Sunday, May 22, 2011

She dresses in black

She thinks of him and so she dresses in black,
And though he'll never come back, she's dressed in black.
Oh dear, what can I do?
Baby's in black and I'm feeling blue,  - Lennon McCartney 1965

I live in New York. New York, where you can wear anything you like. As long as its colour is a shade of gray. Which is a GOOD thing. Or is it?

Me and Tim - Just out of the schoolyard!
I never really took much notice of it - the color thing. Except as a way to identify the U.S. tourists  that is. In their vibrant pinks, yellows and lime greens. Walking three abreast. Slowly. Encumbering the sidewalks.

But recently, wearing black has been on my mind. Nothing to do with New York, or with tourists from Dallas and Cleveland ...

You see, recently I lost my brother. My baby brother. At 61 yes, he was and still is, my baby brother. It was not the first family death to hit me. My mother died when I was in America. I wrote about my experience in I Haven't Always Swum in this Water. And my father died an expat, in New Zealand - when I was still living in my native land, Australia.

One expects one's parents to leave. But not so a younger brother. Which has led me to have to cope with and think about, grieving. Grieving for the loss of someone too young to go.

The hardest thing about such grieving - well maybe not the hardest, but it's up there - is having no one around to talk to about it, no one  who is fair game, no one who could be expected to understand. Because those people who would understand - those who would "get it" - are also grieving, and the last thing one would want is to burden them still further.

I don't know. I don't have a grievance councellor. I haven't bought a book on how to grieve. But I do know that there's something missing. It isn't the book. It isn't the councellor.

What is missing is the attribution. The proclaiming. The thing that people did centuries ago, when they donned the black arm-bands, the widows' black. The announcement that - "I am grieving". A way of telling the world, "I am in grief".

In this modern world we are all expected to "carry on". ASIF! A few days off work. Organizing the funeral. Talking to family and friends. The obituaries. The service. And then ... it is - "back to normal".

Except it isn't. It is pretend.

And so I am glad I am in New York. Well, sort of. I can wear black and proclaim my grief. But who will notice? I'm just one of the crowd. My grief is a fashion statement to those who do not know me. But to those others?

From  now when I look at my fellow black-clad New Yorkers, I'll wonder. Are they like me, grieving? Or are they just dressing in the New York shades of gray, the New York  uniform?

For me the black is a proclamation of my grief.  Yes, last  month I lost my brother Tim. A person whose only offering to this world was "love". That was his ideal. His hope.  But I suppose that in reality he was just like all of us - doing his best; nothing special.

And I suppose that is what it is all about. Living life truthfully. Nothing special.

RIP Timothy John. (1950 - 2011)


Vanessa said...

My Dear Kate,

I am so sorry for your loss. Although I never met your brother, I am sure that, like you, he was a wonderful soul. When someone dies we grieve, but we grieve for ourselves. Because we miss the person. I believe that your brother is in a happier better place and that you will see him again. The person does not die, only the body does. I also believe that you have gained a guardian angel. That Tim will watch over you and although you grieve, he would not want you to despair. Remember his love and laughter and all the things you love about him and maybe that will provide some comfort to you. Please know that you have my deepest condolences.


Anonymous said...

I'm at a loss to know how to express my sadness at the death of your brother. All I can say is, Kate, we live in a world of joy and sadness. Hopefully the joy will overcome the sadness. Being so far away in a country you have adopted makes it hard to distinguish between grief and loss of roots. Have we lost our roots? Are we stateless? Have we lost our heritage or was it never there? I grieve with you, girl, and l wish we could hoist a couple of beers to drown our sorrow and sing a few songs. Carry him in your heart and remember the good times you had together.

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