The 40th day

It is said that the soul departs on the 40th day. Today is this day. I have tried to take Peter’s death as positively as possible. For me, it was hardest spending each day knowing that he was missing, expecting the worst, dreading the next ignorant message from a friend saying he’s probably fine and chilling somewhere, because I feared that if he was alive, he was alone and suffering beyond a place that anyone could empathise with. Many people never knew that Peter struggled with mental health, and the strength with which he battled it every single day was more than tremendous and admirable. He had an endless capacity to keep trying new things, determined to change and take on each day afresh, to find what it was that he both wanted and needed. His ability to move and juggle with trick sticks was astonishing; people assumed that magnets must be involved else he had to be breaking the laws of physics. Now that we know that Peter simply slipped off a wall, falling onto his back and crushing his head, makes me want to seize life with all of the vigour that I can muster. Anything could happen, at any time, so I am going to keep doing the things that terrify me and then do them more often.

I know that there is no use lingering over bad memories, or the things that I should have done or should have said, lest going insane. Now that Peter has the peace that he had often longed for, this comforts me in a way. I will remember the good times, his love of all things Miffy and his rambunctiousness. I saw some Miffy sticker books in the airport the other day and almost bought them. The strangest thing is looking through the photos, the memories, and knowing that I will never see that smile again in person. That we will no longer be able to tease each other and joke about how hopeless our present relationships are. I am certain that he will be looking out for me, and probably hanging out with my half-Brother smoking rollies and laughing hysterically with Rakiba.

I am also grateful to all of the loving messages from everyone around me, whether they knew him or not. Everyone has been perfect in giving me the space that I need but also checking in every now and then to drink tea and eat cake. I can’t thank you all enough, especially for being comfortable in the silence of the situation. It is wonderful to hear from so many others how fond they were of Peter, sharing stories of the crazy things that they got up to over the years, and that he will be remembered.

What has made these past few weeks even more confusing was dealing with both fantastic and tragic news simultaneously. A few days before the police contacted me to tell me that Peter was missing, I learnt that I didn’t get the scholarship that I had had my heart set on for the past year. I was shocked and devastated, because I had convinced myself that this was my destiny and I was going to get it, without question. That showed me. It didn’t make it any easier to hear that I was 6th on the list, of a 5 person shortlist. I know now how it feels to come fourth in the Olympics. So I moped about for a couple of days, feeling sorry for myself, freaking out because I didn’t have a plan for the future, and terrified of doors closing out opportunities all around me. Then hearing about Peter radically put everything into perspective, and everything else seemed meaningless and insignificant.

I was shocked into happiness some days later when I read an email saying that I had been accepted in AstroMundus and as a “highly ranked student” I have good chances of getting a scholarship. How unexpected! We were told we wouldn’t hear from them until May. AstroMundus is a 2 year Masters programme in Astrophysics, which takes place at a different University in a different country each semester. It starts in Innsbruck, followed by a choice of either Padua or Rome, and then Gottingen or Belgrade for the final semesters. I have heard that students either hate or love the course, it is either disorganised chaos, or exciting and stimulating. Despite any short comings that I may have, and having survived Canadian education for a year, I will make the most of the opportunity and throw myself into the deep end, adapting and morphing into the diverse cultures that Europe has to offer. This time last year I would flinch at the idea of ever doing a Masters, continuing to study physics seemed like the most appalling idea possible. So at least if I remain to struggle with the physics, as I always do, I’ll be enthralled by living in an entirely new environment every few months, meeting a never-ending avalanche of epic people.

A week later, when I was feeling down, I got a phone call from a couple of friends from Astronomy Camp. I presumed they were wondering how I was doing, and that I wasn’t drinking myself into a stupour in a gutter somewhere. But then they asked me what I would be doing in a months time and if I could come to Vienna. It clicked, surely the only explanation was that they were asking me if I could be a leader. I couldn’t have heard any better news! This put me in such a good mood, that I did one of those things that terrify me, where I have to stop myself from thinking too much and just do. I had been making eye contact with this really smoky guy, the third time that our eyes glanced simultaneously, he smiled and I knew that some sort of action must occur. I wrote “Coffee?” and my phone number on a missed delivery slip that I found at the bottom of my bag, and awkwardly tried to hand it to him as he was leaving. But then it fell on the floor so I ran for the door and hid in an alleyway.

I had to battle with my inner stubborn self to actually become a leader, since the meeting would clash with my choir concert in which we will be singing Paul Melor’s Crucifixus and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, as well as 600 minutes of Swing dancing, but unfortunately I cannot do everything all at once, there will be other occasions for singing and dancing.

Farewell my dearest.

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