When I was a boy, about 14 or 15 I fell in love with a girl I met on holiday in Lido di Pomposa, a place in Italy we used to go to for summer holidays. When after 3 weeks it came time to leave, I felt my whole new world was coming apart, that this wonderful delicate, powerful, selfless desire had to abruptly end. I was devastated. On the journey back I cried and cried, sobbing with emptiness and defeat. We sat in the back of the car as the distance between me and my love grew impossibly vast. Then I felt Chris’s hand as he took mine. He entwined his fingers into mine and held me fast. I looked at him through red glazed eyes and he just gave me a wry smile, that closed lip smile of his that simply said, “it’s ok, you’ll be ok”
I think families are like rare collections of stamps. They stay side by side, joined by perforations. And when the time comes for brothers and sons. sisters and daughters to part, as it inevitably does, they carefully separate along the perforations and the rough edge they leave turns smooth over time, as the little wound heals painlessly and smoothes over. But it is not always so.
The day the world trade centre went down it was like Chris was being torn away, suddenly, recklessly. Not carefully along the perforations, but ripped across flesh and bone just the other side of the perforations, and like the severed limb that still feels present, he is still there, his attachment to me even stronger having been torn away.
I guess over time that rough edge of the stamp will smooth off, but never in the same way as the perforations do. The ragged edge will always be there to remind me of him.
Where I live the night sky is sometimes breathtaking. I stand at the gate and gaze up to the stars and I still talk to Chris as if he was there.
I have read that a spirit, particularly when leaving its body un-naturally or early, wanders close to those people and places it loved in its life on earth, staying around for as long as it takes to detach. Something inside me tells me that Chris is long gone now, I hope to some golden warm place of love and light and friendship. And I look up at those stars and think maybe You are one of those bright lights up there Chris, shining down to tell me that all is well!
When they unearthed Chris’s forearm, there was some final peace in the knowledge that he had been found; what was left of him. You know that state of light slumber in the small hours of the morning when you’re hovering between thinking and dreaming. For some time afterwards, in those small hours, I would think and dream of taking Chris’s hand in mine, just like he did for me when leaving Pomposa, squeezing it and telling him, “you’re ok, you’re going to be ok”. From time to time that torn edge makes itself felt and I turn and see Chris one more time, whole and complete and the love for him that is always there awakens again and fills the empty space like the stars in the night sky.