It’s time to say goodbye. The last goodbye. For over two years now I’ve kept Andy’s ashes in a wardrobe in the bedroom. It sounds a bit daft, morbid even, but having them near me was a comfort. It meant that in some way a part of him was still with me, was still beside me, was still looking after me. I wasn’t entirely alone. When you’ve spent almost all your adult life with your partner and then they pass away, it’s hard to let go, hard to get your head around the fact that you’re no longer one half of an and. Not Andy and Paul any more, just Paul.
But it’s time to let him go, to release him, to send him to be at one with the nature that he loved the way he would have wanted. Time to send him off to be at rest with the wild things, the birds and the animals, the flowers and the trees. Time to let him fly with the geese and swim with the trout, time to let him blossom with the bluebells and soak up the sun with the tender young leaves on the beech and the birch. Time to return him to life. Time to say goodbye.
I’ve met someone special now. Someone who can fill life with love. Andy got me there. He sailed with me across the void of an empty and broken heart to the harbour of a new love, a new confidence, a new life, a new half of an “and”. It’s time to let him go. It’s time to think of what he wanted. It’s time to let him fly, and allow him to grow his roots into the rich Scottish earth that he loved.
Andy loved nature. He loved the great Scottish outdoors and watching the birds, identifying the plants and the flowers. We humans surround ourselves with technology and the things we make and create, but we are creatures of nature. The natural world is within us and always will be. Andy felt that strongly all throughout his life. He felt a deep bond with the land and the plants and animals that populate it. It’s what created humanity he always said, it’s what he wanted to return to.
But for the past two years or more, I’ve kept him in a box. Kept him guarded, selfishly, for myself. Holding on to the ashes of a relationship that lives on in my heart. It’s time to recognise that the life of the heart is enough. After the storm of his illness and death, I’ve put down roots again, regained the balance that I lost when one half of my life was lost. It’s time to honour him. Time to do what’s right by him. It’s time to let him go, a final act of love, my last gift to him. But his gifts to me will live in my soul forever, my English man who showed me how to be Scottish.
Andy taught me that you need to dream, you need to hope. Don’t bottle your feelings up, get them out and let them breathe. He taught me that you need to work to make your dreams come true. He taught me that you don’t regret the things you do, you regret what you never did. Never leave things undone. Never look back on your life and wish you’d done more. Live a life without regret and you live a life that is fulfilled. Andy lived a full life. He had no regrets. He never hid in the shadows, he never hid who he was even when it wasn’t safe to be who he was, gay and confident. And he believed that one day Scotland would live a full life too, an independent life, a life out of the shadows. He did things his own way. He did things for himself. He relied on his own talents, and they served him well. It’s a lesson for a nation.
He never saw the result of the last referendum. He passed away just a few days before the vote, but I know that he would have been so proud of all of us because we didn’t give up and crawl under a rock when we lost that bitter day of deception. We had learned how to hope, and once learned that’s a lesson that you never forget. Scotland had tasted hope. We had tasted the spring after the long dark winter. Nothing would ever be the same, and we knew that the spring would come again.
That’s what Andy taught me. That was his greatest gift to me. Learn how to hope, and if you have hope in your life you can never be defeated. It was a lesson that the whole of Scotland learned that year.
There was a walk down from a friend’s house to the shore of Loch Lomond that Andy loved. The sun would break through the canopy of leaves and the light danced on the rocks. He enjoyed the peace. He loved the sound of the birds in the trees, the rippling waters on the loch reflecting the sky, with Ben Lomond looming in the distance like a sentinel guarding the land. He sat on the rocks by the shore, at peace with himself and the universe. At one with the land, a man with a heart as big as the mountain.
I’m going to leave him there, on the point where the geese overwinter. Then in the spring he can fly with them to the far north, soaring above the hills, the islands, and the ocean on an endless journey to and fro over the Scotland that he came to call home, where he knew love, where he knew acceptance. And he’ll be at one with the earth and the big Scottish sky. He deserves that. And when I see the geese flying overhead, I’ll know he’s looking down on me. He’s looking down on all of us as we’re dreaming a new Scotland into life.
The birds are stirring. The buds are growing. The spring is coming. Hope blossoms again. It’s time to fly.
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