‘I’ve never forgotten him. Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart. I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once. The pain is like an axe that chops my heart.’ [The Life of Pi]

Kim

This is my story, but I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.

My friend Catherine asked me on the 9th March 2014 if I would mind writing something for her friend’s blog. At the time I jumped at the idea “Yes! Sure!” thinking yeah, why not? I don’t mind talking about it, it then become something “I’ll get to soon” and I convinced myself that I’m just too busy, turns out talking about it and writing is quite different! But this week, and I can’t tell you why, but it’s been on my mind and maybe now, only now, I can write about it. I’m going to try summarise everything but still give a good picture of what I had and how I’ve gotten to the “now”. It’s hard summarising something so big, feel like I could write a book!

I met Tegan at a Boys High Highland Gathering in June 2008. To be honest I didn’t think anything of it. Couple of weeks later and I’m playing paintball with a bunch of boys and the supporter girls, and he shot me in the face! And by 11 August we were together.

He was a pilot, an amazing, smart and focused pilot. He was doing well, creating a name for himself in the aviation industry. Being the “pilots girlfriend” I learnt quickly that they are not always going to be around, every goodbye has to be a good one and the paranoid watching the clock and working out when I’ll be expecting that “I’m safe” SMS becomes second nature. That’s another story on its own, being a pilot’s girlfriend/wife!

We moved into our own place, life was going well. We had our moments of irritating-ness, of learning to live with each other or just being us. But love always dominated any “problems” we may have had. Tegan taught me to be a stronger person, dealing with situations and the ups and downs of life. On the mornings where I just didn’t want to face the day he would say “you have two options, the easy way or the hard way” and then reminding me the easy way of staying in bed won’t get me anywhere.

Tegan was excited to be taking some rich people to Namibia for the weekend. I had the good goodbye, I got the “I’m safe” SMS, I even got the “quickly look at the moon” message. But something didn’t feel right, my heart was breaking and I didn’t know why.  On the Friday night I got the routine sleep well SMS, telling me how much of a good time he was having. Next morning I didn’t hear from him, I sent him a few messages, no reply. It was the Tattoo at Monte Casino that night, 3 September 2011, me and my mum took the Gautrain and meet up with my dad there. I can remember telling my mum something wasn’t right, he would’ve at least have sent me a message saying enjoy the evening. We got to Monte and getting snacks from Sweets from Heaven my phone rang, it wasn’t Tegan, but his mum calling me from France.

It’s a call that still haunts me.

“Has no one told you?”

                “Told me what? What? Told me WHAT?”

“Tegan’s died!”

That was me, game over. Now, I remember bits of getting home and calling Simon, my best friend, and he was at my house when I got there. For a long time I thought this is a very cruel joke and people can call it off now. I will admit I do sometimes still think that.

Tegan had been in a car accident. The game vehicle rolled down a sand dune. 6 people on the vehicle and as far as I know he was the only one to die. To this day I still don’t know about the others, and to be honest I don’t want to know.

I took a week off work, and dealt with many phone calls and sympathy letters and cards and visits. I was grateful for all of it. And I think I surprised many people when after the week I had had enough and knew I needed to get on with life. Obviously Tegan would want that! I know, how? Where do you start? How do you go back? I’m a teacher, Tegan was a pilot, our work lives didn’t mix, and it was somewhere where I didn’t have to see things that would remind me of him. I had some very strange moments! Thinking back on them I think people must have thought I was mad, I spoke to a crested barbet (bird) almost every morning that I was sure Tegan had sent to shout at me. I would start talking to the moon out loud while walking through the Grove shopping centre “I know you’re laughing at me, stop it” would be heard while running around shop to shop trying to find something I needed.

I was very angry at him for a long time. And I would have shouting matches with him in my head, “how could you?!” “What am I supposed to do now?” I also had moments where I wanted to know that he was there, “If you are there make that flower move…” the flowers never moved. I do, however, know he is around. He shows himself in other ways. And maybe it’s nothing to do with him, but then they are little moments that make me think of him and I’m ok with that too. I don’t need to look out for the signs, they just happen. At the beginning I would feel the need to point them out, and have people give me the “are you ok?” look, I now see them and don’t feel the need to point them out.

My friends were great. But they didn’t always know what to say or do. And at times I felt like I needed to be the strong one. Show that I was ok and keep up an “I’m fine” image. People are important, but I realised I didn’t want too many people. It was easier to cope with small groups than trying to “entertain” lots of people.

I took a group of 40 students to Spain in 2012, I went with three other teachers that were very close to me at the time, but at the end of the trip I turned to Herman, a very good friend who stuck by me all the time, and just said “I don’t think I want to go back” almost in tears. I knew in that moment I needed to get away. I now live in the UK and I’m happier and I have a great life here. Sometimes all you need to do it start again. The move has shown me too who I will always be able to count on in South Africa; It is not easy keeping friendships going when you’re so far away. But there are the people who make it seem easy. And I have all the support from the people who matter too.

Catherine asked me a few questions, and I thought I’d answer them in a paragraph:

Yes, my life fell into a million pieces. I was determined to get above it, not move on, because it is something that is with you every day for the rest of your life. There isn’t a day that goes past that he doesn’t cross my mind. I have a gap definitely, and no one will ever be able to fill it, but people can make it smaller, my amazing friends have already made it smaller, but it’s like a cracked mug, can be glued back together but the cracks are always there and sometimes little bits go missing. Moving on is hard, almost three years on and I still have my “I just don’t want to” moments. Coping on a day to day basis, I get up! I stay busy, something that I think has definitely come from all of this is that I’m braver, I will try new things, jump off bridges, hold creepy animals, experience the world! Don’t let opportunities pass. Grab every chance! There is no point in living going “I should’ve done that”. I wear myself out, and go into hiding now and then, I just decide I’ve had enough and will go up to my room, put music on and close off to the world. But never for too long, and the next day I get up and start again.  I don’t think easier is the right word, I coped, and I still cope on a day to day basis. I am very lucky in that I had and have a wonderful support system.

Advice: something like this can either make you or break you. Whenever I tell someone “my story” now, I tell them that it is something that happened to me, but I never want them to feel sorry for me. It is a huge part of me, but it’s not me, and I refuse to let it be me.

Like I said at the start of this, I feel like I can write a book on the last 5 years of my life. I hope that in me summarising 5 years, that it comes across that I loved Tegan with my whole heart and he truly was the love of my life. I believe things happen for a reason, I don’t know what this reason is, yet, but that’s kept me going too.

[For more stories about Dealing with the Grief of losing someone you love, click here]

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