The things I carry with me

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Today it is 12 years since I married Mark. We celebrated nine of those anniversaries together, this is the third that I’ve been on my own. On the first of those I flew to San Francisco to begin a trip that took me to Las Vegas, Chicago, Detroit, Syracuse in New York state and New York City and ended on the first day of my second year without him. Last year, less extravagantly, I was in Newcastle at the Hidden Civil War events I had been involved in.

This year, I’m going to the sea, to walk and enjoy the wind. Evidently, the memories of life after Mark’s death are stacking up too, becoming a narrative of life in the midst of trauma that moves gradually to finding my feet in the new reality I found myself in.

These days my feelings about Mark are more sadness than powerful grief and the memories are as likely to make me smile, even though there’s always that twinge of regret that he’s not here to create new ones.

Wedding days are supposed to be happy, so it seems redundant and/or insufficient to say what a wonderful day it was. But what stands out most about that day is something that I knew tentatively then but have grasped a little more firmly now about the nature of joy. The happiness of that day came from something that I held as being personal, intimate, precious but wanted to celebrate with others I loved on that day. It was the search for the right expression of our relationship, our togetherness, as well as Mark’s almost phobic dislike of flashy social events that shaped the decisions we made about the day.

We stripped back everything traditional about a wedding and put in place everything that we felt was necessary in a way that felt authentic to us. It was hand made in that sense, including the invitations on luggage labels that said ‘Destination: married life’ and asked people to join us on our send off. The main thing for us, after the (short) ceremony, was that people got to eat and drink their fill – I wanted it to be like a huge dinner party, the doors thrown open for all our loved ones – and that’s what it was.

It was liberating to know that nothing could really go wrong because there were so few details other than turning up looking reasonably “scrubbed up” and also amazing to see the day unfold in the way that it did. From the unexpectedly gorgeous sunny autumn weather, to the unscripted moments that still electrify me, like the flash of a Kingfisher’s wing, it was a day of such happiness and beauty there was part of me that could hardly quite approach or acknowledge it while it was happening.

Today I trust much more that the way to create something meaningful and beautiful is to go with your instincts, follow what seems right according to what’s within you and the in-between space with others rather than simply follow convention. There’s something about that approach which contrasts so strongly with that of putting the props in place and operating within them. Time and time again I realise that this is Mark’s gift to me, the learning of that ability to honour what is within and bring that forth, be it in organising a wedding or the simple trampery of enjoying walking, chatting and sharing a bag of crisps. That’s what I want to be thinking about when I walk on the beach today.