Sally Brampton and Virginia Woolf.
When I first saw Sally Brampton’s name trending on twitter today I felt that shudder that prequels bad news.
And sure enough, she has left us.
Before I knew how, I thought of Virginia Woolf.
This is an excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s suicide note to her husband.
…You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ’til this terrible disease came…
So, it is not simply about being unhappy.
Depression is so hard to understand unless you have experienced it and even then…
I knew I had one of Sally Brampton’s books in my library. I could even picture the cover in my mind. Unprepossessing but memorable all the same and hence it was easy to find amongst those gathering a little dust in my garage.
Concerning Lily was published in 1998 and I probably read it soon after.
I am not going to pretend I fully recall the story but I do remember the feeling that the title evokes. Unexplained melancholy.
So here I am some eighteen years later.
I open the first page I wonder if there are any clues to the future?
Chapter One starts like this.
‘Elizabeth Delaware felt in an obscure way that life had let her down. This, despite everything surrounding her, which conspired to make her as happy as she could be.’
The character goes on to mention that ‘it was not so much that she was unhappy as that she was not as happy as her friends seemed to think she had a duty to be…’
Probably even more telling and from experience absolutely typical of the 1980s.
The book continues…’his [Elizabeth’s husband] adoration had become part of her character, like her blue eyes or blonde hair. They didn’t of course, ask her how she felt’
Sally Brampton had been receiving professional help and support from her family. How hard it must be for them. And how hard it is for us mere mortals to accept that maybe there was nothing more we could have done.
Most of us find that the hardest feeling of all.
Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
(A line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “In Memoriam A. H. H.”) Tom: I’ve been so miserable since Nancy and I broke up. I wish I’d never met her.
Fred: Come on, now—’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
I still wonder sometimes about this quote.
With love to anyone dealing with such tragic loss.