The landline rang on Saturday afternoon. No good news is ever delivered via the home phone. It’s the hotline for cold callers and bad news. But I already knew, I’d seen the news online. I held the mobile in my hand with my Twitter feed still open as I picked up the receiver. It was my sister in law: “Have you heard?” A small groan escaped from my lips. “He died this morning, it was sudden, are you ok?” She’s talking about my ex husband and the answer is no. I’m not ok.
The tears started immediately and went on long into the night. Years of long forgotten feelings flooded out of me. Shock, sadness, anger, pain and confusion. Why was I so upset? I had no claim to him. We’d been divorced for seven years. He had a new wife and a son. I’d written about the pain he caused me when he betrayed me. I just couldn’t understand. I knew he was ill, he’d had medical issues from adolescence but dead? It just didn’t make sense.
I was so used to all the negative feelings towards my ex I couldn’t cope when all the happy memories came back. I dug out the box that lurked at the bottom of the wardrobe full of cards, pictures and tokens of our time together. I wept as I recalled our trip to Barcelona, barely two months after meeting. Our first adventure of many. The card from the bunch of flowers he gave me on my 22nd birthday when he filled the living room with presents and balloons as I slept. Tickets from gigs we went to, remembering how he held me round the waist and snuggled into me. We were by no means perfect (together or individually) but who is at that age?
We may have split long ago but ties weren’t completely severed. Once you’ve been a part of each other’s families it’s tough to let go. He was still friends with my brother and sister in law and through social media I would often see his face pop up on my timeline. And he was a journalist so sometimes I’d find myself reading his pieces without even meaning to. He reached out when he found out that mum was sick, I reciprocated when his dad passed away suddenly. We made vague plans to meet for a coffee one day out of politeness, knowing deep down it would never happen.
What I found really strange to witness was the reactions of other people to the news. So many people sharing their own stories about him, so many lives touched and tears shed. When the story of his life was told our chapter was missing. I’d been written out of history. I know it’s not appropriate to mention the ex wife but I was grieving too and reading tributes from the best man at our wedding who wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence hurt, however selfish and insignificant that may seem. So I posted on Facebook and Twitter and shared my stories. Our time together was short and we were not each other’s true love but I couldn’t deny that we mattered. Our relationship defined, changed and shaped both of us and I’m not ashamed of the pain I feel now he’s no longer here.
I have an idea of the devastation his family are going through and I am so sorry his life had to end in such a sudden and cruel way. There’s small consolation in a lifetime of articles for his little boy to read when he’s older, his words living on forever in archives. We’d said goodbye years ago but now it’s the last goodbye and I’m devastated.