She was so far, yet, sometimes, she was so near. Intimacy can be like a river. We are all rivers running past each other, until we find ourselves – suddenly, unexpectedly – in the same waters. She was one of my oldest, dearest friend’s sister. But my friend is burying her now in far away France. Her name meant ‘light’ and her death has indeed quenched a true light.
After reading my friend’s email saying things were worse, I emailed back my concern and love. The very next day I was hearing her message on my answering machine: everything was over. I phoned straight away and heard the rough velvet of her voice husky with hurt. ‘It doens’t suit her to die!’ she cried. Her sister led an organised, composed life of luxury and quiet elegance.
Her political bent was to the right (how immediately one accepts to use the past tense!), while my friend’s is to the left. My friend’s passionate love for her sister had catches in its breath. But they were linked like some sisters are by something I have always dreamed of – an inner, yet nearly physical belonging. Words, opinions, rich husbands versus artist/architect partners, enormous houses in the country versus small flats didn’t matter. What mattered was what wasn’t said. And that is what I hope my friend will retrieve in a stronger, deeper way.
I never thought it would affect me so much. I, the by-stander who only saw her friend’s sister on off chances, off the cufff so to speak and always because of her sister. Yet, I also had a strange, distant inner connection to this woman. Her eyes would sometimes settle on me and I knew we were understanding the same thing. Once we liked a film in common called White Hunter, Black Heart. It is supposed to be a clumsy film, but we both got it, it moved us, hit the same nerve in us both. I remember her once wiping her perfect kitchen bench top and smiling at me. Her smile said ‘Hello, I know you.’ Gazes, a film, a few visits to her house in the country, a visit to my apartment in Paris, a dinner in a restaurant that her husband paid through the nose for us all, snatches through the years – hardly anything at all really. Yet, when I knew for sure that she had died, that she was dead, yes, really, truly dead, hours later, before going to bed, I needed to call a friend here in Australia to tell her and I sobbed at her. I felt embarrassed with myself. Who was I to claim grief?
Yet, passing ships in the night and human souls have stranger connections than meet the eye. Suddenly all those inner, fleeting, and, yes, spiritual, because wordless, conversations, came back to me. Human souls can’t always say it here, in this world, with these habits, these strange behaviours we seem to adopt for this earth, but they can feel a kinship anyway. At least I did, even though we had no interests or values in common.
Even though she was a valuable person, someone too precious to lose, who has gone. Until we go too.