21 Dec 2020



There are no wreaths and no twinkling lights at my house, and, apart from a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in the fridge, no sign of celebration. Nor will there be. I have not celebrated Christmas since 2015, and although this might have been the year when, finally, I found a little festivity in my heart and accepted long-standing invitations to join friends in Canada for Christmas, that has not been allowed to happen. And so, without the people I love around me, I will spend the day alone.

All I remember of the Christmas of 2015 is decorating our tree and, as always, asking Douglas to hang something glittering on one of the branches for luck. I remember how carefully he did it: he was frail then, and had never truly recovered from the traumatic brain injury of the previous year. I remember we stood in the glow of the lights together, and he said gently, “Don’t be sad. It isn’t the last time, you know.”

It is, you know, I thought, and I was right.

He was dying in December of 2016, and there was no light: there was no hope: there was no holy stillness in my soul. There was only the spiral down into darkness, the twenty-four hours of every day and night my wonderful carer Mousumi and I spent beside him. I never slept in our own bed: I never saw the winter stars from my pillow. I slept on the loveseat in the living room, beside his hospital bed. I cannot, even now, look up into the vastness of the night sky without intense emotion.

I remember 2 a.m. on January first, 2017. He woke, we talked a little. Then he said in his beautiful voice, “Any chance of a drink?” and I poured him some water. “No, not that,” he said. “A proper drink.” We shared it: Rémy Martin with soda. He died of pneumonia on the night of January 23rd.

There were no stars that night.

I might have begun to live again this year. There seemed promise. There seemed hope. But in this darkness, at this solstice, on this longest night of the year, nothing is known, nothing is certain. No way is clear, no course is given.

I have no compass.

There are no stars.