My Last Summer: An olive branch touching a vessel for resolution

It’s been 1 year, 5 months, 5 days and counting, since a thunderous void struck my life and quaked my world perspective. Loosing Kim to cancer is still the most challenging thing I’ve had to come to term with. 

When I think I’ve reached a point of acceptance, a spontaneous spouting of anger, bewilderment and heartache spews out from my core and engulfs any light surrounding me.

Then just like a child who has spent an afternoon building a tower made from lego, only to have it kicked down by a mischievous sibling, I find myself, as that child, sitting on the floor, looking around at a sea of lego, scattered like a town in the aftermath of a war zone, overwhelmed by the idea that I’ll have to build again, struggling to remember which lego piece was used first.

Such is my understanding of grief. And perhaps that’ll change over time, with experience and development of philosophy… I guess this is what a cancer like cancer does to those it leaves behind. Once it’s watched you build a ‘Babel-like Tower’ with a person you innately love and forever grow fond of, it takes on a relentless mischievousness, kicks down your wonders, leaves you with the pieces and…it laughs at you.

Seeing Kim go from a young, beautiful, energetic, bubbly, intuitive, outgoing woman, to a still young, still beautiful, still energetic, bubbly, outgoing woman (just battling cancer), made me question all too much.

A faith that had been cremated into what I think is a harsh reality, and an anger at all that should have, would have (but if not for) and could have been done so that we could have just one more…of everything!

Grief is the aforementioned, and it’s isolation, and it’s insult, and it’s ruthless, and it’s insensitive. Grief is controversial… and my guess is the producers of ‘My Last Summer’ were all too aware of this.

When I first read the programme synopsis, I took offence. I saw the intentions as a personal attack. “How dare they use these ‘victims’ as a ploy to make me relive what I am so desperately trying to move on from, or at least come to terms with. How dare they ‘exploit’ these ‘poor people’, and use what is a very un-British, Un-western, unspeakable subject for entertainment. Why are these ‘victims’ allowing themselves to be ‘victims’? Are they that desperate for fame? Why? Really? Are they serious? Who do they think they are?!” All this and more sand stormed above and within me.

Truth is, I was scared. I just didn’t want to cry again. Maybe I’d watch one, small, insignificant scene, and that would be enough to trigger a burst of emotions too big for composure to handle. I just wasn’t ready.

But then, for a reason beyond what I could fathom, I watched one ep, and then another, and then come clips, and then I read some captions…and articles…and blog responses. In such a short space of time, I went from avoidance to obsession. 

I don’t know if my words are enough to articulate the emotional reasoning behind the sudden change – from hating the idea of the show, to being grateful for it, but that’s what happened.

I guess I can best describe My Last Summer, as a vessel for resolution. Kim was brave in front of her little cousin. She was optimistic, and always had time to speak of things other than ‘the C word’. It never really sunk in for me until one day, randomly, she simply said. “To be honest Nadia, I’m scared.” I remember where we were sat. I was on the leather couch by the window, and she was sat opposite, with puppy Prince nestled in her lap. I was quiet for ages. Kim had her eyes fixed on prince who seemed content with the scratches and strokes she provided the backs of his ears. Silence choked the room, then the sound of rain outside crescendoed and and made a whipping sound as it slapped the panes. And all I said was “It’ll be alright”. Something I regretted instantly, and still regret. I’ve never shaken it off.

Who on earth was I to say that to her? To be so sure, so presumptuous, so pedestrian, so light-weight and careless with my sloppy excuse for reassurance.

I wish I’d had the guts to tell her what I really felt. I wish the words that swirled in my mind and webbed in my locks, released themselves and consumed the silent movie. I wish I’d said something to this effect.

“I’m scared too! I want to promise you that it’ll be alright and I want to action that promise, but I can’t. I want our government to come clean and provide you with the ‘real cure’. I want God to intervene and serve justice to us. I want this to be a phase that passes and leaves you with an intricate experience that you’ll live to tell your grandkids. We’re angry, it’s not fair, it doesn’t make sense, I love you, I’ll split the load with you and we’ll figure this out together.”

Even now I wonder if in years to come, I’ll scan over this blog and cringe at those thoughts…but for now, they’re all I have.

That evening, on the DLR train home, I began to wonder just how naive I’d been about everything. How foolish was I to think and hope that prayers to the spirit in the sky would be the cure? What was she really going through and how much had she actually kept from me?

Reader, I hope you’ll forgive me for saying given that you are not family, I take great caution in sharing too much with you. Many things have unravelled since Kim’s passing, and loosing Nan just months after, only added more weight to the load. But I will say this; my need for resolve and peace has never been so urgent! It could be argued that such urgency when coupled with anger, has led to searching in life’s cul-de-sac.

I realise I’m digressing, but I promise it’s for a reason – to say that ‘My Last Summer’ has given me far from everything, but it has offered me a little olive branch – a deeper insight into the things I may have digested when I had the chance. It’s shown me that being ‘normal’ throughout such a testing time, is to accept that there is no normal.

I cried with all the participants who cried and I felt that despite our place in time, and the block of a glass iMac screen, we were empathetic with one another.

I’ve seen the need to get affairs in order, and its ok to do that at any point – whether you’re sick or well. I’ve giggled to myself when sat opposite two ladies on a train mumbling in conversation. “Did you see that show, ‘My Last Summer’? They shouldn’t be smoking when they’ve got cancer.” And above all, the one thing that did bring a glimmer of peace, was hearing Sonja talk about the garden she built for Junior – a place for her to go and visit with him on a spiritual level. A place where she can feel him in the wind and talk to him through the robin – that bird, with his red-breasted boldness, the cheekiness in his eyes, the flirtatiousness in his whistle, tells her that he’s Junior.

For a while, during golden hour, when sun rays smear pink lipstick across the landscape, and glimmers of topaz and gold burst through, bouncing off skyscrapers, I feel Kim.

Sonja found Junior in a robin, and I’ve been reunited with my big cousin via the sky – the roof of my world that provides, without fail, a golden hour – that kiss before the stars come out to say goodnight.

Reader, you might not find the same comfort with a show like this, and that’s ok. The experience for me was roller-coster-esq.  Those I once chastised as ‘victims’ are my heroes, and those whom I saw as money-scrounging-empty-souless-producers-with-no-moral-compass, could still be that, but in their indignation, they’ve accidentally bought me a gem! (Just kidding…I’m sure they’re lovely).

I’m so glad I watched it, and now, when I walk into every golden hour, I will remember all those who were part of ‘My Last Summer’, and think of them as a team of souls who have joined the inevitable collective who reside beyond the clouds.

Much love Kim xx




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