My darling Nick
Remember when you proposed? I had just come round from surgery to remove all my lymph nodes, including the cancerous one, from my groin. The cot sides of the bed were up and I had 2 drainage tubes attached to my leg which were creeping out from under the covers displaying their attractive contents like golden beer. Oh and a catheter. Don’t forget that juicy little addition hanging off the other side of the bed. I may also have been on a drip – it all blurs a bit. Just like my brain at the time trying to cope with the effects of the anesthetic. So romantic! I remember you sitting next to me holding my hand as I tried to focus on your offer. Having both messed up our first marriages we’d already agreed we didn’t need a bit of paper. We knew we had committed to each other. We had Ellie and Harry to cement it. What could a marriage certificate give us that we didn’t already have? So your proposal came as a complete surprise. But I knew it was the right thing to do. We were in love. It was March. They couldn’t tell us if I would make it to see the summer roses bloom – I think that spurred you on to propose. For me, yes, I knew I wanted to be your wife but I also needed to know that my children would be safe. That you would have no legal trouble in swooping them up and caring for them if I didn’t make it through. I suppose that’s a mother’s love. The wedding was then planned in a rush for 2 months later; 19th May 2000. We found a hotel that could do the whole thing,– my mother was recovering from her own cancer treatment and yours was elderly.
We needed it to be easy for everyone to relax and stay put. NO fuss. Sadly, just the family were invited as it was too difficult to get everyone sorted at short notice but we had a big party later for everyone else.
I found a dress that covered my swollen leg and the huge bandage covering the wound with the MRSA I’d subsequently caught in hospital. Job done. Not too shabby for a quickie wedding. You scrub up very well.
This is my favourite picture of the day though. Harry wouldn’t behave and kept hiding under the trees when the photographer wanted to snap. You’d already had to hold him while taking your vows to stop him crying.
The girls had pretty much chosen their own dresses and the sun shone on us. It wasn’t just our mums who needed to pace themselves during the day. It was the longest I’d stayed awake in one go after my op.
We were blessed to have a second chance at happiness. Blessed that we found each other.
Narrowly as it turned out.
If you hadn’t come back from your round the world trip 2 days before the creative writing course began we would never have sat together in the adult education classroom. You told me later that you noticed me as soon as I walked in. I was blind to everyone else, in such a fluster having left a 10-month-old Jo at home. I was too busy congratulating myself that I had got there only five minutes late and without baby sick on my shoulder. It was another three years until you asked me to dinner. And even then I made you wait another two years until I extracted and sorted myself out from my marriage. You always were good at waiting for what you wanted.
We were blessed. Blessed that I made it through so that we could nurture the three wonderful young people we have been given. Not many are as lucky as us. And what fun we had together!
I’m trying to find the blessings in life now and not allow myself to be consumed by my grief. Sometimes it’s harder than I know how, but I always think of what you’d say if you were standing next to me. In your patient way you were always my back-up, giving me the strength to go for my dreams, keeping us charting a safe and steady path through life even when I wanted to rock the boat and stir us all up now and again. It’s only now you’ve gone that I realise just how much you had my back.
We fought our battles together.
Now this is my personal battle I have to fight on my own. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Far harder than all my previous bereavements. But I will find a way through.
I feel it is all unfair. Why me? Why us? But that can never be answered and it’s a stupid question really. I’ve decided it’s random and our number came up. There are just soooooo many of us out there struggling to get by and deal with life without loved ones. So many not knowing how to make it through the day;trying to find distraction until the fog clears a little. I know I’ll never be the same again and you will always be part of me. I exist in two lives now. The surface one when I don’t think about you. This is the one that gets me through the day. Then there is the real one underneath. It isn’t tucked too far below and I can usually choose not to touch it by refusing to let you in. But sometimes you overwhelm me and bleed into my day causing me to stop, instantly remembering what I have lost. Then the tears flow and the stab to the heart causes me to involuntary gasp. It’s not always convenient to cry. The woman at the supermarket checkout won’t understand that the almond magnums on the shopping belt were our favourite and I’m eating them alone now, not sharing them with you. And walking down the street its difficult not to let my eyes well up when I smell your aftershave on someone else. Anything I know I have to get through I can prepare myself for. It’s the triggers that sneak up that make it hard to hold everything together.
When we had the ‘conversation’ with the hospice about your last wishes, remember when we were alone afterwards I said ‘tell me what you want now and then we won’t speak of it again but concentrate on living.’ I asked you where you wanted to be buried. You looked me straight in the eye and said ‘as long as it’s with you I don’t care.’ You showed me not only how to live but also how to cope with dying. You never once said ‘why me?’ Instead you said ‘Look what we’ve had together. We’ve been so fortunate.’
So ‘happy anniversary’ darling man.
I miss you every day. From the moment I open my eyes and look across at your empty pillow, to the moment they close and I’m grateful to have made it through. Thank you with all my heart for the magic of the years we had.
I was one lucky woman.
You are with me now and always will be.
All my love