I am a very good let-goer. I let things go. I let people go. I let relationships go. No matter how hard it is, I know how to loosen my grip on something by sheer force of will and I let go.
Because I have never had anything or anyone that hurt me that was worth holding on to. So I let go. Time and again.
Trying to introspect recently on why I stopped writing – really writing – I discovered that it’s because I write to let go and I write to heal and I write to make sense of each loss, each meaningless blow that life deals upon me.
I write to process pain, triumph, living, loving and losing.
But I finally found something I am unable to write away because I now have something I am afraid to let go of. It is not something really, I should say it is someone.
Someone who held the pieces of me together simply by existing. Just knowing he was there, tucked away in his office slaving away editing some story, fretting over deadlines and dispensing his own brand of commonsensical wisdom sufficed to make my world to go on merrily.
My uncle died this year.
I have been telling myself that I will work through the grief later… eventually… when I am ready to let go – I will write about him.
But the day never comes, the moment never presents itself because I don’t want the pain to lessen, I don’t want the blow to be cushioned, I don’t want the suffering to diminish, I don’t want the loss I feel to ease.
I don’t want him to vanish and become just another name in a long list of people that I have loved and lost.
I want to grieve for him every day, to carry the weight of his absence with me wherever I go because I am afraid that if I set it down, I might forget to pick it up again or life might fill my arms with so many other things that there will be no room to carry the memory of his departure.
So I stopped writing to keep remembering… to remember Paul Mambo.
To remember an uncle who loved me like a father, who was fiercely protective of me like a mother and who was so impossibly proud of me… I want to remember the lectures and the lessons; the petty arguments and the major fights; the tantrums I threw and which he tolerated; the joy that lit up his face when I set foot in his office the first day I returned from the UK and the hours of endless teasing over his “old-fashioned” ways.
I remember. And it hurts.
The kind of hurt that congeals your smile into a more pasty version of its former glory, the kind of hurt that makes you trip over your laughter and laces it with the edge of hysteria.
Holding on is so hard. One day, when I am ready – I will write about that man.
But today is not that day.
Today is another holding on, a little tighter, a little longer, a little harder and a little more desperately to the miserable “if onlys” which are all that remains of what once was.
I miss him.
Miss him selfishly, the kind of missing that makes you want to curl up in a ball and die too. No, today is not the day for letting go. It is not the day, so I will hold on because if I stop holding on, I am afraid that there shall be nothing left of him to mourn.
For memories are such fickle things, so prone to erasure, to distortion, to yellowing around the edges like the pages of a much perused book… so I hold on to the pain a little more because it is real and is the only tribute that seems worthy of the man I lost.
Sometimes, I try to remember what life was like at 2039hrs on Saturday the 20th of July a minute before that fateful text message was delivered to my phone simply stating the irrevocable: “Paul Mambo has died”
If I could have had the presence of mind to text back the only appropriate response would have been: “…and so have I.”
It’s been almost three months and I’m holding on even though life continues to unfold ahead of me, I refuse to step away from the edge of my grief for fear that life might sweep me away in its tide and wrench my pain out of my grip.
I’m just going to stand here. Cry a little more. Hold on a little longer. And die bit by bit… because I can’t seem to write myself back to wholeness. Not today.