The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson I wish your shadow would get up and walk beside me

That’s not quite what Lennie in The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson wrote in her grief for her sister. It’s what I want in my grief for my friend the Grasshopper who died four weeks ago. I don’t understand how the sun continues to rise and set after Sam’s death, like nothing has happened. But when I think of his shadow walking beside me, I remember Sam’s smile and smile with him. Sam Cropley went by many names, but I’ll stick to Sam to lessen confusion.

The Saturday after his 29th birthday Sam and I talked a lot on the phone, him being in Melb and me in Perth. I was the last person he talked to and people have asked me what he said. I’ve found it hard to tell them because by our last convo he hardly said anything. And our previous convos during the day were our usual random inanity that only we cared about – the posters he was putting up, walls, cool things left on the side of the road, trees, ponds, stupid jokes about sticks. I can talk the clouds down from the sky and sometimes my job description was to do that in his ear to stop him going crazy. That day our roles were reversed.

painting stained glass in his last job
painting stained glass in his last job

I now realise it wasn’t the words Sam said that mattered, it was what his phone calls to me on that day said about the person Sam was. He would have done the same for any one he knew, if you’d needed what I needed that day. What he did for me is what made him Sam: a beautiful, generous person who always considered others before himself. As Jack put it

He always looked out for me and he would always make sure that I was happy and comfortable well before himself. A true big brother

My sk8 dog Sheeba died that Saturday 11 December. She had a malignant tumour on her leg and I had her put down. She was only sick for a week and on the day she died Sam phoning me so many times helped me more than anything. He knew how important Sheeba was to me. She was my silver princess, my Holly White, always spinning circles for me. Sam wanted to distract me and catch his contagious happiness, which I did. In between my tears for Sheebie, Sam made me smile more than I thought I could on such a day.

I didn’t have my phone with me at the vet and when I came home without my Sheebie, Sam had txtd me

How u goin there wasp flappin near my shoulder its rocking in the tree

sparkle bug. he once did a fried egg with sparkles. best fried egg i've ever seen His lack of punctuation often made his txts confusing and I asked if he had climbed a tree. He denied it, but I wonder if this was untrue, because he didn’t want me to know his plans for the evening. He was happy when he sent the txt, but when I read it and rang him at 6:30 Melb time he wasn’t and I knew something was wrong. I thought he was just tired and I kept saying he should have a sleep. On Sunday when Sam was dead, but I didn’t yet know I txtd him

I hope you found some sleep

his last work of art the alphabet lake. this is a s#*t photo but he txtd it to me that arvo. i don't have the better photos bug in a tree I cry over that txt, but as I break again every day since Sam left, my pieces are not irreparable. I sweep them together and put them aside for a time when I can fit myself back together again. Right now I think that time will never come, I will always feel this broken. By our last convo Sam was shattered into more pieces than could ever possibly fit back together. I’ve wished I worked this out when we talked or he told me, but he didn’t want me to know. Knowing of his pain would have sliced me into so many shards of anguish I would have joined him. He didn’t want that. He wanted to know I was doing ok on the day I lost my shadow dog. Yet again he put someone he cared about before himself, before his own disintegration.

This was Sam all over. That day he was being as kind, generous and selfless as he always was and the last thing he did was help a friend (after making his masterpiece the alphabet lake, above left. And yes it looks nothing like the alphabet but there are better photos somewhere). He would have done the same for any one he cared about and spent the whole day talking to you, and making sure you caught his happiness, if he thought you needed it.

Words mean nothing its the spaces that invoke the intrigue

sego way up high near the sky
sego way up high near the sky

Sam txtd that to me once and I want the spaces between his last words to remind us what a beautiful person he was, still is, to everyone he knew and knew him, esp Von. Jack played me that perfect song you chose for his cremation in Melb. The blackbirds sing circles in my mind in ever widening spirals.

I feel I don’t deserve what Sam did for me that day because we had a volatile friendship. I’m so grateful now to realise what I never did while he lived, that he cared about me as much as I cared about him. I wish he said goodbye to everyone he knew and cared about, and he would have, it’s just his battery was running low :P

If you knew Sam, or just happened upon these words, and you’re feeling too much pain to bear, tell someone you trust. Sam did that, but it wasn’t enough for him and usually isn’t for anyone, so ask that person you just told to help you contact one of these:

Lifeline Lantern Beyond Blue

In four weeks I’ve written a lot of letters to Sam he will never read, like the poems Lennie writes to her dead sister in The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. My random words are a lot less poetic, extremely boring in fact, and a bit too emo for my own good. After Sam left I thought I’d re-read my favouritetist book of the year, but Sam’s sister writes poetry so I lent her The Sky is Everywhere. She wrote a wonderful poem for Sam after he left. And Amy I think you’d like The Sky is Everywhere, altho you’ll have to find your own copy. And can you tell Jack to get on with reading The Hunger Games. I have much to discuss when he finally gets through em.

The Sky is Everywhere made the shortlist of the 2010 Inkys and I hoped it would win the Silver Inky but Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater won the 2010 Silver Inky. My Inky happiness isn’t what it was back in November, so I’ve postponed blogging bout what made The Sky is Everywhere so special for me before Lennie’s grief became mine.

She was the one who wanted to be with him, the one who watched and waited for him, who felt his absence badly.

Sonya Hartnett in Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf