Isaac died a year ago today, 30th November 2021 at around quarter to two in the afternoon. He was twenty three. When the worst thing that could possibly happen to you has happened, it's difficult to know which way is up. The last few weeks have been really difficult as this day has borne down on us. I go over the events of the last few days of Isaac's life in my head sometimes, reliving them. Earlier this year I suffered some quite extreme flashbacks, which put me back in to the the room with him as he died. It was so quick which has made it more traumatic. Covid came and took him in less than a week. He was out of sorts on his birthday, tested positive for Covid the following day (Wednesday) and then became more unwell until on Saturday evening we phoned an ambulance. They took him into Wythenshawe hospital. On the Monday morning the consultants told us there was nothing they could do, that the Covid was in his lungs and given his weakened immune system there were no drugs that would work, that he would die within the next couple of days. He died the following day, Tuesday. The three of us were there when he went. I was sitting on his bed facing him, holding his hands. The flashbacks, auditory and visual, were often of this moment. I haven't had any since May, something I feel relieved about but it doesn't take much for me to go back to those days and to replay what happened. I'm not sure if it helps or not but as this date has come closer an closer my mind has been going back there more often.
It's difficult to believe it is already a year since he died when it feels so recent and still feels so raw. The passing of time is a real fucker and dates and anniversaries have been extremely difficult to deal with, mainly something to get over and be done with. Today may prove to be the toughest of them all, the coming to terms with the fact that it's a year now that he's been gone, that it's now over a year since he was in the house with us, living with us. People keep saying that a year really isn't actually very long at all, especially at our age, but still, a year... it baffles me somehow.
Writing about it all here has helped. I'm sure at times it has been an uncomfortable and difficult read for others and I don't blame anyone who quietly closes the page and goes to read something else. Some people have said it has helped them, to know where we're at or where we're up to. Writing it down and posting it has helped me get my thoughts in order and I think it has worked as a form of therapy.
We made the decision to have Isaac buried and we're glad we did. Having his grave as somewhere to go has helped. Early on, back in January and February, it was difficult and I liked going, it felt like he was closer to us while we were there, but leaving was tough. It's still very difficult sometimes, standing there can bring home very suddenly the enormity of what has happened and it has the power to floor me, leaves me feeling like I have to catch my breath. But it's comforting too. It's good to go and see that other people have been, that people have taken flowers or left things for him. We still haven't sorted a headstone and I don't feel any particular need to do that in a rush. The planter we filled with flowers has changed as the year has passed. I started photographing it when we visited, keeping a record of it and how it has changed with the seasons. This picture was quite recent, mid- November. There is a road in the distance of that picture- you can't see it but it's there. The road runs between Broadheath (near Altrincham) and the road to Lymm (I've never checked the timetable but I wouldn't think it's a busy or profitable route and I can't imagine there's more than one bus per hour). We try to go to see him at least once a week. Almost every single time we visit, a bus goes past which always makes me smile. Isaac loved public transport and the bus shuttling back and forth between Altrincham and Warrington has begun to feel like a little tribute to him.
This place started as a music blog in January 2010 but became intertwined with my life from quite early days and Isaac (and Eliza) have featured regularly. This year especially the music and Isaac's death and my/ our grief have become more wrapped up in each other. Here are two songs that have come to mean something to me in the last few weeks, that have become part of Isaac, his death and my grief, and in some way a part of trying to deal with it all.
Ten days ago I posted a forty minute Flaming Lips mix. I knew some of the songs would be affecting, that they might get to me. Do You Realise?? has that power in any circumstances, even without dealing with the death of your child. Race For The Prize has been connected to Isaac for me since very early days. Jesse Fahnestock questioned- quite reasonably- why Fight Test wasn't part of my mix.
Fight Test definitely should have been included and for a while it was but I took it out. After our conversation I went back to it and some lines really jumped out...
'Cause I'm a man, not a boy/ And there are some things you can't avoid/ You have to face them/ When you're not prepared to face them'
That's a truth right there. There's some lovely imagery in the song too, something to hold on to...
'I don't know where the sunbeams end/ And the starlights begin/ It's all a mystery'
It's funny how the meaning of songs and the way you hear them can change, that they can be one thing at one point in your life and another at another. That's definitely true of Fight Test. My other song for today is this one by Nick Drake...
A few weeks ago I pulled out a compilation CD from a pile of homemade one that date back years, to listen to in the car. 'Cello Song came on and it worked its magic as I drove. I kept playing it, pressing back, playing it again, pressing back. It's a gorgeous, almost weightless, song, finger picked guitar melodies and deep sonorous cello sweeps wrapping themselves around each other. I've known and loved it for years without ever really noting the words. Like many of Nick Drake's songs, it's poetic and melancholic but there is a tinge in his voice which suggests hope. The words began to come into focus but I had to wait to do an internet search for them to read them in full-
They struck me hard, left me gasping a little bit and then as I wiped my tears away and read them again, they made me smile. This is never going to leave us and it hurts like nothing I've ever known before, but we have to find a new way to live without him and to find a way to come to terms with the feelings of loss and grief that we have been left with. Isaac will always be with us - and in a funny way I can find him now in places, like in the lines of songs by Nick Drake and Wayne Coyne.