With the everyday distractions of a busy life – you know, working, childcare, laughing at Paul Hollywood on Bake Off – it is easy to forget that your husband is now just a pile of ashes in a box at the bottom of your wardrobe.
You get on with life, because you have no choice. And just as those who still have partner intact don’t spend every waking hour thinking about their other half, at twenty months into bereavement, it is impossible to keep one’s mind trained on what is lost.
Which is why, when you find yourself in a moment of distraction-repose, the reality is so sphincter-clenchingly shocking, you wish you could bottle Paul Hollywood and drink him as an antidote to the truth.
This happened to me yesterday. I was teaching small children how to describe their family members in French. They labelled them up on their own paper ‘people-chain’ and titled it ‘Ma Famille’.
Despite the step-siblings and the divorces, they all, without exception, had a ‘mere’ and a ‘pere’. As a teacher, I have accepted that this is generally the case, so it fails to floor me in the way that it may have done when Mark first died.
However, when I came out of the classroom and headed down the stairs to my next group of students, I suddenly remembered my husband.
FUCKING HELL, MARK IS DEAD! I thought. The horror of his last moments ran through my brain and the brutal veracity of the situation lurched into stark relief. I gripped the handrail and stood for a moment, dizzied.
Then a child passed me and told me she liked my shoes.
“Thank you Imogen,” I said, and continued on my way.