When I began to write this , it was meant to be about grief, but as the words have poured out onto the page, writing about grief as a concept , without writing about what has been lost hasn't felt right.
Recently I lost someone who was really important to me.
That someone was Candy Royalle, a magnetic and enchanting woman who was making a huge dent in the world. An activist, artist and leader who, effortlessly changed people just by being herself. Candy had this sort of glowing aura, it felt like this exquisite distilled substance, radiant and pure, ...contagious.
To be around someone who, in spite of chronic pain and serious illness, was living life more ferociously than I had really ever witnessed before, unexpectedly triggered a whole lot of big life re-evaluations of my own. These questions were not out of personal lack, but rather out of being witness to an example of someone who was the personification of personal power and love.
When I met Candy last Summer, I thought perhaps this was a unique thing I was feeling, but it became evident, after spending time together, that this was how Candy seemed to make many people feel. I endearingly referred to this as the "Candy effect". For whatever reason, Candy elicited an immediate sense of loyalty from me that I can't quite explain.
Not long after meeting Candy, her health rapidly declined. I remember sitting on her couch as she told me that she never thought she would die of cancer. She said that with the cancer now spreading, she was, for the first time, paralysed by the real possibility. In true Candy style, she quickly added that she was now back in fight- mode, and was focused on the fact that statistically she still had a reason to hope, that even a 1% chance was a chance. I agreed.
At the time I felt that it would be a major glitch/ fuck-up in the universal system to deprive our earth of a soul who was so needed, so necessary, so essential.
When I learnt of Candy's death- although not un-anticipated, it was shocking to me.
I felt a deep sense of injustice. I was angry for her, I was angry for the world. I began to think about all the people out there living lives in a state of numbness, people not contributing, people perhaps, actively hating and harming, why did they get to live?
I felt guilty for feeling this way, as if one life might be less than another, but loss makes you think the un-thinkable. And to be clear I don't believe one life is less than another, but I think it's important to illuminate some of the thoughts that can arrive when we loose so deeply.
When i started to write this, i only wanted to write about grief, I wanted to write about the physicality of grief. The way in which grief always arrives as a tangible block of pain in the left side of my throat. Unmovable , impenetrable, and ever present. A solid thing that seems to encase an imaginable amount of feeling. A grief that seems to not only represent one loss, but every loss, every time we have had to let go, every time we have felt abandoned , every time we have felt the injustice of life. A pain that seems to traverse across timelines, a grief that taps into a collective sense of loss that we all know.
I wanted to write about how I have been questioning my own grief process, do I deserve to feel this level of loss? Should I be feeling okay by now? Why did I feel okay yesterday... and why am I not okay now? Should I be pretending not to be sad ? Should I be doing 'normal life' by now and not wasting the precious time I have? Should I just be feeling endless gratitude in being alive and having time? Why all this staring into space? Am I doing grief wrong?
As you read this maybe you are answering these questions mentally for yourself, as I wrote these questions I was counter-arguing them one by one. Obviously, there is no right way to do grief, intellectually I know that to be true, however the grieving process does all sorts of strange things to you.
It seems that by writing about the force that is Candy, the impact she had on my life, reflecting on the person she was, the love she gave and the work she did, put's some of this into perspective. Of course I am going to be feeling this way, of course such a loss is going to throw a barrage of existential questions at me.
How could it not?
I am reminded to be compassionate, reminded to not berate myself for questioning my own grief process. I am reminded that of course I feel conflicted, especially when our systems and society don't quite know what to do with grief.
What I do know is that the depth of this grief is really a reflection on what I have been lucky enough to have. An encounter with a soul who has forever re-shaped part of my own biology, a soul that magically "cycloned" through my world and left me seeing everything from a different angle.
A soul that taught me the power of love and generosity. Who's presence I feel everyday and who's connection has also (unexpectedly) left me feeling so much less afraid of death. A loss that has shown me that energy never dies and connections are never lost, they just alchemise into something else, something boundless and at a frequency of pure love.
Saying that, I am reluctant to tie a neat ribbon around grief and the loss of a soul I loved. There are aspects that can not be reconciled, there is also a mystery to it that I am not sure I actually need or ever really want to know, and embracing that seems to be enough for now.
To contribute to Candy's legacy and on-going work, you can donate here: