UK memorial. Day 63.

My mum said these blogs are “quite long”. Named and shamed. Sorry everyone there’s a lot going on.

I am witing this on the plane from Heathrow to KL having taken two anxiety tablets and after sitting on the floor crying at the gate waiting for boarding. An interesting twist on events…apparently it is possible to revert back to your original highly anxious, barely functioning self when you have to revisit the raw emotion of what has happened. I’ve been an anxious mess for days, physically shaking, forgetting to breathe properly and tensing my entire body to the point where everything hurts. Anxiety is no easy game so hats off to anyone who struggles with it. I obsess about very strange things and basically look for death in every situation now. I doubt every decision I make, have no idea what I’m meant to be doing and feel like I’m living a pretend life of “doing ok” when actually I could have a complete breakdown at any moment. There’s no way to predict your emotions, there’s no way to picture things improving, it’s a very bleak situation. It’s been two months of absolute hell and waiting for the UK memorial to finally arrive has been the source of a lot of confusion for a few weeks now. I didn’t know if I originally wanted to go and actually told most people adamantly that I wasn’t. Then one day randomly a couple of weeks ago I decided I absolutely had to be there because it would be weird if I wasn’t and then I booked flights. Once I had booked them I felt a sense of calm and I was certain I wanted to be there so I also agreed to speak at the service. Just a small pressure to add to the hundreds of others but YOLO…

As you know, The Fellowship and I have already had two funerals for Jerry. This is too many funerals for a person to endure anyway. Now we have had a third one, the UK memorial. This was slightly controversial and a source of some conflict over the past two months because it involved a church service. Jerry grew up very much entwined with religion but was not religious at all. In fact he made his opinions on that one very clear. So, lots of us were not convinced about the religious element but I chose to go for Larry, who was like a dad to Jerry, and who I have immense admiration for in all of this. I also like to consider myself as open minded to ideas that I don’t personally believe in, so I went. It wasn’t my favourite experience but it wasn’t a negative one. There were a couple of moments when I felt tense but it wasn’t a fake representation of Jerry’s relationship with religion and actually I cried throughout the entire thing which was unexpected. When I woke up in the morning I woke up crying, which happens to me a lot since this happened, and to be honest I cried to different extents all day. It broke my heart to watch Larry struggle with the task he had given himself responsibility for and listening to Jerry’s family speak also gave me another devastating, raw element to all this. We haven’t even spoken face to face until this and the context of the meeting was just a lot to process.

After the church service we went to Moseley Park where Jerry used to live in a house that backed onto it. He apparently spent many nights doing questionable things with his friends and so it was decided that a tree would be planted and the remaining ashes scattered in its roots. A Black Thorn tree was chosen because it’s spiky on the outside but actually really useful…like Jerry(?!) In all seriousness it attracts insects and the fruit can be used to make alcohol. Perfect. Al, my mum, Ross, Rob and I went on Tuesday to find the place where we had been told to plant the tree. It was reminiscent of Koh Lipe as we stumbled about in the wilderness confused about the end location and slipped about on mud.

On Wednesday my main concern and the real source of all my anxiety was the speech. Now I have a lot to say and I’m alright at writing it down. I’ve written about this numerous times. However preparing a speech for a diverse audience that isn’t so emotional you can’t read it but which does justice to your love is so so hard. I didn’t know most of the people at that service and I absolutely hate public speaking. Anyone who has worked with me will tell you that I use my children in any assembly I’m forced to lead. I just hang out at the side. It just isn’t my gig and I will obsess about it for months. I only wrote the speech on Tuesday evening.

How to describe fully the situation of giving this speech…it was cold, there were lots of people there. Al gave his speech and I was already sobbing at his words and then suddenly it was my turn. As I was looking out at this crowd of devastated faces I felt the most intense physical pain in my heart I’ve ever felt. It was like being stabbed and suddenly all this utter sadness was spilling up from my heart into my head and then I was fully sobbing. Not really a good start for public speaking. As a reaction I got highly stressed at my lack of self control and just had to turn around and calm down. Somehow I’ve got pretty good at this so I did switch it off and then I spoke. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I really hope never to experience that kind of emotional pain again in that intensity. It felt so painful that it should have left a physical wound. Afterwards I did feel a sense of comfort to some extent but I mostly just thought “what the fuck is this situation, it’s utterly horrendous”. The whole memorial gave me another perspective on Jerry’s death. So many people were there and they all loved him so fiercely. I felt kind of angry at one point that some people had only really had to connect with this on that day and would probably feel at peace after it and then would be able to go back to their lives. I’ve had to experience this every second of the day for 64 days now. I started feeling envious of other people’s grief which really just shows the rock bottom situation that’s been reached. This grief train does get very ridiculous at times.

