I need to talk a while.
Funny really, but today I was discussing with Fr. the circumstances of Steve’s death. It’s the first time I’d had so personal a conversation with him outside of confession. He just listened, as all good priests do. I really don’t know why I started talking, oh yes, we were talking about another young man who had died and somehow it related to my own situation all those years ago. I managed to stay lighthearted (how can you talk lightheartedly about death?…what I mean is, I was controlled and I didn’t cry)
So I was feeeling raw again, it’s painful opening old wounds. And then I was invited out to lunch and the afternoon was lovely and I felt okay again. I’m still feeling okay, just a little, oh whats the word?
How do you describe what it feels like to still love the person that you buried 13 years ago? To know that you had unfinished business, I believe my American friends would say that I hadn’t had ‘closure’.
I never had closure.
When Steve died his parents didn’t even bother telling me that he was dead until 2 days later. I thought he’d been busy at work and just hadn’t had time to come and see me and baby (we were living separately for a couple of weeks while he adjusted to life outside of the RAF and to having a new baby, he was a wonderful father, but found all the changes hard to take, he was a very sensitive and compassionate man, I was his first girlfriend).
The last time I heard or saw Steve was Thursday evening. On the Friday he was due to visit – he didn’t turn up. This wasn’t like Steve. I had no home phone, we couldn’t afford it. I wrapped up baby and walked to the town to use the phone box. I telephoned his mother and asked her to contact Steve, to drive to his flat and make sure he was okay. She said he’d be fine. I reluctantly put the phone down. I had a little money, but if I used it for a taxi I wouldn’t be able to buy the babies food the next day.
Sunday. Nothing. I’m going out of my mind.
Monday. Two plain clothed police officers from CID knocked on my door. I had seen them from the upstairs window. I had been taking a bath and peeped out of the window to see who was there. It suddenly felt like someone had poured a bucket of ice down my back. I didn’t want to open the door. Somewhere deep inside me I felt that if I opened the door my whole life would never be the same again.
They went away.
They came back.
They were’nt going to give up knocking on my door.
I scooped up baby into my arms. I’d taken a picture of her that very morning, how bright she looked, how happy.
I was shaking long before I got to the front door. when I opened it they asked me questions about who I was and then they asked to come inside.
You see that on the films, but you never expect to have it play out in your own life, do you?
I remember ripping a whole box of tissues one by one, into tiny little pieces and letting them fall to the floor as baby sat at my feet.
The police officers tried to be sensitive, I could tell that they had the ‘break it to her’ speech down pat but that it still cut them up to have this sobbing mass of quiet hysteria in front of them.
I told them they were wrong.
I asked them to go back and double check.
I asked them if they could have made a mistake and clutched on like hell for a moment until they looked at one another and concluded that there really was no mistake.
They told me that my Steve, the only real love of my life, the man who taught me what it means to be and have a ‘soul-mate’, was dead.
They asked a lot of questions. Who were these men and why were they asking me questions??? I felt as though I was a criminal being investigated. I was to find out later that Steve’s death was reported on the news and his photo, the photo I’d given to his parents earlier that year, the photo I’d taken of a happy Steve relaxing in my parent’s garden, had been circulated all over the city.
Then they told me. Steve had been found on Saturday. His parents had eventually got curious and had driven to his flat, seeing Steve’s car outside his sister and her boyfriend climbed through a window. Steve was lying in his bed, but was dead.
Why had his parents not told me that the man I loved had died? Why did I have to find out in the most cruel way of all? Why was I suddenly outside the family circle and instead of being informed by a family member had two clinicla detectives sitting in my living room?
I was devastated.
Steve couldn’t be buried for 6 weeks. Those weeks felt like years. I wanted his body released. No closure. I remember wanting to die. Asking my mum if she would look after my baby if I killed myself to be with Steve. How that must have hurt my Mum, but I just couldn’t see it… all I could see was the pain I was in and how it wouldn’t hurt so much if I could just go asleep and not wake up.
Films make death too fluffy and sentimental.
Real life isn’t always, if ever, like that. I had a hole inside of me that nothing could fill. I cried out to God in my darkness and I found no solace. He didn’t seem to want to know either.
