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This was written in early May after my friend Douglas passed…

My friend died a few days ago. I am still trying to come to terms with what I experienced, seeing a man I love being reduced to skin and bones. At the end Doug looked like a holocaust victim and there was nothing any of us could do but be present as he died. The call came at one am on May 1st. I was deeply honoured when Gilda asked me to help her wash his body, warm to the touch before the undertakers arrived. I watched them gently handle his body, wrap it in layer after layer of cloth and wheel him out. Gilda broke down as she said her final goodbye to her “ange” (short for angel) and kissed his forehead. Gone, my Doug is gone.

At times I feel the sadness welling up but then my mind plays this little trick, and I find myself focusing on something else. The switch in my brain that says ‘you can cry now, it’s safe’ is turned off. I am not walking, breathing, thinking, feeling inside my skin. Everything feels distant, as though I am a stranger watching another stranger. I fear the moment it crashes, all those barriers I constructed so carefully. I am not good at goodbyes, or letting go of people I love.

A friend asked me if all the death I have experienced makes me fear ageing. No, I said. I fear loving another deeply. Yet some people come into our lives and we cannot help but love them. I have redefined home in the last few years. Home is each moment I allow myself to love …freely. Without knowing where that love might travel to, how it will mould itself around others, myself and the worlds it imagines along the way. It’s from that place all my music comes from, but hell, sometimes it’s not always easy.

He lived on his own terms, my grumpy Doug, and he died when he was good and ready to. I will miss talking to him,sharing the odd glass of wine when Gilda wasn’t looking, all those funny jokes and even the bagpipe music he loved. I won’t lie – it hurts walking into the house and seeing his hats, his books, his ashtray, his shoes and his glass he drank out of. It’s in those moments that I doubt just about everything. But every night when I smoke under the open sky I wear his dark green jersey. I touch the cigarette burns slowly and that’s when I hear him saying, “Don’t be scared of lying. In fact don’t be scared of anything. And do what you need to do on your terms…’

It helps knowing he is no longer in pain and at peace. As for me Doug, I will try my friend. I will try my best…

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