Lost for Words
My opportunity for speech shrinks when Emily dies.
She was always more outspoken, more gregarious, more interested in others than me, enjoying a good gossip with the bus driver or corner shop owner as much as a lively argument with workmates and friends. Many a time I’d wonder who had come to visit but on entering the kitchen I’d find her answering back the politician or berating the minor personality being interviewed on the radio.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk but rather that I was less bothered in and by what others had to say or in what they thought of me. I had learned that if you don’t ask questions you don’t get asked them.
But then, after a quiet child and young adulthood I meet Emily and find my voice. I wanted to know all about her and was happy to tell her all about me. As our relationship progressed I became as confident in love talk as I did voicing my opinions on issues as diverse as international affairs and celebrity antics and accessories. So although I was still a wallflower in public, at home, with her, I became an enthusiastic, animated speaker.
The she dies.
Unexpected. She is wrenched away.
I manage to stand in front of the assembled mourners and give the eulogy. I don’t want anyone else to do it. I listen happily, greedily, to the memories of friends and family and am grateful that they seem to want to hear mine. But when they leave after the funeral tea my desire to communicate leaves with them. I listen to news and media debate and imagine Emily’s responses but I don’t join in. John Humphreys doesn’t seem to mind. I pick up the phone and respond in grunts to caller’s concerns, preferring to stay in touch by email. My loved ones get the message and stop ringing. I stay in the house until afternoon and get by with nods, shakes of my head and the occasional ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ whilst out for a walk or to do some shopping. People are understanding and with a smile acknowledge that the gestures are enough.
The conversations I do have take place in my head, and in my heart, with my lost beloved. We return to familiar concerns and embark on new areas. Again and again we discuss my grief. I want to know why she has left me, what I am meant to do with my life now, how I am meant to cope without her, who I am meant to talk with and about what. Slowly, oh so slowly, these discussions help me. My grief still lays heavy in my heart but I reach a stage where I feel I can begin to speak to others again.
On summer morning I leave the house early, enjoying the birdsong and the light breeze in the air. In the park I approach a nodding acquaintance and open my mouth to comment on the beautiful day.…