There are some ironies in life so cruel that you prefer just keep your mouth shut. But I won’t, not because I shouldn’t but because I’m not politically correct like the rest of Ottawa.
I was going to the Grieving Group at Church. It was leaded by my American friend and Ellen, both lesbians. The American girl has a transsexual boyfriend FTM. Ellen had a special girlfriend….had? Yes; had, past time. What I remember the most of the meetings was me asking Ellen what to do, what to say, always in the Canadian standards, to somebody who lost a dear one. She was explaining me basically to say “my deepest condolences or if you’re closer to that person offering help”. I spoke to her several times. It was always pleasant to talk and exchanges ideas about this society that I never finish to understand, of course, in my Peruvian totally politically incorrect way of thinking. When I marched at the gay pride in Ottawa I saw her beside the curb with her girlfriend. Ellen is short, shorter than me, short white hair and a problem with her back but very active. She is chaplain in a hospital. I remember I sat beside her girlfriend in one of the LGBT welcoming parties. She seemed out of this world, avoiding eye contact with almost everybody, silent, non talkative. I thought she was autistic but that picture of her was smashed when I saw her in the parade. There, she was waiving her hands, shouting, moving North to South, East to West the gay flag hugging Ellen. In one of the grieving meetings she told openly her girlfriend was under medication, apparently she had panic attacks or anxiety or both. Also, she said last year during the week of mental health awareness that many people looked or treated not very well the patients who said to the nurse in the front desk they were under medication, but her, because she was the chaplain at that particular hospital, her girlfriend had “fast and special attention”. Just last November, before Christmas, she said in the famous email for the bloody potluck I didn’t want to go, that Marlene, her girlfriend, had a mini stroke. Just in February I asked Ellen if Marlene was ok. She said “her doctor told her not to do so much physical activity but she’s skiing, walking all the time, living her life”. I was glad to hear that. The day I decided to quit the group I sent emails to Ellen and the American girl saying I was not going, no reason in particular, that was a Friday. On Saturday at noon I received an email from the American girl that Ellen’s girlfriend, Marlene, died in her sleep. I was surprised and in shock. Also, was this the greatest bitchy irony of destiny? I mean, she was the leader of the grieving group and there she was. Like everybody else, with a dead on her shoulders. I saw her Facebook, just 3 weeks later, it was Ellen’s birthday. And just in April, it would have been Marlene’s 56 birthday. I hope their wedding anniversary won’t be in May…I found until now too heavy with all those dates and memories to remember and trying to forget them all at the same time.
We are still waiting for the funeral service. As she told me once, I sent her an email giving her my condolences and offering my help if needed, which it was really weird. Isn’t ironic? And as a chaplain, she knows literature to read about it that she suggested us for grieving. And I always complained that what people need when they grieve is not a paper with authors and titles, but good friends and people to talk to. She has 3 children…will she grieve like the others? will she grieve reading books or over reading books? Will she talk to anybody? Once I told her, talking about death or grieving was taboo in this society. Even crying. She agreed…but I don’t know if their own children will want to listen about loneliness, abandon, fear when they want just this thing goes fast without disturbing their lives.
I went to another group at Church, the writing group. It was really nice. The leader is a woman from Jamaica. At this time, there were 6 people including me. Chuck, in his 80’s, who writes interesting poems, Jocelyne, the leader, who brings books or prompts, to read and after we write freely about the text, a woman with a German background, a guy who works with inmates and an old woman from Church. What Jocelyn read was so hard, heavy, sad, and I don’t know how many adjectives can describe the text about a woman dying of cancer and her friend who was taking care of her for a couple of days when those days became endless. Just when she was reading those depressing lines I felt a wall of emotions and Ellen’s recent experience lived in a different way. The exercise was to write no matter what about the prompt. The book’s title is The Spare Room by Helen Garner And this is what I wrote:
“Is this a real spare room? Just a room and then suddenly can become an universe of pain an agony. Probably more blindness than sadness will fill the empty space in this room.
In the mornings can be expansive and stretches with every sunbeam that crashes the windows and at nights shrinks in slow motion..in the rhythm of pain, of denial . The time is measured by drops of sweating, no tear drops. Are they useful or just useless?
I just saw her eyes….with that look that wants to catch, to grab, to memorize the space in that spare room universe. There were nights, there were mornings, there pain, there were last minute hope and undeniable hopeless.
Even between friends you can develop a false mother-daughter relationship. And not necessarily being the most supportive but toxic. Like taking care of the careless, like taking care of an agony”.