I was looking at my current state of affairs, trying to find the funny side of having a parking ticket, overdue bill notice and a sink full of dishes.
No sooner did I come up with the title 'Dark side of the spoon' (which I thought was a stroke of genius) when I noticed Patrick staring at his phone, his face depleted of joy.
"James Williamson died at the Cape Epic" he said in a stunned, monotone.
"James? The same James we met at the Greek restaurant?"
"Yes, same James"
Both in complete shock, our hearts sank. We were, and are, in disbelief.
Patrick and I met the wonderful, friendly, down-to-earth, sweet James one week before he was to fly to South Africa to compete in the Cape Epic. We were moved by James' gentle and joyful nature, vowing to catch up with him when he returned (you know when you meet someone special and say "I'd like to be friends with that person" and then imagine how you would form such a friendship? Well, that was our experience with James).
James (it's so hard to say) was 26 years of age and editor of Enduro magazine. He'd been a World Champion mountain biker, which I only found out today after Googling the cause (which is still unknown - he was unable to be roused by his team mate in the morning). James was so unassuming I had no idea he was a champion, and yet I'm not surprised that he was.
James was so, so, so lovely... and so, so, so young.
What I want to know is, does every cloud have a silver lining?
As much as I've searched, I just can't seem to find it today.
James was excited about his trip to South Africa, it was something he'd looked forward to for a long time. While we're expected to 'look at the bright side' of the situation and be thankful that he was happy and got to live out his dream, I can't help feel that this is all too premature. Someone so lovely is surely needed on Earth a little bit longer (if not a lot longer).
All I feel is sadness. Sadness and loss. Remarkable considering I'd only spent a few hours sitting across the table from him; such was the impression he'd left on me (I feel indulgent expressing my upset and cannot fathom what his girlfriend, family and friends are feeling right now).
Do we always have to see the bright side of everything? Can't we just be sad because some things are just plain sad. I totally appreciate how we don't want to get bogged by sorrow. I know we're encouraged to move on. I can see how being 'stuck' can play havoc with our lives. But surely it's okay to be sad when something like this happens, isn't it?
Sometimes I feel that constant optimism can be tiring and, to be honest, a little fake if we can't honour the times when things upset us.
While many new age dialogues are worthy of consideration, I question the subject of death. We're told that sadness comes from our attitude and the stories we tell ourselves. That by changing our meaning of death, we'd somehow change our emotional response to it. We're told there are cultures where death is celebrated - where are they? I've never seen them and wonder if it's all a myth.
What I have seen, are dogs lamenting over the loss of a loved one. I have heard their weeping wails, I have seen their long faces and I have felt their distress. I ask my self - is that because they have a negative attitude? Are they just responding to the stories they tell themselves? Do they need to change their meaning of death? My answer is - I think not.
I've concluded that it's okay to be upset by death. Dare I say, it's normal.
Sometimes, I think it's okay to not feel you have to be strong. I think it's okay to cry. I think it's okay to be sad. I think it's okay not to have explanations or answers. I think it's okay if things don't make sense. The secret is, not to get 'stuck' in the weakness, the tears, the sorrow, the unexplained un-knowingness and the senselessness.
There is a time for grief, a time for mourning, and a time for moving on.
To all the family, friends and colleagues of James Williamson, and to Niki, I feel for your loss. I hope your path to healing and resolve is swift. To James, may your spirit ride on forever.
Until tomorrow, a place in time where we assume we'll be...