The Sunday which would have been H’s 35th birthday was approaching; I had texted my uncle and aunt a couple of weeks before and asked whether they wanted to have some company at that weekend. They did, so after consulting some of my cousins, Chris and I decided to drive up north on Saturday. We spent the evening having a prolonged dinner with homemade antipasti, reminiscing about anecdotes from the 1970s, family tales, and of course the boys. Even though it was (and will always be) difficult to speak of G and H in the past tense, it was nevertheless lovely to talk about them, especially as it clearly meant so much for their parents.
As Chris and I shared a bed, we ended up chatting way past 2 am; Chris was wondering how I managed to know so much about our family history, but also about G’s and H’s friends and life events. I don’t really know – I guess I just listen very carefully when my uncle and aunt tell stories. Plus, I keep on asking them questions; for one thing, I want them to talk about things that make them happy, to take their minds off the situation for a couple of minutes, but I am actually quite interested in what the boys were like – there is only so much that you know about somebody when you see them once a year for a family meeting.
On Sunday, several friends came round; we went to the cemetery and laid down some flowers on their grave. For Chris and Mika, it was the first time they saw the finished grave, headstones and all; it was a bit too much for Chris, who cried in my arms, but I was somehow glad that she did – she had bottled up a lot of feelings since H’s death, and it was a relief to see her letting it all go. We went back to my uncle’s and aunt’s place, ate Spaghetti Bolognese (H’s favourite food), had some coffee and cake, and made our way home at about 5 pm.
I hope that us staying with them made it somehow easier for my uncle and aunt to come through the day, but I know that the pain will never subside. They cope in their own way: by spending time with H’s friends, painting pictures of their sons, reading crime stories, watching TV to kill the time, and trying to organise their life around that massive hole that nothing will ever be able to fill. I just wish there was something I could do to make it all more bearable.