Dearly (Unexpected) Departed

February 28, 2017

I didn’t know you had died. I found out on my birthday of all days, while I was sucking chocolate icing from my teeth and revelling in the grace and sass of turning forty.

I loved you Michael. Loved you after thinking that my heart was nothing but gristle, too scarred to do anything but plod warily in my chest. Loved you for giving me fizz in my belly every time we talked, loved you for your huge and obvious love of your children, books, and intelligence. I loved you for a gorgeous sundae of reasons, garnished with your honest, wide eyed delight in my arguments, my love of words, the ginger zinger on top your delight in me as something special, spellbinding, spunky and rare.

I didn’t know you had died. I had always taken comfort in the thought that you were out there, somewhere, singing to your kids and whisking hollandaise sauce, making the world a more intelligent and funnier place, even if I wasn’t there to be part of it. You’ve not been a part of my world for some years now (I’d relegated you to a matchbox of memories and rib pang), but now you’re not sharing the same planet as me anymore I marvel, breathless, at how that pinches.

I wonder about you. In January – still not knowing you had died – I went to a fantastic art gallery. One exhibit hummed your name down my spine, to the point I was dreadful-hopeful that you were there. The room was dark, the roof disappearing in floating shadows, with little sanctuaries of light you could step into. Each pocket was walled by frosted glass, lined roof to floor with shelved envelopes. People were hushed, some reaching out to open envelopes addressed “To you” or “Open me” or “Kate”. Some were fully named and addressed, and would be sent on by the museum at the end of each week.

I didn’t know you had died, but I wanted to write you a letter. To join those, spines curled and questing, putting thoughts and scrawl and hope to paper, to those the moment evoked. I wanted to ask how you were, now in your 40s and five years after me, after “us”. If you’d read any brilliance, if you’d started to go grey, if you’d come to understand why I’d said goodbye.

I don’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t know you’d died, and now I find myself having a wake for one. One mourner, one dearly (unexpected) departed. It’s not a matchbox of memories, it’s a hugsfull, a bellyful of sighs, and ribcage full of aches. After all these years of deliberately not remembering I can see the colours in your eyes, the startled bellow of your laugh is playing in traffic, and the ribbons of your love letters knot and tangle my breath.

Are you haunting me? I wouldn’t put it past you, quite frankly. You were a teasing prankster (I don’t want you to be dead, but you are and that’s not funny, Michael, dammit) and that skill set and joy would certainly have gone with you. You’re a sacred and rude relic of my life, and you’re also a puzzle piece I’ve added to my thoughts of the After. I want to see a replay of you, a cheerful agnostic, when you met divinity at last (do we get instant replays, After?) Do you understand now why I chose God over you? Do you understand now how it was all about love? Is the replay in Omni-Sense 6D, so we completely appreciate the glory of break ups, kisses and water fights, lullabies, guitar solos and love?

Do you watch your loved ones, the ones who impacted your life, the ones who knew God? Do you find yourself beside us at the frozen peas, or drift in amid the steam of our showers, smudged homework, our midnight pillows, celestial time lines somehow miscalculated?

I didn’t know you had died. I hadn’t realised how much I missed you, still, years later, and the freshly unearthed memories and thoughts of you flare at inconvenient times. But really, is there ever a convenient haunting – does our delightful morning breath and hair colour haunt you all too?

I’ll ask you, next time I see you, my unexpected, departed and dear.

What do you wonder about the after, the gone-before, the wafting curtain edge between there and here?


  1. Michelle

    February 28, 2017

    Oh, Kel. I am so sorry for this loss. As always, the way you weave words is wonderful.

  2. Tracey

    February 28, 2017

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss Kel and my heart goes out to you. If I leave this world before you, I won’t be beside you in the frozen goods aisle. I’ll be beside you when you lick peanut butter from a spoon and the day when you open your mailbox and realise there’ll be no more envelopes covered in washi tape hiding amongst the bills and real estate flyers. I just love the way your treasure those dear to you and I’m glad to be one of them.

  3. Lisa

    February 28, 2017

    Oh Kel, I’m so sorry. I understand why you chose God over Michael, but oh, how it hurts. I wonder if, in the After, we carry our sorrows and regrets as heavily as we do here. Or are our hearts fresh and untarnished anew?

  4. Rozy

    February 28, 2017

    It’s a shock to find out someone died long after the fact. It happened to me recently too. I have a firm testimony that only our physical body dies; our spirits live on, returning to our heavenly home for a grand reunion with those who already “graduated” from this mortal boarding school. What a happy time that must be, to be able to visit with loved ones without constraints of time and distance. I look forward to it! Back on earth, though, we who are left grieve because the one who left leaves an empty space in our life, we miss them and yes, even are envious! They are finished! We still are taking tests and doing reports, experiments, term papers and such as we continue our course work here on earth. Let us press forward with steadfastness in Christ! We want to graduate with honors.

  5. Sandra

    February 28, 2017

    Gorgeous and wrenching, Kel. All the love to you. Lucky are those you have loved and lent your words to.

  6. Linda

    February 28, 2017

    Kel, this is so exquisitely written, so rich and full of life and love and wisdom. It makes ME mourn Michael and I never even knew him. Such a gift you have and are, Kel!

  7. Marnie

    February 28, 2017

    Exquisitely expressed. When someone I have loved passes on – ahead of expected schedule or not – it never fails to impress upon me of the very temporary and fragile state of things here. I am always pensive and deeply grateful for time spent together in the wake and sometimes I wonder (and chastise myself over) why I couldn’t sustain that gratitude while they were still here. Sometimes when someone is gone we get a real glimpse of how monumental and important each life actually is – even the ones that are quiet and inconspicuous to the world at large. I think we, generally, have absolutely no idea for the most part. Thank God I believe in liife after death because otherwise I don’t think I could bear it.

  8. Jennie

    March 1, 2017

    I love your writing, sentiment, details, which makes this love letter of sorts so poignant.

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