“The hardest part for me, oddly, wasn’t actually finding him lifeless. It wasn’t even cutting him down and calling 911. Not even when he was pronounced dead at the hospital and I saw my parents reactions. The hardest part was phoning his best friend and telling her what had happened, it was hearing her break down and realizing just how much he was loved and just what he’d thrown away” – Alyssa Rodemeyer on her Tumblr account.
Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of my grandfather. It was Cancer and, in many ways, it was a relief to see him go after months of steady deterioration and pain. I was able to say goodbye and thank him for all he contributed to my life and wish him well in his onward journey. It was a mixture of sadness and relief then.
By contrast, the previous year to that I lost my uncle, David, in a motor accident. He was coming down a hill in pouring rain and lost control of his vehicle. My mother rang me at work (I was living some 200 miles from home at the time) and I was utterly devastated. I had never, ever felt such pain in all my life. He was the biggest influence on my childhood, the one from whom I had practically gained everything including intellectual curiosity and a silly sense of humor. Now he was no longer there. I would never hear his voice, never hear him laugh and joke, never again would he show me the stars through a telescope, no more bottle digging, no more clowning, nothing.
It was the suddeness if anything. The loose ends. The sense of uncompleted business. The possibility that it may have been, perhaps, deliberate. This person who had been so colorful, larger than life, so lovable and endearing had now gone forever. Without saying “goodbye” to those.who loved him.
My first instinct was to recapture him, to reclaim his life from the void. To put down in writing all I could recapture of his amazing personality. That, at least, I would have to remind me. I sat down and typed a lengthy two page memoir pouring out everything he had done for me for posterity. The things I owed him. Random memories from childhood. I found it so easy to do because there was so much of him I wanted to recapture. His mode of speaking, his voice pattern, all of this was important. I wasn’t going to let him simply vanish into the dust, I was going to keep him alive. He was too big to simply consign to oblivion.
The pain was unbelievable. Whole months went by when I couldn’t talk or even think of him without breaking down.Without being overwhelmed by the enormity of what had gone from my life so suddenly. It became impossible to listen to songs like “Days” by the Kinks without becoming a sobbing mess. Even now, I find it hard to hear that song without thinking of him although less hysterically now, more a gentle melancholy and a sense of gratitude that I was lucky to have him as a part of my life for so long.
There were the dreams too. I remember one where we had a lengthy conversation where I was able to unburden myself of not being able to say goodbye to him. I was able to tell him what I owed him, how much I missed him and how I wished we could dig for bottles again. I recall it ended with him being overwhelmed and saying the strangest thing “I’m sorry I’m not David” before the scene changed (as it does with dreams).
The possibility that it might have been suicide also meant the whole family were shrouded in guilt. His last years had been far from happy and he had started drinking in a way that was not conducive to being healthy. He had been left to bring up three daughters on the proceeds of car boot sales owing to an injury which meant he had to give up the more steady job as painter and decorator. The prevailing mood of the family at the time was “if only we had done/said this” “if only he knew how much we loved him” and other such sentiments. The fact it was finally officially ruled a tragic accident helped in some ways to mitigate these thoughts but, its fair to say, the extended family as a unified body underwent a serious shock from which it never fully recovered.
Looking back it would seem unlikely now that it could have been deliberate. He had apparently left a joint of lamb cooking in the oven for a start. But that still doesn’t affect the sense, the sheer aftershock bought about by a sudden loss like that.
Finding the sister of Jamey Rodemeyer’s Tumblr account yesterday bought all that back. I understood fully what she was going through, though I chose to stay away from seeing my uncle laid out in the funeral parlor as I wanted him to live on unblemished. I am told, however, he had a big mischievous smile on his face which didn’t surprise me.
It is a sign of how time heals the deepest of wounds that I can type this all quite rationally now. His sense of humor and his insatiable curiosity live on in me and I will never forget those sacred days, those endless days he gave me.
The quote above was also useful in serving as a rebuke to me. There have been quite a few times in the past few months, having to deal with morons and bigots online tearing into gay people in general and Rodemeyer in particular, when I have felt my own throat being ripped out as well. Times when I had thought about throwing myself off a motorway bridge, or “accidentally” finding myself setting off the third rail of the local railway line. There was even one incident when I woke up with a child’s voice in my ear saying “I want to go soon, please let me go.” The quote above, however, has helped put it all into perspective. I thought of my friends, of Geoff in Reading, of Chris in Rutland (for who I made a birthday video and got the reply “this is just another reason why I’m so glad to have you as a friend”), of the lass herself in Yorkshire (with who I talked over these feelings in depth and she was pretty upset saying I was her best friend of all), of the Duleys in Queensland and I knew I couldn’t do that to them. I knew then that, as ridiculous, hateful and nasty people could be to me, it would be equally unfair, nasty and brutal of me to inflict such pain on people who have stood by me for so many years.
If there is one thing I have learned through all the genuine grief and pain (almost akin to the pain I went through when my uncle died) I have experienced in the past few months over these lads, it is that shitting on people who have shat on you is fair enough. Doing it to people who never have and never would isn’t.
Lads, I knew there were complex issues involved with your decisions. I know that adolescence often means that long term thinking gets cast aside for easy solutions. I know that the forces against you were just too much to handle. I hope, however, that wherever you are now you will look at those people you chose to “throw away”, those hearts you broke, the ones that did love you and never wanted you to go. I hope you can see and, perhaps, regret the way you hurt them so badly. It wasn’t only yourselves you killed guys, it was a major part of other people’s hearts as well. I hope you can see that now.
I feel as though the tunnel of the last few months is coming to an end now. This, hopefully, will be my last thoughts on this topic. The fight goes on however. Perhaps it always will.