An alternative version of this missive was a list of all the things that I can remember about Emma and our very brief time spent getting to know one another. Instead I will comment upon that (unwritten) list: it is very long, full of intrigue and detail, wonder and intensity. Colours and sounds and spaces abound. We dated for a scant few weeks, yet Emma’s charm and wisdom and authentic uniqueness branded memories on me deeper than anyone else I have known. She had a magician’s powers to make things appear.
When I met Emma I was somewhat wide-eyed at her articulate intellect – she kept it in the protrusion at the back of her skull, she said – and for a while I reeled while trying to contend with the force of her considerable mind. All of which, I might add, was a joyride!
But what is intellect without a purpose? I believe Emma understood the necessity to give purpose to her immense intellect from the very beginning of her too-short life. The purpose she chose seems appropriately summarised in part of the title of her PhD: “inclusive dialogue”. It is as testament to that notion, that method, that radical and essential concept that I write this now.
One of the things Emma explained to me was her passionate belief in the importance of overcoming the stigma of mental illness. Like many folk, I genuinely believed that I was open-minded, informed, politically savvy and so-on. What I had overlooked, though, was that I was discrediting my own self (and others) through my own acceptance of the stigma attached to something that should have mattered very much to me: depression. But this is not about me – rather, that Emma taught me, in her inimitable style, that it was the stigma that was holding me back in life rather than my illness.
Since those conversations five years ago, her words and mind-set have resonated, functioning as the single most inspiring voice in my efforts to improve my health. My eternal gratitude for this gift she gave radiates through empty space now, rather than being received by her, but I send it anyway. Thank you, Emma. You made a difference.
But right now I am sad, so fucking sad. My sadness at learning, (belatedly, since we barely kept in touch, though we did), of Emma’s death is multiplied by all those old and gnarled feelings of regret that I did not know her better. But so be it. What use regret? Still, there’s a feeling I now connote that is as unwelcome as it is poignant. And we are owed a cup of tea – so, seemingly, are a lot of people.
Also, did you know Emma was a lifetime member of the Pylon Appreciation Society?