A new year without you

It’s been so long now that i’ve worked my life around visits to you, planned and suddenly needed that I wonder how 2018 will be without that. Dates booked for trains, painstakingly written down by you in your yellow diary – Susi arrives 12.56, Susi here, Susi leaves 14.55. Each time after writing them down you’d say “oh good”. They meant so much to us both. Your joy at my arrival as I called out at the door and your grumpiness the day I was to leave “I hate it when you go”. So scattered across the diary were these entries punctuated with medical appointments for all the different parts of your body that weren’t working so well and monthly Masons meetings. Your diary was consulted so regularly. Big black sometimes somewhat illegible script across its pages that had got bigger and bigger as your sight failed. I remember the search for the perfect pen. There was success at last.

Daily phone calls, sometimes many in a day when you were anxious, had lost something, couldn’t remember how to do something or just wanted another chat. Dad would come up on my phone. Will miss not seeing that on my phone in 2018.

i took at least one photo of you each visit, just in case it would be our last. So I look back now over the years since mum died and see hundreds of images of happy times shared with you out and about in Plymouth, the trips away to Chichester, Southwold, Norfolk, Surrey, Padstow, the moors and in your home. Each one captures a feeling, a conversation, a memory and they bring me comfort now.

Its only 4 days since you died but time has such a strange quality right now. Sometimes it feels like minutes since I got the call from Si and we shed tears for you, our Dad. Many tears since then, at unexpected moments, prompted by a thought, an image, a conversation, the gentle sympathy of friends. Tears on waking and remembering that never again will I watch you write those dates of my visits in your diary and break into a huge smile on my arrival. We have raised a glass to you often since Friday and shared happy memories of times with you. How you enjoyed a glass of red wine and company.

The love of a husband, friends and some family will see me through the days, weeks and months to come.

I am glad you left gently while sleeping with no pain and not alone. It’s all I wanted for you. I wouldn’t have wanted you to live on becoming less and less of who you were. So i’m grateful for that. It was time for you. You were so tired and had battled on so long despite your weakened heart. It’s just hard to start to get used to the idea of you not being there to visit, to have boiled eggs for breakfast with, to get your calls to help you find a lost pair of glasses, to laugh with, to read Edward Lear with, to hear you say you love me, to watch you snooze in the sunshine in your chair overlooking the harbour, to kiss goodnight, to say “ do you remember “ with.

It will continue to be a good life for me full of love and happiness with the many people that mean so much to me . I know this. But it will be a life without you there in the middle of it. Right now it’s hard to know how that will be as the weeks and months and years follow. A life without you. I just don’t know how that will be. What I do know is that right now I feel a huge sense of loss. My Dad.

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Photos 

Been distracting myself from the sadness of lost friends by taking photos and learning more about my new camera and the magical things I can do with it.

Farewell

Cancer and sepsis finally defeated you this morning Anne and we will miss you. Downstairs neighbour, friend of my John’s for some 35 years supporting him through key points in his life, a friend of mine since we first met some 6 years ago. 

You searched so many of your adult years for your mother – young catholic unmarried mum forced by the Catholic Church and her parents to give up you her first child. Year after year like all those other stories being heard now you searched for that mother. Records lost, records burnt, try next month/next year, sorry we can’t help you. The nuns and their church have so much pain to answer for. 

You had your own family but that gap gnawed away. At 65 you finally found your mum, but a year too late. She had died. Your joy at then tracking down a half sister, meeting with her and catching up on a lifetime you were excluded from. Heartbreakingly sad and happy. Your happiness at having family though was precious. I remember you showing me the photos on your phone from your trip over to Ireland to meet then the first time. 

10 years since initial diagnosis and you have had such a tough time. Throughout your smile, your infectious humour, your loving supportive relationships with others, your joy at the simple things in life, your enjoyment at securing a bargain. Such a warm person. You’ve been loved by many in your 68 years. 

I saw you just six days ago and it felt then your end was not far away. A shadow of your lovely self. 

Your husband John will struggle and I will do what I can to support him through these next days just as you would always do for others.

I shall miss you Anne. A beautiful sunny image of you from our wedding – so beautiful in your hat. Thank you for being our friend. 

They come in 3s

Packed train back to London 

Three things:

1. Man with outstandingly strong BO sits next to me and proceeds to slip his shoes off….. I sniff on my sugar free mint polos wishing I was anywhere else. 

2. Hen Party alights shortly after BO man appears. Full of high spirits and alcohol they continue their raucous celebrations all the way up to London. 

3. Older man gives 2 young Polish women in the seats behind me his best chat up lines ” are all the girls in Poland beautiful like you?” Etc etc etc… emboldened he then asks ” so how old do you think I am?”. The two young women confer and reach agreement. “46” they say confidently . In a much smaller voice the guy responds in a splutter of disappointment “but I’m only 37” … and aforementioned chat up grinds to a halt shortly after….

Friday evening train back to the capital. 

Getting nearer 

I was shocked to hear your voice this morning and then to see your face at the window as you threw down the key for me to let myself in. Just three weeks ago we had been walking in your favourite bit of Dartmoor, you, me and your Labrador. A stormy day, sky full of drama we strode out. We walked and talked, mostly you talking. A companionable walk, easy given how little we really know each other. You ran the local shop til the end of last year. Brief chats over years when I popped in to get the odd things for Dad. 

Your diagnosis of cancer some 14 months ago came with an estimated 6 to 18 months life expectancy. Bowel cancer caught just too late. So you went about settling your affairs, telling family and friends, selling the shop, sorting executors and wading through all the accumulated possessions of a lifetime, a lifetime of only 62 years. 

As the shop closed you gave me contact details so I did get in touch, to see how things were. Cups of coffee out at some different places, the opportunity for you to talk about things you couldn’t with family or close friends – like the music you want for your funeral. 

And one day you suggested a walk on the moors. So we did and it was lovely. I took photos of you with your dog, careful not to show how gaunt you already were by then. A man, his dog and one of his favourite walks.

Just three weeks later, some texts exchanged in between, I heard and saw you today. You’re now much closer to your end. Frail, gaunt, not able keep food down, trousers flapping held up by braces, your voice with much less power. We sat in your smoky flat and you talked about knowing “it’s the end game now” ( your words). In two weeks time you are planning to move to your sister’s to spend your final time being cared for by her. I hope to see you in 11 days time when I am back down but today it feels quite possible that I may not.

I feel so sad about the opportunities you won’t have, the life you won’t be able to lead and I feel sad for those who have loved you for so long – family and close long term friends. I will be sad at your passing. It’s been a pleasure though knowing you and an honour you felt able to talk with me about things you couldn’t with others. I hope that helped.

Go gently. 

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