Posts Tagged ‘visit’

The nature of grief

I wanted to write this yesterday but didn’t know what to write. I’m still not sure I’ll know what to write today.

Two nights ago, I had a dream about Vaughn. It was the day of his execution and I was allowed to have a contact visit with him. He went off after our visit to go and shower and get changed and ready. I woke up thinking what a wierd thing it must be to get ready for. Do you shower beforehand? And how must it feel to take that shower? To know that you are getting yourself cleaned up so that, in a few hours, when you are no longer alive and your family are allowed to come and see your body, then you are at least presentable. Wierd, wierd, wierd.

And then I started to think about Vaughn. I thought about his face, his smile, his easy laughter. And about how imagining myself talking to him felt strange. It felt strange to imagine a dead person back to life and imagine a conversation with him. There is so much happening in my life right now that I would usually have written to him about so I imagined telling him these things. Then I stopped imagining it because it felt odd.

I’ve not met him that many times. He’s on a different continent so it’s not like I was seeing him every day but I would imagine conversations with him all the time. Now that he’s gone, there’s this mental block when I try to imagine a conversation I might have with him. It feels wrong.

When thinking about all this gets to a point where I realise I’m feeling sad, I’m kind of relieved, really. It reassures me that I am capable of emotional responses and that I do have feelings, tucked away somewhere behind all the ‘carrying on’ and ‘not falling apart.’

One of the things I’ve worried about previously was never realising what has happened, never understanding that he is dead. I think it’s changing now. I do realise he is dead. Over time, I’ve started being able to comprehend that no more letters are arriving and that he is no longer sitting in that little box behind a glass screen, with a phone pressed to his ear, waiting for me to visit.

On the other hand, when the children left for Australia, I stood at the airport and watched them leave and the grief was immediate. I was really, really gutted. It didn’t take very long though, to recognise that they will have a lovely happy, sunny life there and that they look well in the photos I have seen. There is no longer the grief but simply the excitement to get out there and see them next year.

Not being present for Vaughn’s final hours has made the process of understanding and grieving quite drawn out. I’m approaching two months since his death and I’ve no idea what the next stage of this whole process is.

Phone conversations I had on Tuesday


TDCJ: Texas Department of Corrections, how can I help you?
Me: Hiya, I’m just calling to inquire about visiting an inmate. I was planning to come next week. I’m flying from England. But I’ve not received the paperwork to allow me to visit. I think the post is going slowly or something. Is there anything I can do to speed things up?
TDCJ: The inmates are allowed to change their visitor lists middle of next month.
Me: O, ok. On his latest letter, he said he’s changing it end of this month.
TDCJ: No. It’s the middle of the month.
Me: So what can I do about coming on Monday?
TDCJ: You won’t be able to visit on Monday.
Me: Is there nothing I can do?
TDCJ: You can come but you won’t be able to visit.

3.30pm Lastminute dot com, how can I help you?
Me: I have to cancel my flight for this Saturday. I remember taking out a cancellation policy on the flight. Yeh, it’s a nonrefundable flight, unfortunately. You can get a refund on the taxes. Not all of them. But a few.
Me: How much would that be? £147
Me: Really?! But the flight was £574! That’s hardly anything back. Yeh.
Me: Can I rearrange the flight? I’m probably going to go at the end of the month instead. Ok, you’d need to pay the difference, if the new flight costs more. And the airline charges £100 for admin fee when you change. And we charge £45. And you’re only allowed to travel between Monday and Thursday.
Me: Monday and Thursday in the same week? Yes.
Me: So I have to get from London to Texas, to the prison for two days of visits, back to Texas and back to London? In four days? Yes.
Me: And how much am I looking at for that? If you travel at the end of June, going Monday 24th, returning Thursday 27th, the extra charges you will have to pay will be £472.
Me: What?! Wait a minute. My flight was £570 to start with. That’s almost double! Yeh. Shall I book it for you?
Me: You know what? I’ve had a pretty rubbish day. My head is aching and I’m knackered. Can I just call you back? Mam, can I ask the reason why you need to cancel the flight? Delta have a policy that you may apply for a full refund in certain circumstances.
Me: (Deep breath.) My friend is on death row in Texas and he has an execution date next month. I wanted to go and visit him but the prison just informed me that I won’t be able to visit, even if I go all the way there. So I’m not… I can’t go… There’s no point. I can’t use those flights. Ah ok. I’m so sorry to hear that.
Me: So will I be able to get a refund? No. The special circumstances are something like if your family member is ill.
Me: Is this not a special circumstance? He’s being executed in a matter of weeks? No, I’m sorry. So shall I change your flights for you?
Me: No. I. Just. Just leave it. I can’t be bothered anymore. I’m exhausted. Bye. But mam, I…
Me: No. No more. If I could just….


It is 3.45pm. I am ready for bed.

And that, my friends, is what happened to me on Tuesday. My mind is tired. My head is aching. I’m wondering when we became so addicted to rules and regulations.

And I’m sad.

*As a postscript to this, I called on Wednesday and had changed their minds. I do not have to travel Monday to Thursday in the same week. Problem solved! I’m going in late June and it only cost £280 to make the adjustments. Phew.