Little did I know what I decided to next share with you would be about death. I guess that’s where the word tragedy really starts to make sense, as it imbues the depth of sudden loss. It also suggests the devastation and confusion that follows, as we try to fathom why our lives have suddenly been reminded of their fragility and impermanence, and forever marked by a loved one’s passing.
Trish was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. We hung out together for the six months that I was in northern California, and although I didn’t know her well, she left an indelible impression on me. She filled every room, every space, with a brightness, which was both infectious and inspiring. She emanated love, compassion, understanding, patience and made you feel like the world was and could be harmonious and peaceful. She was sexy, sassy, naughty, cheeky and fun. She was a creator, a doer, and gave heartfelt hugs. We shared the same birthday, and joked about the trials and tribulations of being a Virgo. The last time I saw her, we hugged goodbye and she told me she loved me. I replied, “I love you too. See you soon.”
Last Friday, whilst getting ready to go out, I saw one of Trish’s closest friend’s posts on Facebook. It talked about remembering Trish’s “luminous spirit” and that she had died tragically the day before. My world crashed, and I fell into a state of disbelief. No, no, this cannot be happening. I checked her profile page, and streams of messages expressing people’s astonishment at losing such an angel flashed before me. I called a friend in California, desperately hoping she would tell me it wasn’t true. It was true, and we both sobbed.
I spent the next few days escaping. I ran and ran, through fields of intoxication. I found no solace, and just felt worse. But I know this space well, from when my mum, another beautiful, enigmatic, shining angel, was taken from us when I was fifteen. I spent years crushing and pushing the grief away. I didn’t want to face it. I couldn’t comprehend why, why someone so special would be killed like that. Trish’s sudden death brought all those emotions and questions back, and I wasn’t prepared for it, at all.
I don’t believe in God, and never have done. Trish’s death has pushed me even further away from believing in a God ordained by its followers, at least for now. I was raised an atheist. During my childhood, it became obvious that mum held some beliefs about life and its meaning. She was definitely one of the original hippies, before the term got tainted. The house was adorned with crystals, and Buddhas. We spent many summers at festivals, where naked people danced around, probably on tons of LSD. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to talk about her beliefs. I do recall asking her if she believed in God when I was very little, as I went to a Church of England school. She struggled to respond, as she knew how much love and respect I had for my teachers, at least at that age. She said “no”. But I knew she had some vision of life’s meaning and purpose.
I know it must be hard for people to deal with a friend that is grieving, and I appreciate that some are lucky enough to not have lost a loved one yet. But what is striking is how ill-prepared we are when it does happen to someone and we struggle to find the vocabulary in order to console people. If I were Christian, or Muslim, I would see life as linear. Do good shit, and you go to heaven and hang out with all the other good people. Do bad shit, and you can hang out and have fun in hell, where good tunes are played in the smouldering heat. If you are an atheist, it’s all over at the end. No more, the end. There are no gradations of explanation in any of those approaches, and none of them make me feel any better, or explain to me why beautiful people are torn from our lives.
Trish comes from a nourishing collective of people in northern California. I regularly heard them talk of “their community”. They see themselves as belonging to a big family, one that shares everything and is constantly in a process of learning, relearning, growing and evolving. Trish was integral and central to her community. For the last few days I have been feeling all their pain. I am more psychic than I can deal with, and the intensity of everyone’s sorrow coupled with my own, has been overwhelming. Feeling so far from everyone, I made contact with a mutual friend. What she said, and what so many others who have been posting comments on her profile page, is what I want to believe, but can’t, not yet. She was ready to go. She “had burst into love because she had figured out the meaning of life already.” In fact, her notes and posts all seem to suggest, that she did know she was going to die. She was a philosopher, an honest non-exclusive love-filled philosopher, who cared so much about everyone that through her lyrics and poetry, she left us many lessons and messages on how we could all be happy.
Her last note was entitled “Here and Now” in which she says “i feel that paradise is a place that is nestled inside your rib cage, underneath skin and tissue. Then, I just remember to Breathe, and that I AM BLESSED.” I wish I had the depth of her insights. I wish I felt some of the warmth that some of her community feels in how some of them are making sense of her death. But for now, Trish’s words, her deeply profound vision of life, is bringing me some solace. Where she is now, I don’t know. Why she died, and how her friends and family will pick themselves up from it, I don’t know. Today I went to Hampstead Heath and sat under a massive tree, facing the voluptuous scenery and blue sky. I lit an incense, and placed a stone at its foot. I prayed, in a non-religious way, and I thanked Trish for the love she shared and the warmth she brought into this world. I thanked her for prompting me to properly grieve for my mum. I promised myself that I would strive to be more like her.
As I walked away, Rumi’s words filled my mind once more, and although I am not laughing at grief and sadness knocking on my door, his words resonate with me more than any linear religion.
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
If you think this post may benefit someone you know, please share it with them.