In the first days and weeks after Matthew died I wrote down memories of him obsessively, terrified they were already fading, desperately trying to hold onto all of him and knowing that so much was already lost. I wrote down turns of phrase, physical habits, the sound of his voice in different contexts, how he and I spoke to each other when no-one else was around. I wrote what his forehead and lips felt like when I kissed him when he was alive, and also after he was dead.
I’m glad I wrote down all of that, and I will come back to those pages in time. But at the moment they are too painful to touch. I’m too scared of my emotions to open up those files. More comforting currently is the smooth-edged monumental picture of Matthew which we created through the memorial service, a picture not of untrue perfection, but one nonetheless necessarily simplified and consciously shaped. That was the nature of the setting and a consequence of merely three merely seven-minute tributes; but it was also a long way from the messiness of a whole life.
I’ve listened to that service over and over again. It is rich, and it is grand, and it is also not just about Matthew but about everyone who was there, and about all the other people who were not there but whom Matthew touched over twenty-five years of teaching and forty-eight of life. It is a preservation, as though in amber, of all we could fit in of his life. Unlike my memories, that recording will hold its detail, and it is also at a level of intimacy which my emotions can currently bear.
As it happens, Matthew regularly wore a pair of amber cuff links, given to him by one of his closest friends. The same friend gave me an amber bracelet for my birthday on Wednesday. I’m wearing it for the first time today.