The thing I like most about chapters is starting them and that is closely followed by concluding them. Chapters make sense of a thing. They break it up into manageable sections, bites that we can chew over a few times before swallowing. They are not the meal, but the make it.
I read your last chapter on Sunday. There was your older face looking over the years during which we had not been in contact. Back then, you were Wendy. You had stopped being Wilcox and had become Abernethy. Soon, you would revert to Wilcox as the story changed around you. It had been over twenty-five years since we had seen each other and, even though your ex-husband and I exchanged our fond memories of you, I never expected to see you again. That was that chapter.
The woman that I knew in that earlier episode was a much younger you. She was still writing the background material that would enable her to become her future self. I read that you have spent over twenty-one years on Symi and that makes you one of its people. The different chapters that you wrote during that time were ones that belonged to a greater narrative, the one that was your life, the one that many people dream about but dare not seek. And now, when people think of Wendy, they will think of sunshine, calm seas and a canvas of brilliant blue covering.
Our lives are devised by the moon and the sun. They each govern the tides and decide the seasons. Just before reconnecting with you, a happy tract of your life had been ended with that inevitable line that underscores all our times. I am again drawn to some fine words by the poet Tony Harrison:
crunching kumquats, thinking as he eats
the flesh, the juice, the pith, the pips, the peel,
that is how a full life ought to feel,
its perishable relish prick the tongue,
when the man who savours life’s no longer young,
the fruits that were his futures far behind.
Then it it’s the kumquat fruit expresses best
how days have darkness round them like a rind,
life has a skin of death that keeps its zest.
from A Kumquat for Keats
Yet still for all the stoic support, I find it difficult to lose somebody I truly cared for. I wanted my wife and daughters to meet you and had spoken about this just before you went. Next year, I had said in all the arrogance of certainty we humans possess; just days before you would be no longer. And yet the chapters of your story continue. You are no more gone than you had been before. Over twenty-five years of not seeing Wendy, a quarter of a century, a mini eon, and that didn’t separate us.
When we spoke on Messenger (video et al), I was gladdened by the chance that technology had sought to serve in such a selfless way. You had the marks of grief still upon you and had battled with cancer. We are roughly the same age, so I saw your struggles in mine. You were different, you had grown wiser, more educated, more caring, and more at ease with the person you had become. I was pleased for the journey you had taken and for the layers of understanding that had been had been gained.
Wendy’s story had become a novel, but I have a problem with good books; I don’t want them to end. I read and read until I reach the final chapters and then I slow down, savour the last few lines, try to put of the inevitable. The inevitable is that final word, that final flow of sentiment or thought.
A venerable grey moped chugged and popped its way past them. It was adorned not with one but three girls, all dressed identically in the briefest of white dresses. Corelli caught a glimpse of slender golden thighs …He heard a melody begin to rise up in his heart, something joyful that captured the eternal spirit of Greece, a Greek concerto.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernieres
The final line has not been written.
I do hope my words find you. It was wonderful to have known the young Wendy and the older you.
Live long in people’s memories…