Wednesday 23 May 2012

Whaddya gonna do?

As anyone following our respective Twitter feeds will know, P and I watch a LOT of Sopranos. We came to it late (which, I’m trying to convince myself, is the new ‘I was there from the beginning’) but, since discovering its genius, we’ve fired through that box-set at a rate of knots. This latest run through (at which we’re a tantalising one disc from the end) is, I think, our fourth spin of the show – something which the Bing-uninitiated would consider a monumental waste of time, while fully-signed-up Sopranos soldiers just get it: they get the necessity to hone your New Jersey vocabulary; they get the extra attention paid to every recipe (so what, no fucking ziti now?); and they get the fact that, however many times you’ve seen a series, you’ll always take something new from it.

Granted, not all Sopranos-taught life-lessons are ones to jot down in your ‘ways to live’ journal, but recently I noted one Mafioso tradition that, in fact, makes a lot of sense to me... In ‘the business’, as soon as they discover the news of someone’s death, they immediately – instinctively – drink to that person. In fact, it’s such a completely normal occurrence that, wherever they may be – whether at home, at the office, in the car, or in front of the pork store – there’s always a bottle of something strong and a group of shot glasses (or, in the case of the car, a hip flask) ready for such an occasion. 
“A’ salut,” they say, clinking glasses in exactly that: a salute to someone dear. And good on them, I say.

It’s a thought I’ve revisited at least twice over the last week or so: first upon learning the awful, awful news that a dear friend’s ill baby girl had died. And then again a few days ago when it was revealed to me that my Twitter friend Ellie – and, more to the point, fellow cancer-blogger and secondary-sister, each trudging through terminal Bullshit as best we know how – had, after a short stay in hospital, been taken from us too, mere weeks from her wedding.

As tragic circumstances go, they’re both right up there in sheer horrendousness. And by heck, did I need a drink after hearing about each of them. But actually, sod what I need – because in truth, what I’d much rather have done was raise a shot glass – not out of alcohol-fueled relief, but in the bittersweet celebration of a life; an immediate opportunity to say, in spite of the tragically short lives in each circumstance, ‘Thank you, brilliant girl, for what you brought to the world’.

I suppose the real-life alternative is a cup of tea, though that’s generally just used as a receptacle to cry into; something to hold onto when you don’t know what to do next, let alone what to do with your hands in the immediate minutes after hearing shitty news. What I’m saying, I suppose, is just that I think it’s good, wherever possible, to somehow squeeze a thankful thought into the otherwise heartbreaking nature of ‘that moment’.

It was neither tea nor tequila that followed ‘that moment’ in Ellie’s case, however, but a hastily-arranged day-trip to Brighton with Kris and Francesca (two marvelous lasses in similarly shitty situations) – something we’d planned to do with Ellie this summer while Fran and I are on treatment breaks. And okay, it may not be the simple ‘salut’ I mentioned earlier, but it’s still an immediate tribute; it’s still a thank-you. (Plus, it’s got chips and candy floss. And it’ll all be done in honour of Ellie, in the spirit of Bullshit-ass-kicking we all share.)

Naturally, a haunting time has since followed, teamed up with a million panic-attacks and a million questions – did she feel okay towards the end; did she even know what was going on; was she happy with how it happened; where is she now…? But knowing that, immediately after discussing the news, Francesca, Kris and I were able to plan something positive has, I think, made the three of us feel like we’ve done the correct thing by Ellie, and – given the circumstances – the correct thing by us, too.

Of course, I have no more justification than anyone to tell a person how best to behave in ‘that moment’. Heck, the immediacy of grief is hardly something you can rehearse, is it, whether or not you’d ideally like it done a certain way. And so, please, I don’t want you to go reading too much into this post (but, y’know, don’t forget it either). I’m just saying… simultaneously recognising what you’ve had as well as what you’ve lost by saluting your loved one with a little snifter… it’s just a nice gesture, is all.