I know I’m better now because I fell in love with a pair of blue boots. The ‘inability to enjoy’ is a defining characteristic of depression and I was depressed so long I couldn’t remember what it felt like to enjoy anything. It was oddly scary, like I was a puzzle I couldn’t solve ‘What do I like doing? What makes me happy?’
And the last thing I was likely to take pleasure in, was shopping. Somehow my political convictions, my horror of consumerism and capitalism, the way injustice and all the suffering it engenders saturates the fabric of how we do ‘trade’ in this culture, robbed me of the innocent pleasure to be had in pretty things. But when I came out of the hospital with the news that the Thyroid Eye Disease might be ‘reactivated’ and another eye operation a possibility, I found out that my mum was right, beautiful things can be a comfort sometimes. It feels somewhat out of character, but nonetheless I am the possessor of a pair of boots I’m happy with, that in the midst of a month in which I’ve felt grief for so many people iconic and in my neck of the woods that have passed on, I am coming back to life and it’s allowed.
I wore my new boots for the first time today, in honour of Angelique. I know some of you have no idea who I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t here’s what I wrote a few days after she died.
‘For days I’ve been doing my best to contain my deep sorrow at the departure of our lovely Angelique. She lived round the corner from me so she was one of the people I’d encounter on the street. She had many, many friends and I don’t count myself among them. But she was a member of my community, my tribe and because I live in the world I do, occasionally, rather than exchanging smiles, we would drop into the heart of things and connect deeply, share truthfully. Angelique gave of her own precious self so generously, touched so many people’s lives, did so much good in this world.
I feel so blessed that Jo knew I’d been lighting candles and praying for Angelique, for Angelique and all those in the inner circle, the witnesses to such distress and suffering that, yes, of course I’m glad her suffering is at an end. But I am grieved to no longer have this lovely Being with us. Angelique with her deep rich laugh, so full of joie de vivre, so ready to enjoy life, to be fun; big-hearted, unique, loving Angelique.’
Ah, how sadness and gratitude can hold hands! She had the send-off she deserved did Angelique, a wonderful wake, a true celebration of the beautiful Being we had in our midst. It is important that we did what we did today, stopping the traffic, standing in the street, asking for the world that didn’t know Angelique to respect the needs of we who did. Bless them for doing so. It is the first time I have witnessed in England the tradition I know from home, where all the shops shut down and the people line the streets.
I felt so on the edge, that place where it is possible that emotion will become overwhelming but it’s not yet. All my usual program about being peripheral, of not ‘really’ belonging, of being somehow incapable of connecting with others that so often drives me out of situations, is chuntering away in the background. It is silenced by the silence that unites us, as we stand in the street waiting for her remains to be moved into the Assembly Rooms. And then we file in after her. I have never seen so many people in the Assembly Rooms before, faces I recognise dotted among faces I don’t. Lots of daughters, women I don’t know but in whom I can see a reflection of the women I do. Such a gathering, these are my tribe, this is my community united in grief and gratitude.
Can I talk about what happened in the Assembly Rooms? The waves of emotion, the tears welling up, the surprise of laughter, the marvelling at how multi-talented Angelique was, the growing sense of satisfaction that everyone was talking about the woman I met. No saccharine stuff here, instead deep love for a complex, creative, REAL person. When they played John Martin ‘May you never…’ it carried me back to the last tribe I loved as I now love the people around me, in Wales, to the night when P. was going on his travels and D. played this track and then gave him the cassette. Long time ago, a rich bubble of love touched in time-travel. And then with David Bowie ‘Let’s dance’ we did. Never danced in the middle of a funeral before but it felt so right. All our love for Angelique in the dance because Angelique was such a glorious dancer. I could hear her laugh. She loved that.
I had to leave before the end, but not before Tina said her wonderful list poem that for me completely captured the essence of Angelique. That was hard. It’s leaving the circle before the ritual is finished and I was very emotional. And yet that space created allowed something important to happen.
We all know logically that everyone dies. This afternoon I realised (and I have no recollection of ever having realised this quite the way I did today before now) that everyone I love is going to die. Whoa, cracked me wide open. I’m just not sure that the people I love, the ones who have their place in my heart, know it. I can be expending so much energy on ‘keeping it together’, that there’s very little left over for connecting with the people around me. So how would they know? I’m not convinced it shows.
They know. They know. That was what was magical and beautiful about this day, this day chock full of deep true real encounters. Thanks to Angelique. Because Angelique was open-hearted, we celebrated her by opening our hearts to each other. I have had more moving experiences of connecting and sharing deeply with people I love this day that I am sad and happy at the same time. Everyone I love is going to die but at least today I had a space in which to tell some of the people I dearly love that it is so. Love flowed, and Angelique? I reckon she loved every minute of it.
Rest in Peace Angelique. Thank you for the time you spent among us. Thank you for the white feather you sent to let us know you’re up there, the prettiest star.