Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Blue Moon Effect

The full moon and I aren't friends.
Never have been. 
Never will be.

It's like the full moon comes about and I turn into a stroppy, grumpy pain in the arse. I'm aware of the behaviours and for the most part I try to curtail any truly awful tantrums and try and keep to myself for the few days that the moon shines brightest. I tend to stick to myself  around these times, though sometimes things get a bit fraught. This week at work was a bit interesting with the waxing moon in full flight, especially as I was stuck doing a part of my job with which I'm not exactly enthralled. The odd curt comment came out. 

The other thing about this full moon that made it all the more intense was the fact that it was a 'Blue Moon', the phenomenon that happens when there are two full moons in a calendar month. It doesn't happen that often - once every three or four years - the next one isn't due until 2015. For some reason these "Blue Moons" seem to be all the more potent - something of a harbinger of bad tidings. 

I mentioned this to a friend, who after a few months of low grade, annoying illness herself, was called back to England to tend her sick mother who fell ill suddenly. "It will all be over by the first of September, however it plays out. You just have to ride out the blue moon." I told her and thought no more of my comments.

The blue moon week came. A week of pulling unseen grammatical errors out of presentations, getting to the gym early and generally trying to keep my powder dry. 

Friday, the day of the blue moon came - no word from Mary, who would have arrived back in Gloucestershire on the Monday. A quick email was sent her way - was she okay? How was her mother?

The news came after work on Friday, after a rousing session of elephant hunting and one of the most gorgeous sunsets I've seen in ages.

The message was quick and simple.

"I'm fine. Mum passed away peacefully yesterday. We were all with her. It's been hard but everybody's coping. Thanks for asking."

See, I told her it would all be resolved by the blue moon. 

In the scheme of things, my friend's mother's passing, as sad as it is for all concerned, as horrible as it is for all who knew and loved her mum, is a natural part of life. A woman in her eighties, she lived a full, loved life, and her passing, although sudden, was swift and merciful. She died surrounded by her loving family and will be fondly remembered. All of these things can be seen as blessings, if death can ever be seen as one.

Sure, it's hard and horrible stuff for the family, but it's a part of life.

Saddened by the news, I walked the rest of the way home.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the bad tidings.

The news received as I walked in the door twenty minutes later literally took every fibre from my being.

Spying my friend Verity online, I said hello - and asked after her. It's been a few months since we've spoken. Nothing new about that. Verity, one of my oldest friends from my London days isn't one for communicating often - but this is fine. When we do talk it's like I only saw her yesterday. 

Her response to my question has left me questioning a lot of things about life.

She told me of how in the last few days that her ex-husband had passed away. They had to break into his flat - they found that he's been dead a few days. She and her eight-year-old son were coping, but it was a horrific time for the family.

Immediately I called her. Though what can you do or say in the circumstances? She was trying to track down some of his friends. She and one of his sisters were trying to organise his funeral. Though they were divorced, her husband had a lot to do with their son - which is how they twigged that something was very wrong - he didn't turn up for a weekly visitation.

Tragic, horrific, dreadful stuff. 

I'll be in contact with her fairly regularly from now on - if anything just to lend support - even if it is from the other side of the world and by text message. She has her family around her. She has to try and settle her son into a sense of normality - and prepare him for a life without a dad. 

For all of her ex-husband's many failings, he did love his son.

Rocked by the news, I had an unsettled night. Stuff like the latter news really leaves me frazzled. It's not that I take on my friend's woes, but I do feel their pain. I know what is mine and what is theirs - but it's times like this that make it suck to be an empath.

The morning came. I met Kitt at the gym for an hour of spin class - managed to work out some of the angst sweating it out on the bike. A massage and some chores later, I met Blarney for a movie in town.

She picked up my out-of-sort-ness and questioned me on it.

"You're depressed." 
"No. I'm just mulling over some terrible news. And the effects of the blue moon."
"You do get ratty around the full moon." she told me.
"I know. This time, finding out about Verity's husband - it's just hit me more."
"I thought you said Verity's husband was a nob."
"He was. But I wouldn't wish his death on anybody."
"I see."
"Verity said something - with him dying on his own, in is flat. How scared would he be? How awful it must have been for him. Okay, it's tragic that their son won't have a dad. And in some ways he's no longer in any pain - but still."
"It's pity you take on all this stuff. You're too sensitive." Blarney told me.
"I don't think so. I handle all this much better than I used to. I don't take it on so much as feeling what is going on. The good thing is that I feel happy stuff too. But this news had cut me to the quick."

In the time it took me to drive home, it finally twigged why this tragic event has left me pensive and moody. Why the awful events have cut me more than they should.

In his passing in the way he did, Verity's husband has enacted my greatest fear. Not to die - for that is something we all will do one day - it's the last great adventure, the one thing we have no control over.

No - laying undiscovered, unloved - alone, he passed as nobody should.

This is my greatest fear.

Some of the angst has lifted since working this out. I know that the news of a death shakes me to the core - most of this extending from when my own father died while I was in London. 

Unable to go back to Australia for the funeral, it was the one time I felt completely unsupported and alone - for me, it was the most horrific few months of my life. My family in Australia, encompassed by their own grief, didn't call or write at this time - I was left to fend for myself. Friends were good at the time, though the reticence of the English meant that I spent a lot of time on my own. I painted out the flat in the week I had off work after he died. Needed something to do which meant I didn't have to think. It was good therapy.

But this is why I will always reach out to a grieving friend - always giving them space, but lending support if desired. Its as simple as a call or text to say, "I'm here. Can't do anything much, but I'm here."

Knowing what it's like to cope with a death of a family member alone - I won't let people I love feel what I felt at that time. 

Strangely, it was Verity who provided some of the best support at this time of my life. About six weeks after my father passed she and her husband were going abroad for a few weeks. She loaned me her house, car, rail pass and two cats for a fortnight, letting me get out of London to some peace and quiet for a while. It's something that's stayed with me - giving me the space to heal away from the London flat I shared with a normally absent flat mate. He couldn't cope with my grief - not that he had to - I wasn't his responsibility - we shared rent and bills and that was it.

Looking back at this post, I'm realising how far I've come. And how far I still have to go to rid myself of some of these deep-seated demons.

I'm also very thankful that blue moons only happen like the adage. Rarely and occasionally.


Jackie K said...

You are not alone but are surrounded by friends who would never let you lie undiscovered in your flat for days. You're very much a daily presence - online, at work, by phone /text - we'd twig fast if no one heard from you for a day :)
An unhappy series of events unfortunately - no wonder it affected you.

The Elephant's Child said...

Honest, moving and powerful. Something I have learned to expect from you.
I hope things ease off a bit in the coming days, and love your support for your friend.

Bron said...

I've never really heard of a blue moon before I read your blog. But if it explains the shyte that's been happening the past few days/weeks then I'm happy they only occur every so often.

Onwards and upwards

Anonymous said...

Stay chilled, we love you.

Kath Lockett said...

Oh, that's awful and your greatest fear is mine also.

Your support for your friend is offered in a perfect amount. My husband had a friend who did the same thing that V did for you when your father died and he's never ever forgotten the consideration and kindness. Good thing that the friend was my brother!