I am so moved by the beautiful and inspired ways in which my two friends are remembered and honoured.
There is a Facebook group of people who have been part of the L’Arche community in London, who have known Michelle and Carol, whose lives they have touched. It currently has 140 members and counting. People all over the world are missing them, crying about them, and sharing photos and memories with each other. There is delight in the regular pings on my phone, with ever more pictures popping up. Work? Never mind about work. I’m sitting at my desk looking at work emails, but really, I’m looking at you two, ladies.
Carol was an active member of her church, where she would punctuate mass with her very loud AMEN. She used to bring up the collection during the offertory (that’s walking – or in her case wheeling – forward along the church aisle, halfway through mass, carrying the money that has been collected). Yesterday, the collection was brought forward on her empty wheelchair. What a powerful and moving way for a congregation to be reminded of their loss and to remember her. There is something about physical and visual reminders of the person – we may think it is useful for people with learning disabilities, but in fact it’s helping all of us.
There were impromptu gatherings at the homes of Carol and Michelle on the evenings that they died. Another gathering of shared grieving at what is called the “communi-tea” on Friday afternoon. This Monday afternoon, many people from the community gathered again, to talk about it all again. In the background, there was a slideshow of pictures showing the Carol and Michelle we knew; a few songs; a chance for people to say how they were feeling; and a chance for me to explain again exactly what had happened last week. How Carol and Michelle died, and why. People need to hear this, and I need to hear myself saying it, again and again.
I was so impressed with Peter, Carol’s housemate of 28 years, who came forward and, with a little bit of help, shared a few of his memories. Giving words to some of the thoughts that are hurting so much.
This is a time of stories, sharing and being together. It is important that we make time for it, informally, but also formally at events like this. It’s a terribly difficult time for all of us, but we’re coping as best we can.