She looks at her husband everyday with his never-changing smile, holding a bottle of bubbly. Some might think she is weird, but Maria Challis of Cheshire has found a way to keep Paul’s memory alive.
Among the familiar sofas, chairs, tables, toys, knick-knacks, stands the even more familiar life-size cardboard cutout of the man she loved and who died at 38, leaving her with her two kids. The photograph was blown up into a 2-D version for the funeral, but it stayed and even attended his own last rites.
As she said, “When you lose someone you love, you worry you’ll forget them and this is our way of remembering Paul. The children even dressed him up as Santa at Christmas and as Dracula on Halloween. He was due to go to a friend’s wedding some weeks after he died. He didn’t make it but his cut-out did. Some people might raise eyebrows but who is anyone to say what is the right and wrong way to deal with grief?”
True. Who is to say? Some find solace in prayer, some in tears, some in activities to divert themselves. The problem with pre-knowledge of mortality is that is never does lessen the pain.
I still ‘consult’ my grandma and speak to her photograph after all these years. It was only a while ago I realised it wasn’t even a real photograph; it was a picture of a portrait of her that was rather shabbily done after she left. I recall every bit of loose skin on her arm and the anger in her grey eyes, the scent of lavender talcum powder and the silver hair left open after a wash, her reading unmindful to the calls for lunch, her whacking me only once and my sulking for days. I did not need the photograph, but I talk to her, not to it.
Maria is 36 and this Paul is not the Paul she remembers; it is the Paul who is a reminder of a life lived together. She may move on, and that tall frame could well be kept away. Who is to judge? Right now, it is the person she loves…a present tense to what has become the past.
It isn’t a fantasy or a salve for loneliness but of being tethered to a sense of belonging.
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It isn’t about Imaginary Lovers that I wrote about.