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Constellation of delight: Remembering a childhood friend

Vivien Mitchell

For the past few nights, my beautiful friend has been visiting me in my dreams.

She has appeared at all different stages; from her usual vivacious and vibrant self to her very much diminished, near-death self, sitting with me in an armchair, barely able to talk. In one of those dreams, she surprised me with her French husband at my childhood home in Sydney – someone knocked at the front door and I looked out the window to see a group of about 10 people ready to party. When I opened the door, there she was, and I burst outside with excitement, throwing my arms around her.

“Mitchie!” she said laughing. I was completely overjoyed and responded in amazement, “What are you doing here?!”

It was a shock to see her, even in my dream, as she’d been living in France for 25 years. I’m no dream analyst, but it doesn’t take much to decipher that she is actively trying to reach me; after all, it would have been her 50th birthday this week.France1992-3

With these dream visits has come an immense and delayed grief. The pain of losing a life-long friend, one of my best friends in the entire world, is unbearable at times. I’ve found that it comes with some guilt, as there is always someone who was closer, whose loss is more immeasurable and against whose loss, mine is simply less. Her husband, her older sister, her darling young son, her parents, her parents-in-law in France. It got me thinking at the time; that we don’t own the pain, it’s not solely ours to bear.

That amazing girl – she was a bundle of life, love and effervescence. She was a life-force, a bon vivant, a stunning Amazonian Dutch-Australian beauty with a luminous presence and a mega-watt smile. I tried to capture her energy in song when she was dying, it just came to me on the Mt Taylor backtrack one day when I was walking with my son.

“there’s a galaxy of stars within, the radiance and light you bring,

An energy.

you’re a super nova burning bright, a constellation of delight

An energy

I said the lyrics out loud and started humming them, and then went home and picked out the tune on the piano. It remains my one and only composition, but such is the power of grief to release creativity.

Until recently, I’d somehow compartmentalised my grief, as so many of us do, in order to continue to function day to day. It doesn’t seem as easy at the moment to push the grief to its allocated space, and I’ve found that she is very present. I think she wants to celebrate………and she is so worthy of celebration. Every day of her life was a joy to be relished.

I’ll be looking for a double rainbow on her birthday, because she bowed out in spectacular style after a devastating illness. Her farewell gathering in Sydney in 2014 was held on a grey and rainy afternoon, but when the sun set and the sky burnt a brilliant orange in the west, an enormous double rainbow appeared across the eastern sky. We all cheered in amazement. A consummate performer, it was so her. She was there, sending love and…….rainbows. She loved colour.

For anyone who has experienced loss, do allow yourself the time to grieve. It’s an unpredictable path to recovery and it can catch you unawares, but even the darkest moments will eventually bring light. My aunt said wisely to me, “imagine if you didn’t feel sad at this time, that would be awful. The depth of your sadness is a reflection of the depth of your love”.

I’ll sabre a bottle of champagne for your birthday, my gorgeous friend.

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Vivien Mitchell

Vivien is a mother-of-five who values kindness and connection. She is an entrepreneur, founder and designer at Solar Bare, a boutique sun wear label that offers stylish sun protection with distinctive prints. In a previous life, she was snr partnerships manager at Centenary of Canberra and has also managed some high-profile events around town. She is a consultant on partnerships and development in the arts and has travelled the ‘long-goodbye’ Alzheimer’s path with her mum. She’s a creative soul who loves writing, photography, fashion (in particular vintage and op-shop finds), coffee, French champagne, Tasmanian sparklings, family and friends. Vivien tweets at @Viv54 and is on Instagram @54viv. More about the Author

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