, I remember it as one of those things. And I also remember that he would have been the first to say ‘Get on with it!’ if I had any kind of project in the offing. So as a Roman ‘nut’, I leave you with carpe diem.

  10. claire says:

    I found out today that another dear friend had her first child, a daughter, on New Years Eve. So I’d also like to welcome Agathe to the world. The joy goes on.

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