Ralph read his poem which is just beautiful.

Jerry made the rain shine.

Jerry was a star.

Jerry drank the moonshine.

Jerry played guitar.

Jerry made the storm chime.

Jerry, painted black:

a slender ray of night-time;

a quiet crackerjack.

Jerry made the thunder thrust

Jerry played it loud.

Jerry trusted wanderlust

to sail him from the crowd.

Jerry’s bones were rock ‘n’ roll.

Jerry understood.

Jerry’s blood was everyone’s.

Jerry’s heart was good.

Jerry in a Slash top hat.

Jerry in his shades.

Jerry, in a puff of smoke.

Jerry, ace of spades.

Jerry’s laughter: lightning.
Jerry, cool as fuck.

Jerry, out of sight, man.

Jerry, thunderstruck.

Sail on, sailor Jerry.

See you somewhere yesterday,

with your tongue and middle finger out:

so very Jerry Ray.

This poem fills me with so much pride for Jerry every time I read it (and I know it off by heart) so thank you Ralph. You play it down but what incredible writing.

The park was the perfect spot. It was meaningful. Tyler spoke about his memories of Jerry and he played the guitar. Every time someone new expressed the extent of this loss for them I felt like I became more hollow. The death of Jerry is like a leech that just keeps on taking, it feels like it’s sucking the life out of me. I saw the ashes for the third time, again no one needs to see that three separate times, and then we left and went to DDC for music, drinking and some amazing street food.

I’ve not been drunk since this happened because I was really unstable for a while and I was worried about what would happen if I got drunk so I think many people were quite surprised at how well I can handle my alcohol. Years of practise…don’t ruin my cover with the story of how you saved my life when we were about 15 Linz. Somehow I managed to drink and be a normal person and actually laughed and had fun. It was quite a revelation. Al and I got home at 5.40am. At that point I felt like I was alright because I’d been having fun with all Jerry’s favourite people who obviously are similar to him and that was comforting. I felt like I was just being myself for the first time in 2 months. Georgia and Romin did an amazing job sorting out the “sail on sailor Jerry” arch and photos and that was beautiful but his face was everywhere.

Two hours later it was a different story. I felt panicked, I felt lost but mostly I felt completely and deeply sad. Jerry is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. He’s really a rarity and he’s irreplaceable. I was saying to Romin if your friend dies you don’t go looking for a replacement friend. Al can’t find another life long friend. If your brother dies you don’t go and get a new brother. Robert now doesn’t have his older brother around. However people often say to me “you’ll find love again”, “someone else will make you happy”. I mean I really hope so because I’m 27 but it’s just a strange notion to suggest you can find a replacement when others clearly can’t. Also it’s Jerry. I don’t even need to explain that any further.

So basically what the situation is now is the raw loss and sadness has gone back to how it felt when this first happened. The anxiety about living now and how that should look is horrible, and thinking about the future at all is impossible. I’m back in Penang and back in work on Monday and I’m just going to see how that whole thing goes. Jerry is in every waking and sleeping thought and it is still too abstract to really understand that he isn’t coming back. I went out tonight to familiar streets and familiar places. I looked at the bar Jerry was working at in complete darkness because it’s closed down off the back of this. I walked to the toilet where we were and stared at the same bar stool Jerry once sat at. I relived the memory in such a vivid way and then just carried on with my evening. The UK memorial brought back a lot of raw emotion and a lot of processing needs to be done now. Seeing The Fellowship again brought me more genuine comfort and solidarity than I could have anticipated and the distance from them is also very hard.

Basically things are hard right now, but the memorial was everything we wanted it to be.

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