I suppose the first thing was also the last thing. That conversation about clouds. It was like you gave me a place to look for you when you were gone and, when I'm mired in grief, I try to remember to look up occasionally and I smile. There is always something beautiful to see when you look up. You showed me that; you always stopped to notice the beauty in the world. Two weeks before you died, we were walking in the park and you stopped in the middle of the path and squeezed my hand, told me to pause. You looked up then with your eyes shut and your arms open and said, "feel the sun." It's a lasting image in my mind.
The weather has been crazy since you left, or maybe I just notice it more - the prevalence of rainbows at key moments, the beautiful sunsets, the incongruence of hail in April. It is easy for me to imagine you're behind it all. If there were a God and he were a man, he would be a man like you. There was something truly larger than life, elemental, about you.
And then, things started to happen. I was searching through the rubble in your house and started to find things. First I found loving descriptions of our times together in scrappy notebooks. After the first day we spent together you wrote that you were 'strangely smitten by this intelligent, proudly beautiful woman'. You said, 'I yearn for her completely, physically and emotionally'. It was nothing I didn't know but so comforting to read. And then I found a dusty bag of runes. I remembered the time on the beach when you were collecting smooth round pebbles to make your own runes and I thought about picking them up. But I hesitated and left them sitting on your living room floor. When I got home, my daughter was reading a book by Rick Riordan. She started talking to me and showing me pictures of runes in the book. I didn't know she knew anything about runes. I told her that you had some and she was wild with excitement. So I went back to fetch them for her. She was fascinated by them, picked one out, said, 'this is Perthrow. It's my favourite.' I asked her if she knew its meaning and she shook her head so we Googled it on my phone. I have memorised what it said because it felt like you were sending me a message: The beginning and the ending are fixed. What's in between is yours. Nothing is in vain. All is remembered.
At the bonfire that we held after the funeral I found another piece of paper in the bathroom. It had scribbled phone numbers and dates and lists of jobs on it, but amongst the practical notes there was a poem you had written, years ago, I guess. It said these words:
Rain falling on glass,
The white sky is over my head,
winds across my mind.
My body is thought.
In time I will be stretched across space and fill the void.
Is this not our reason?
Skies, winds, thoughts. They are the places I feel you close. You have left a space and a massive void in my life but these memories and strange synchronicities, sometimes, temporarily patch up the hole.
But I'm going too fast. I was always going too fast. You helped to slow me down.
A couple of weeks after you died, I was due to run a writing retreat in Wales. In the end I didn't run it but I went anyway because what else was I supposed to do? The children were with their dad and this was my one opportunity in the year to go to my favourite place on earth with friends who promised to look after me. And they did. One day I went for a walk down to the beach. I was looking at clouds again at the water's edge and crying my heart out. I was thinking about the beautiful photograph that you would have taken if you were there. Eventually, I dried my eyes and walked back to join my friends on the path, where a man with the largest camera I've ever seen, found me. 'My lady on the beach,' he said. 'I didn't expect to find you.' He told me that he had just taken the most beautiful picture of me sitting on the pebbles. He showed me the photo. I cried and told him what it meant to me and he said he would send it. It felt like you were looking out for me through the kindness of strangers.
Back in the kitchen in Wales, a friend asked me how I was doing with the arrangements for your funeral. It was a stressful business planning your funeral with a family that I had only just met, from a remote part of Wales with barely a phone signal. I was having trouble organising the readings. 'Well,' said my fellow writer, 'just keep buggering on.' It was the phrase that you used all the time - KBO for short. It was like you were speaking through her voice. I feel like I really smiled then for the first time since you died. It gave me the strength to keep going.
Back home, I had a message from a friend. She had had a dream about you. She said you were in your own artists' studio, looking young and healthy. She had spoken to you. You'd told her that you really happy with me and that things were going well. She said you had a crown of purple and yellow flowers around your head and that you told her that we shouldn't let our days and nights be mountains to climb but that we should enjoy life. She woke up crying. The next day, she came to my house. I had the funeral celebrant's card on the kitchen table. She looked surprised. 'What's that card?' she said. 'Those were the flowers on his head.' The motif on the business card was of tiny purple and yellow flowers.
And so it has carried on. One night I was lying in bed crying and I felt movement in my hair. Immediately I thought it was you. I had a shivery sensation. But then the pragmatist in me took over and thought it might just be nits or a breeze, although the window was shut. When I saw your mum she asked me if I'd had any signs that you might be around. She told me that she'd spoken to friends who had had the same sensation after loved ones had passed, of movement in their hair. I found myself looking up common signs from spirits and found it was at the top of the list. I made note of the others.
The next day, I was sitting in a playground while my children played. I was talking to a friend about you when a beautiful butterfly landed on my hand. It rested there for ages and children came over to look. It was one of the signs on my list.
And then I started finding coins, pennies. I picked them up, figuring I needed good luck. I found one every day for a week. It was on the list.
So I thought I'd set you a challenge. If this is you, I said, show me something else. And a feather floated down in front of me. Feathers are on the list. Though not so strange in the circumstance; I was in the Botanical Gardens. I got up and started to walk towards home along the busy high street. There was a trail of feathers all the way along it. It led me into the park. I needed to get to school to pick up my children but I followed them anyway. The previous day (the day of the butterfly) my daughter had lost her school bag in the park along with her most precious cuddly panda toy which I needed to find. Help me find him, I asked you. I followed the feathers all the way to the cafe and went to the lost property box hoping to find Pandie. Instead I found a book called 'Revelations of Divine Love'. I'm not normally a thief but I picked it up and took it with me. I felt it was for me. When I finally got to school my daughter emerged with Pandie in her arms. Someone had found her bag while they were walking their dog and they happened to be a friend of a teacher from school who, on her day off, had gone specially to return Edie's panda. It felt beautiful.
I feel a calmness when these things happen and when I go to the places we went and when I am alone in nature. Last Saturday I took a trip to Redmires where we first walked. Just as I was arriving your mum phoned. She was pleased I was going there. She said you'd spent many happy days there as a family. We were talking about memorial benches and how she couldn't get in touch with the right department by the beach where we have discussed scattering your ashes. It's a long way for her to go and a big job. I said I'd have a look online when I got home. I got lost on my walk, didn't find the place I was looking for but as I was walking back along the road, I saw a man. He was about your age, sitting on a bench surrounded by daffodils, his head upturned to feel the spring sunshine, eyes shut. We should put a bench here, I thought, so that your mum, who can't walk far, can come and sit on it and feel the sun. I phoned her and she thought it was a wonderful idea. I felt happy and I felt your happiness radiating down on me as if you were pleased that you had set me a treasure hunt and I had succeeded.
There has been a lot of synchronicity. And synchronicity is on the list.