I was angry. Both with Steve and with God. Perhaps a part of me still is. I feel cheated out of the best thing that ever happened to me.
The inquest was awful. I was called to give an account of Steve’s state of mind at the time of his death. I couldn’t even understand the questions that the Coroner was asking me. His parents looked at me as if they wished I was the one who had died. I just wished they’d have gone to see him on the Friday night when I sensed something was wrong and had pleaded with them on the phone. I had to ask the Coroner to repeat the questions over and over and in the end I got so confused I didn’t even know what I was saying.
There was an article in the press about it. It sounded so harsh. Because we lived at different addresses for the two weeks before Steve died (even though we saw one another daily and nightly and he would sleep over nearly every night) the reporter wrote that we were apart. only he used some other word that made it seem like we were’nt still in love, like we till didn’t live just to watch the other one sleeping. Does that kind of love ever come twice? I don’t think so. A few weeks after Steve died, the Church phoned my mums house to find out why we hadn’t gone ahead with our wedding plans! We’d never called it off because we knew we could work things out…and Steve was busy dying as our banns were being read.
His family told me that Steve would still be alive if it were’nt for him meeting me. They allowed me no decision making in the funeral arrangements but paid for it all out of Steve’s monies from the Ministries of Defence (which should have gone to our child). To this day, there is no mention of me on the headstone. It records that he is a dearly loved son, brother , grandson, nephew and father, it even mentions our baby by name, but it’s as though I never existed.
All these years later, it still hurts. I don’t walk around in a perpetual state of bereavement. But sometimes I just think of him for no reason at all. Sometimes I see a man who looks like I imagine Steve would have done if he were still alive. Sometimes I have a hard time just believeing it’s true. Even now.
Steve and I met through letters. The RAF had a column in a paper that invitedwomen to write to their men. We wrote to one another for months and months before our first date.
On our first date went to a quiet pub and after sitting talking for a while I just had to ask him if he could hear a strange tapping noise. He said no and smiled nervously. Later I realised that he was so nervous that it was his knees knocking the table! Within weeks we were laughing about this and planning out our life together.
I liked him a lot after that first date. I’d already grown very fond of him through our letter writing, I anticipated his every snail mail, but after meeting him, I just knew there was something about him and that I had to get to know him better.
He sent me flowers the next day. I remember they were sitting outside the door of my flat when I got home from work. A blue ceramic bear with a big flower arrangement. We arranged a second date. It was to become our signature film and our signature song. And what a strange film for us to see together, with hindsight.
We went to see Ghost. Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze played the lead roles. The potter and clay bit was excruciatingly embarrassing for the pair of us, but we loved it anyway. Steve and I were desperate to hold hands but we both wanted the other to make the first move. How we laughed about it. How we made up when we first touched…. Of course, Pat dies and comes back to tell demi of his love for her…what a weepie. Still cry my heart out when ever I watch it.
The next day there was a beautiful bouquet left with a neighbour, the card said, “From Patrick Swayze, with all my heart and a bit of my liver!’
That was my funny guy. Gosh this hurts. How the hell can it still hurt so bad?
I promise you I’m not perpetually gloomy. Just talking about Steve today has started me off and I can’t seem to stop crying.
Why the hell can’t he just come back to tell me he’s okay, like Patrick did withe Demi? I trust this all to God of course, but Steve wasn’t baptised and although he was the gentlest, loveliest man, I still worry about his soul. Please pray that God be merciful to him. I want him to know that I love him still and that his daughter is the most beautiful young woman, so talented, so like him in every way.
I stood at the graveside. No one wanted me there. After everyone had gone I threw one of our babys baby-grows ( Steve had bought it for Primadonna and loved to see her in it, it smelt of her and I wanted him to have something that smelt of her) into the grave along with a letter that I had written with the words of one of our favourite songs and a St. Christopher medal, to keep him safe on his journey to …I knew not where.
I can’t tell you how my heart breaks for my daughter. I want to believe, and in some way I do believe that Steve knows what an amazing gift he gave me when he gave me this beautiful girl of ours. When Steve died I felt that I had no reason to go on, but steadily I came to realise that he’d given me the greatest reason for living.
It’s the Anniversary of Steve’s death next month, but I know I’ll be too upset to write this then so I’m doing it now.