On the morning Marie Knowles passed away, I went home and wrote down my thoughts. The results went something like this…
Marie was, by anybody’s standards, a remarkable woman.
Strong and forthright, she was a force to be reckoned with – but always with warmth, humour and a twinkle in the eye…
and so much tenderness, understanding and compassion for those that needed it.
More than anyone else, it was Marie who showed me how Feminism could be an active, positive choice – not some sour list of things we shouldn’t like, phrases we shouldn’t use, and jokes we shouldn’t laugh at.
I’ll always be grateful for the gentle way she helped me start to notice – and begin to clear out – some of the baggage that a patriarchal society had littered around my everyday thoughts. Again, never with condemnation; always a wry smile.
Because of Marie, I will always be able to say I knew someone who was at Greenham Common, and I’ve already been able to talk to my own kids about what that means. It’s my abiding regret that I never asked her about it.
It might be a cliché to say that Marie lives on in the people who loved her… but it’s true nonetheless. She’s palpably – almost visibly – present in the characters of her children, of her husband, of all the many people whose lives she touched.
I’m a better person for having known her. I think we probably all are.
Now she’s gone, this will always – or at least for many years to come – be a difficult date for her family, friends and colleagues.
And I had a random (I hope not morbid) thought… should I diarise it?
I mean, I’m appalling with dates. If people I know are going to need a bit of extra love in exactly 365 days’ time (and 730, 1095, 1461…) shouldn’t I make a note of that somewhere?
And then I thought… well, shouldn’t I do that with everyone I love who’s lost someone?
And that was a sobering thought.
Because, well, I love lots of people. And, now I’m 35, virtually all of them have lost someone special. Many of them have lost several. I reckon that’s pretty much every day of the year covered in little reminders and tributes. Little memorials all over the calendar.
It’s a bit like the way they ban people from putting flowers and gravestones at famous landmarks and beauty spots. On an individual basis it seems harsh, but if you’re not careful, suddenly there are thousands.
Personally, I wouldn’t want anyone to mourn me on an annual basis. I’d rather my loved ones remembered happy or funny things – focusing on the time we did have, rather than my absence.
For that reason, when my Grandad passed away, I deliberately didn’t look at the calendar. I didn’t want to know the date. I blocked it out. Because I don’t want to be reminded of his death.
Instead, I want him to come to my mind when I’m in the pub, or I see fireworks on New Year’s Eve, or I’m driving a car that he would have mocked mercilessly. And if I need a certain day, his birthday will do very nicely, thankyou very much. I’ll raise a glass. Yachi da.
And that works pretty well for me. I do miss him, but mostly I remember him with a smile.
…Except I know that my Mum does know when the date is. And so does my aunt, my uncle, and pretty much all my cousins. And although I’m doing OK, I’m sure they’re hurting, and need a hug or a kind word every time the fateful day rolls around.
So – it’s a conundrum, and I need to give it a bit more thought.
But for now, I’m going to be thankful I was privileged to meet, and to work with, a woman as unique as Marie.
And I’ll make an effort to be that bit nicer to everyone – to cut them a bit more slack.
Because every day, someone I know is grieving.
I just don’t always know who.