On Saturday night, I can normally be found on my couch, in my velvet pyjama bottoms and faded Gudetama t-shirt, using my partner’s chest as a makeshift pillow as we watch nature documentaries on Netflix. The cocoon of our living room offering the solace craved by two introverts after a hectic week. A recent switch in our predictability though—at my unknowing behest—brought this splendour state to a sudden halt as I was confronted with memories that I’ve tried to keep at bay.
It was a simple change. Watching a new program listed in my recommendations list that was written, directed and starring one of my favourite comedians, Ricky Gervais. I assumed it was a comedy, and, at times, it is but ‘After Life’ is moreso an unflinching, uncomfortable, honest portrayal of grief and how it leaves those left behind to grapple uncharted emotions after losing a loved one. As we watched it on this particular Saturday night, I tried my hardest to hide the tears streaming down my face. To somehow cloak how relatable what I saw on screen was to my own reality. My partner knows … but I’ve always felt that until loss this deep happens to one personally, you don’t really understand. His parents are alive and healthy. It’s been five years since my father and best friend passed away in a matter of months after an unexpected terminal cancer diagnosis. And it’s been five years since my mother was hurled into a state of loneliness and depression that I, as an only child, have made my main duty in life to offset. It’s been a lot to shoulder and I feel the weight of it every day.
A scene in episode three really hit a nerve. In it, the main character reflects upon memories of the wife he lost while at one of their favourite places, the beach. The contrast between the love and laughter of the past with the sorrow and sadness of the present was incredibly well-acted. It made me ponder how I would feel, how I might viscerally react, during an upcoming trip to a place my father and I shared so many beautiful memories including our last adventure together just two months before he passed.
For in one week, I would be flying to Paris. It is a place forever intertwined with my own life story. A city that has provided inspiration, enchantment and hope (in addition to maternal family lineage).
I had no idea what this chapter would bring.
But I knew his ghost would be present.