A few years ago, I was walking around a small market in front of a church in Central London. I had just had a lovely lunch with a friend of mine, she’d returned to work and I was bumbling through narrow market pathways looking at handmade leather books, ashtrays, bowls and vases made from Turkish porcelain and Nepalese scarfs and necklaces in bright orange, blue, and yellow. I remember it was one of those days where the blue sky was dotted with a few white, puffy clouds and the air was so clear and crisp that the sun seemed to reflect back from every clear surface it touched, making one’s cheeks remain in a slight constant smile to squeeze the brightness out of one’s eyes. I also remember how utterly content I was, how fearless, how integrated I felt with who I was, where I wanted to be, and whom I had in my life. My father and I had just recently got to this stage where I trusted him fully again; I knew he was there for me, whatever happened. We were talking about everything important and unimportant like old, best friends; yet he admired what had become of his only child, his beloved daughter, and I admired this amazing man that I was blessed to have as my father. We both were having so much fun with each other, full of pride by the look of the other, challenging each other, yet supportive of each other’s individuality. He was a true gentleman my father: a gentle man, kind and considerate, knowledgable and cultured, eloquent and humorous, practical enough to make life seem extremely easy, yet with a strong backbone that was nurtured by his ideals, his humanism, his progressive democratic mind. I had become an independent young woman, working as an Assistant Professor at university and living in my own beautiful flat in central London. I was earning my own money, doing something that I loved and that challenged me every day, and I had built a network of extremely lovely friends around me, from all walks of life. We were in our late-twenties, early to mid-thirties, our second puberty, our emancipation from our childhoods and with it our secondary degrees and first real jobs in our pockets, we were figuring out what it meant to be our grown-up selves together in one of the best cities on earth. We were musicians, academics, models, entrepreneurs, consultants, bankers, photographers, and town planners, looking for jobs, working on political campaigns or in busy marketing offices. We were singles creating the tales of big city dating adventures and couples deciding to get married, get off contraception, or breaking up and starting all over again. We were struggling to pay the big rents of our small rooms and apartments, signing mortgages for first self-owned properties, or crashing sofas while looking for yet another temporary home in yet another country far away from where we’d started off. We were going on first all-expenses-paid-business trips and last (yes, this time really, last) no-service-included air fares; getting used to liking Whiskey or starting to buy frames for our posters, re-reading the first epic novels of our teenage years realizing just how true Kundera’s description of love or Orwell’s predictions for society were, or wondering why we ever liked this stupid Catcher in the Rye novel when we were 17. We were getting our first grey hair or mourning the loss of one-day-only-hangovers, and finally understanding what it meant to be “hoping for the best and expecting the worst”. It was the momentum of ultimate lightness and ultimate heaviness, enough baggage to feel grown-up and not enough to be broken just yet.
Fast forward to the 17th November 2013. I’m in Berlin, about to record a song, a bit hungover still from a night out in Kreuzberg. My friend goes to the bathroom and I decide to take a smoking break. I look at my phone, three missed calls, three voicemail messages from my mother. I listen to one of the messages and immediately press the “Call back” button, my heart racing, something bad has happened. Is it my grandmother? Has someone had an accident? After two or three rings my mother picks up the phone. And then comes a sorrow so great, so unfathomable, so unfelt before, sweeping away that lightness like a Tsunami, when my mother utters the words: “Your father died.”
George Elliot once said: “There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with our first great sorrow. Before we know what it is to have loved and lost, to despaired and have recovered hope.” The 17th of November marks the day that for me catapulted me to a new life, one where the excitement and lightness of first adulthood turned into smithereens of memories, scattered all over pieces of what’s left of me, and my heavy heart. Welcome to the world of grief.
Fast forward to today, two months later. I’m sitting on a plane to Istanbul, again, trying to calm my racing heart down, telling myself that it’s going to be all right. Nine days to pick up where I left things in December. Hundreds of decisions to be made about my fathers belongings, dozens of conversations with bookkeepers, lawyers, secretaries. I’m the director of my fathers company now, at least until I finally shut it down. There’s no capital in it after my father’s brilliant mind is no longer with us. There’s just an empty office, unwritten receipts, bills, and contracts that need writing, paying, and canceling. And there’s grief. Fasten your seat belts. The weather in Istanbul is cloudy, with a 90% chance of rain. That day in London, that crisp late summer day, is million miles away.