My First Love died last night at 6.15pm.
I woke yesterday morning knowing that I had one last task to perform for him, before the end.
So I settled down beside him and I told him our story.
I started at the beginning. A very good place to start.
We drifted in and out of each other’s lives for over 20 years before I came here.
It was a mess. I was a mess.
I reminded him that 12 years ago, almost to the day, he had written to me that we must end our connection. That unless I broke free of him I would never be happy. That I owed it to my children to stay with their father. That I should move forward, instead of trying to rewrite the past.
I was so weary, so worn down by the emotional turmoil of the preceding weeks, months, years that I agreed. I let him end it, finally. Again.
Except… a few days later he wrote to me. He was angry, he was bereft: did he mean so little to me that I would give him up so easily?
There were tears. Of course.
We made a plan to be together.
And I gave up all that was good and safe and secure for the madness that was my First Love.
And here we were, 12 years later.
Against all odds we made a go of it and we have been happy together, so very very happy… but now he was dying…
I told him that it was time for him to go and for me to move on.
I told him about my plans for the future: about the little terraced house in Yorkshire with the cat and the chickens.
That there would never be another man for me, because he was The One.
That now it was time for him to let me go, time for him to let go of life and leave me.
That I would be fine.
And he must be at peace now.
And then I played him a recording of Stephane Grapelli and McCoy Tyner: “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.
It was a song that meant a lot to him. He had told me many times of a farewell party held in honour of a jazz pianist friend who was dying of cancer, and how he had persuaded his friend to play one last time for those he loved. This was the song that was played that night.
FL had been lying all this while with eyes closed, breathing unevenly. As soon as the music began to play, he jerked his eyes open and he seemed to be trying to speak.
I held him and stroked his forehead and told him to be at peace now, be at peace.
He seemed to fall asleep.
The day passed.
It was time for me to head home.
I decided to play the song one more time, as I gathered my things ready to go.
Almost at once his breathing pattern changed. He was breathing so hard and fast the bed was vibrating. I called a nurse and she confirmed that it would not be long now.
And it wasn’t.
That was yesterday.
Today I began the hideous process of administration and sifting through his things.
Slowly uncovering the past and realising that I was terribly terribly naive all those years ago, thinking I was the only one.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter anymore.
We had 12 good years together and now… now he is gone.
Let’s remember the good times. Because what else can we do now?
Be at peace, FL.