When people hear the story of Dimitra’s death, they often comment on how beautiful our relationship clearly was and how much we loved each other. This always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Yes, we loved each other and I am forever grateful for the time we spent together. And yes, looking back it was beautiful, if only because an unexpected early death makes it easy to see the beauty of what was before. But there were also things that weren’t working and that we both, for different reasons, were ignoring. Things that couldn’t have lasted much longer.
I can only guess Dimitra’s reasons for not facing what wasn’t working. I know mine. I was afraid. Afraid that we couldn’t fix things without doing irreparable damage to the relationship.
When I say I felt very peaceful in the months after her death “because death brings you close to what life is really about” this is only partly true. I also felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to do this difficult work.
That isn’t pretty and it isn’t something I am proud of. I am okay with Dimitra’s death. But as a consequence I got a very easy way out of doing something big and important. I am not okay with that.
There is a famous phrase from The Leopard: “everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same”. I have started to interpret this freely to mean that if you really want to change a situation, you should be willing to accept having to leave altogether, which is still better than not doing anything about it.
Belatedly, I am working on that. I keep saying I want to do “great things” (and then quietly remind myself that merely writing these things isn’t good enough). I won’t be able to do so if I keep avoiding difficult things in professional and personal situations.
I am okay with what happened last year. But I owe it to myself, to Dimitra and to the world to learn from this not-so-great part of our life together and to do better.