Dear John

I’ve just been to the Cemetery to see you, and I had a moment, the same as when I was visiting you in hospital, when I suddenly felt, ‘I have to balance the needs of the living against the needs of the dead’.

In hospital, when I sat next to your bed day after day, sometimes for two or three or four hours, talking to you, often crying – well eventually I would get so tired and drained myself, there came that moment I’m talking about, a sort of self-preservation, I suppose.  When you’ve done your crying (for the moment) and you feel desperate to sleep.  And maybe desperate to get back to the land of the living, to do something normal like have a cup of tea or a warm meal.

The same thing is happening in that other place.

It’s cold and gray and miserable and lonely there.  I stand and cry, stand and talk to you.

Today I went for a walk down the long straight path near where you are lying.  I’ve always liked to walk along long straight paths, where you can see how far there is ahead of you, and how far you’ve walked when you look back.  There’s one near the garden centre, on the playing fields – I think I took you there once, and I’ve been there recently even, getting a bit of exercise and reflecting on things.  Same as I used to before, though different reflections now.

Well in the Cemetery it’s an even longer straight path, perhaps twice as long as the other one.  So I went for a walk right down it, looking at the sad old graves.  The oldest death date I saw was 1910.  In one place there are two trees with purple crocuses growing all around them – I shall call them the crocus trees.

And then I turned around and walked back towards you, lying there in the distance.  I still feel that pull between my heart and yours, that I used to feel when you were alive and waiting for me at home, and that I felt so strongly when you were in intensive care.

What’s going to happen as time goes on, and I want to go away, and maybe leave Croydon behind permanently?  I will have to leave you behind.  (No, I will take you with me of course.)

But it was on that pathway on the way back, when I suddenly felt cold and scared and tired, that I had my ‘time to balance the needs of the dead against those of the living’ moment.

You, poor thing, are stuck there now for ever.  But you’ll have to excuse me being alive, and wanting to get home to go to the toilet and to have a drink.

What can I do?  So long as I wake up every morning, and I’m not dead, I just have to live in this world.  I will be joining you there at some point, I know.  But I don’t want it to be yet.  You wouldn’t have wanted that either.

But it’s not good enough, you just being another random dead person lying there in that graveyard.  With only strangers all around you (both living and dead), who don’t know you.

That’s why I have to write this book.  To keep you alive, to tell people about you.  And I have to write it urgently, before I die.

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