Last few days 

Two days off ending my working career. Such a mixture of feelings, the strongest being happiness. A sense of anticipation, a longing just for more time to be, to love, to connect, to think, to move, to lead that bit of life that’s squeezed usually into weekends, short evenings and holidays.

40 years working feels enough. I can look back with pride at what I achieved with and for people in my roles over the years. I came, made a difference, learned always,  worked with some great people and I left. My work took me to amazing places  – Morocco, Canada, New York, New Zealand, China for 18 months, Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain…

Ending my working career back in social care in London was the right thing. A place of such heart and people doing inspiring things every day. I know I have made a huge positive difference. Over the last few weeks since the announcement emails from and chats with people who’ve told me what I meant to them and how I made a difference for them. So very moving. Humbling. And in return this place of great people, commitment, values, innovation gave me a lovely last 3.5 experience of work, lots of satisfaction, fun, appreciation. 

So two more days, more farewells, meetings and contribution. I will be very sad to leave and at the same time absolutely ready to go. It’s good to feel sad about leaving. They’ve meant a lot to me and me to them. That matters.

And then from Wednesday the next phase of my life starts. I’m ready. 

For Brian 

A long term friend of John’s, some thirty years. Not always easy to be your friend it seems. Over the years the circle of people around you got smaller and smaller as those you had offended, cut off or had been just hard to be around, fell away. A mobile phone with only two numbers on it, John’s being one.

A feisty youth, a big drinker, often getting into fights, a tall tale teller but a man that so many knew and liked.  Big drinking led to a life that was all about the next drink. A social drinker became a solitary drinker. Bottles of vodka of an evening, drunk alone. Pints for breakfast. Hospital admissions latterly where you were dried out enough to discharge yourself and start again with a vengeance. Alcohol related dementia. Lost faculties. Soiled clothes. The fastidious you replaced by a soiled old guy banned from pubs because of the stench.

For all his friendship along the way John couldn’t stop your relentless path to self destruction. He did what he could to keep being by your side when you needed money or help. Without question they would be given.

You died last night on your sofa at home, bedraggled, malnourished, unable even to drink any more. A sad life. And you leave behind a grieving friend who wishes he could have done more. But he couldn’t.

Hoping you find peace now Brian. 

And life will never be the same again 

A colleague today heard her husband wasn’t at work, his boss wondering if there was a problem. Lots of calls around and no-one knew or had heard. And then an unknown number called. London Underground Police. They said they needed to come and talk to her. Not going to be good news. The tortuous wait in my office away from too many eyes til they came. Her young husband had died. Unexpectedly. And suddenly her life was never going to be the same.

My heart went out to this lovely young colleague, mum to a 3 year old. No words can help. No ability to empathise can really give me anything close to an understanding of the harrrowing loss of that moment. 

And things will just keep unfurling for her. The cousin who came to fetch her will help her navigate the conversations that need to be had, the things to be done, to cope with the overwhelming loss. Others will step in. But she starts a life with a huge hole in it. 

My heart goes out to her.

Tonight I will hold John close. Another reminder of mortality. Every moment we have with our loved ones is precious. 

It was just going to be a Monday like many others. For her there will never be a Monday like it 

Christmas 

Three days til I am off and limping towards the finishing line. Very tired. Full on interim job I accepted as wanted to support our CEO, such an inspiration. And it’s made a huge positive difference for her. That pleases me. Feels though like I’m having to dig deep in energy sources to do it now. End Feb and holding to that. An end in sight. And then it’s time to just be a bit. 40 years working very full time jobs and it’s time just to stop living that way, squeezing life between work commitments. Remembering the 22 years with a disabled husband, my first husband and the toll that took as well as the way that ended. Can’t underestimate that. I’m running out of steam. 

So round about me the sights and sounds and tastes and talk of Christmas. Should be family time and feeling keenly how fractured ours is like so many. So very different from the images of smiling faces of families round a Christmas tree. Distance, indifference and even dislike circles around the four siblings at its worst. Separate lives at its best with flashes of contact, caring and love experienced between some sometimes. Looking with pleasure at Johns quietly supportive, loving, would do anything for anyone family – and wishing mine was so but it isn’t and not going to be that any time soon. It’s so wearing. Endless awkward communications. The very frequent No or just silence as a response. Very very tired of it. 

So here I am a few days before Christmas. The sounds of a loving sleeping husband beside me, lucky to have him in my life – a sweet generous loving supportive man. And some time soon with a precious father making his Christmas time a good one feeling loved and cared about. Messages from Australian friends excited about catching up with me in April. Uncomplicated unconditional love. All these are good to focus on… so I will. Have to accept that I can’t fix all that sibling dysfunction so just have to find a way to not let it hurt so much. 

Happy Christmas! 

Maxine 

Flowers and a note attached to a lamppost next to her regular spot outside Waitrose. Maxine has died, the handwritten note announces and expresses loss at her passing. 

A homeless woman who sat in the same spot most days for years. Maxine, she told me when we chatted the first time. I gave her bigger sums of money every few months and each time a brief chat. Other times a smile or wave of welcome. Often you get people sat on the step with her, not sure who was offering who support. 

A face that showed a tough life. She was probably younger than she looked. 

And now she won’t be at that spot any more. I hope it was s peaceful death. Easy to worry about homeless women in particular. She said she had finally got a flat some months ago and wasn’t seen for ages. We didn’t chat after that. I hope she did get her flat and found some peace there.

Farewell Maxine. 

Feeling foolish 

It’s not what you expect on a Friday evening on the way to a French ballet with a long time friend, to slip on the last step of the underground. Down I went. A half hearted show of concern by the man behind me. Somewhat dizzy, mostly embarrassed and surprised, I stood for a while.

First Aider,  Accident and Emergency, concerned husband, painkillers and crutches later I returned home. Foot up as instructed. Classy champagne cooler serving a new purpose. 

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