It’s been 6 months since my best friend Gilly died in January. For some reason it feels like a milestone. I haven’t felt able to write about her, or how it felt loosing her, so I thought I’d finally attempt to share.

The first few months were a total blur. A hazed memory of stress, anger, depression, sadness and pain. I felt angry at the world when people told me they thought it was ‘her time to go’. I felt stressed by the impatience of comrades wanting me to return to my productive self, unable to cope with this new person who they weren’t used to seeing be a total utter mess. My cheeks became eroded through unending tears. Moisturiser or calendula oil couldn’t restore them to their soft state. I had recurrent nightmares of burying her in different places. Waking up in a cold sweat as I was lowering her coffin into the cold dark earth.

The slightest thing would make me cry. Bursting into tears at train stations, in the shower, in the garden. Anywhere and everywhere. Nothing could contain my emotion. I’d drive to her grave and lay on the earth next to her. The first few months, the piled soil seemed unliving. I planted vervain, violets and thyme. I watched the flowers from the funeral rot into the red raw earth. Then one month, I think maybe May, I saw a little earthworm. Its presence lifted my spirit and I felt this deep connection to the beauty of life and death. On my latest trip I also saw a woodlouse and spider. (Gilly was the most fearless person I have ever met. However she was afraid of spiders and it always made me laugh).

Those first few weeks I never thought I would be happy. I never thought I would recover my sense of self, my strength, my passion. I felt stripped bare, exhausted and alone. Over time, with gentle hang outs, trips away, the returning of the spring, I felt like I could breathe again. My projects had more energy. I started to sleep more soundly and slowly started to accept what has happened and how being unhappy won’t bring her back.

It sounds crazy but sometimes I miss her more when I’m happy. I miss sharing good news with her. I miss texting her my gossip. I miss calling her in delight when I’ve just had an amazing night. I miss asking her for advice when I’m confused about my feelings for someone. She knew me inside out and had this long term overview of my life. She’d seen me ‘come of age’ and sometimes I thought she knew me better than myself.

I’ve had some magic moments recently. Swimming in a lake with a setting sun, swallows diving for insects around me. Night time foxes sneak around me on city streets. Huge buzzards launching off oak branches and crossing my path (near her grave). Every moment I have wanted to share with you. And for some deep unexplainable reason, I know that I am. I miss you Gilly. I miss you every day. You always worried you were a burden, but you never were. I’d have it all back in a heart beat. The hospital trips, moisturising your feet, pushing you by Swansea Bay, eating mash potato and gravy and watching Lark Rise to Candleford until we were both asleep. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be then with you. It sounds cheesy but I don’t think I could have loved or cared about you any more than I did. I don’t think you could have been a better friend in any way, shape or form either. I thank the world every day for the opportunity to love you and learn from you, ‘my animal rights mum’ for so long. I’m trying to bring life back to this bare soil in my heart, I know its going to take a long time.

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

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