On September 11th we got together to say goodbye to Jeremy. I spoke. This is what I said.
The first time I saw Jeremy I was fourteen and he was sixteen and he was skateboarding down the halls of Oak Bay High School flying a Millennium Falcon. The closest way I can describe the feeling I had when he glanced my way with those big brown eyes of his was…recognition. I knew this boy. I knew him on a molecular level. But I was fourteen and I was stupid and I forgot about that feeling for a good six years until we ran into each other this time in the halls of UVic and I said hey, we should go for coffee sometime and he said how about now?
That’s how twenty years together started, the Full Catastrophe in the parlance of Zorba the Greek (a movie Jeremy loved by the way). Catastrophe meaning here not complete disaster (though some could argue there were plenty of those too) but the full richness and enormity of life with its joys, sorrows, drudgeries, hurts and redemptions. Jeremy came with a tribe of artists called the Chapman Group, a tribe that quickly became mine too. We got married. We had two beautiful daughters. I can remember the look of quiet panic in his eyes as he stared out the window into the early morning darkness praying for a glimpse of our midwife’s car as Sylvie was coming out. The look of relief when she got there in time to catch her and he didn’t have to. How — knowing now what the pain of childbirth was — I held on to him so fiercely during the birth of Clea, how he never complained about having a heaving, pregnant lady roped around his neck for two hours.
A lifetime of paintings, sculpture, set designs and amazing collaborations. Road trips, plane trips, field trips. Trips to the grocery store and dentist and even a few to the hospital. The many family gatherings and holidays where both our extended families would get together, all of the circus with all of the monkeys. Our friends in Montreal. Dinner parties, so many Haggismases. Dragging our children through every art gallery, up mountains and through countless city streets exploring. The stress of bills and rent and is there milk and oh my god we are out of coffee and not only what’s for dinner but who is going to make it? Making red pandas and cranky desks for science class. Teaching the girls how to use power tools. Taking them to the studio where he gave them their own canvases to paint while he painted too. The ballet recitals where everyone could tell Jeremy did the girls’ hair—the bobby pins sticking out like some sort of post-modern interpretation of a bun. Ceci n’est pas un chignon.
Jeremy brought to my life and to the life of my daughters, things that I could not bring—his tinkering, free spirit. Our home in Montreal was a wonderland of melted espresso machines, gears embedded in concrete counter tops, stools on ceilings, paintings everywhere. The girls’ had a home unlike any other of their friends. Also his lack of hurry. Take going for a walk for instance. I walk fast. Jeremy did not. He did everything slow, especially walking. And because he walked slow, he would notice the old sewing machine table in the alley. The rusted bicycle frame leaning on the lamppost. The antique coke bottle poking its head through the brush. To live with Jeremy was to live in a museum that paid homage to all the neglected things of this world — the rusted bits, the bleached bones, the hinges and keys and gears whose original purpose have been oxidized out of them only to be found beautiful again through his eyes. Jeremy, the patron saint of rust and bone.
In the spirit of the full catastrophe, this was our life until he decided he didn’t want it. I can’t ignore this part because to ignore it would be to ignore a big part of my experience with Jeremy. I need to cherish everything, even the enormous hurt he caused us when he left. It is part of my story with him, of the girls’ story. I don’t want Jeremy to by mythologized, to be made perfect in death because that would make him untouchable and not human and I need to be able to touch him, to remember he was his own fluid catastrophe like we all are, even if it is just in my heart. I need to remember how angry I am at him, how hurt, because my anger and my hurt are in direct proportion to my love for him. They are part of our story and I do not regret one moment of it.
I will hold on to every last bit of him until all my molecules break free from this shape and find his scattered molecules again. I want that walk we were going to take when he arrived in Victoria. I had stuff to tell him. He had stuff to tell me, I hope. I wanted to invite him yet again to sit with me in the rubble of our life and start healing it one shard at a time.
Because I cannot believe this is it. I refuse. We needed more time.
Ok my brown eyed boy. The father of my children. My friend, my heart. I never ever wanted to have to say your eugoogly. Never dreamed I would have to. But here we are. I hope it will do. I will love you for always. I will see you where there is no there. I will look for you in my dreams. I will walk slower in this life so that I can find you in every beautiful rusty object and bone. For you, I will start believing in ghosts. Please haunt me. I love you and I don’t want you to be gone.