The Empty Nest – Two years and counting…

Dearest Nick

I’ve tried writing this many times. My attempts have ranged from the rational to the ravings of a mad woman, depending on my mood. The overriding sentence is; –

‘How can it be two years since you died?!!!’

When that happened on 5th September 2017 at 4.44 am, it broke me. The first year I was in shock, now the harsh reality of my situation is beginning to hit. Learning to go from two to one is difficult. I have done many things to pass the time and distract myself these last 2 years. I have travelled… boy, have I travelled. It gave me respite from my grief. Yes, I took it with me, but it felt lighter somehow. It isn’t a permanent solution though.

 

IMG_3005 IMG_2460 IMG_E3193 img_7093.jpg IMG_6223 Amster

I know I can’t leave this house yet because it would feel like I was leaving you behind. Being at home you’re still in every room but maybe I can’t move forward until I do leave it? I don’t know what I want to happen. But this new life I’m trying to carve out for myself feels false and wrong. I look at pictures of you and I still can’t believe I’ll never see you again. I know this may seem like the ravings of a lunatic to some but believe me, you have no idea what this is like until you are in it yourself. I do feel like a lunatic sometimes. I don’t have a grip on reality. I go through the day in a dream world. Nothing is like it used to be. Everything is tinged with sadness. It isn’t the life I knew. Half of me has been ripped away, I’m still sliced apart, my heart still shattered into millions of pieces.

100_1500 (2)

What is the point of going on about it? It can’t be changed. The result I want will never be. I must come to terms somehow with the fact that this is now my new life and I must live the rest of my days without you. I, and my children have lost the steadfast, beloved man we all relied on. You were always there with calm practical words to ease us through life’s traumas, share our successes and support us. Now you have gone.

 

Nick on the ferry

When I had my cancer, back in 2000, lying in my hospital bed, I planned my funeral. Songs I wanted to be played took on a new significance as I listened to the words carefully. Harry was only eighteen months old, Ellie, four and Jo, ten. Obviously, I didn’t want to die, but I felt it was out of my hands if the cancer had already spread. My deepest sadness was that they were too young to remember the kind of person I was. It’s all very well being talked about when you’ve gone, but they wouldn’t remember my perfume or how I held them and sung them to sleep. Being a teacher, I knew those early years are fundamental in shaping a person’s character. I wouldn’t be there with my unconditional love to cocoon them through life’s trials. I took to covering their faces with kisses, telling them that even though they couldn’t see them, a mother’s kisses can never be washed off.

Now I’m so glad the kids were older and knew the kind of man you were before they lost you. You were a shining example of what a father should be, and I know they will take that with them into their future. I see your kind nature in the way they treat other people. I can spot Harry in the distance on the cricket field because he stands just like you did. Ellie has your love of cooking and helps me in the garden. You have left part of yourself in them and I’m so grateful for that. But I am sad because Ellie won’t have her father to give her away if she gets married. I’m sad because you won’t be at Harry’s graduation. I’m sad because you’re not here to see the wonderful people the three of them have become. I’m sad for all our lost dreams and plans. I’m sad for all the big times in our lives you won’t be there to share in. When we have family events they are always tinged with sorrow because you are missing and that will always be. But we will still have these family events and we will just have to find a way to get through them.

IMG_7106

Harry was 21 this year.

I looked over my blog post from a year ago and much of it still resonates today. I am still lost.  I still feel as though I’m standing in front of a huge black void, toes curled over the edge wanting to find my way across but not knowing how, but I’ve learnt I mustn’t try and force order. My life will evolve. I am not in control but there again, I probably never was. But I didn’t notice. I still struggle with social occasions. One of the hardest is when I am with, or see, pictures of people we would have been with as a couple. I replay in my mind how different things would have been if you were still here. But that is like torturing myself or picking at a scab, so it doesn’t heal. It’s finding that balance between remembering you and not allowing those memories to stab me in the heart each time I must find.

Italy

On holiday in Italy. Breakfast is my favourite meal and what a place to have breakfast!

 

So, two years on…Harry has finished at Uni – it has taken a lot of courage to continue with his studies and be away from home, but he has dug deep. Ellie is carving out a career in marketing and Jo has changed direction, retrained as a yoga teacher and masseur and is finding a new life/ work balance. You would be so proud of them and what they have achieved since you left. It hasn’t been easy, but we are a strong team and somehow when one of us is struggling ,there has always been another feeling strong, to offer words of comfort.IMG_3289

 

I’ve started writing a new novel. It’s about two women – one older, one a teenager both searching for the same thing: friendship, self-direction and unconditional love.

Everyone loses direction – sometimes someone unexpected can show you the way.

I know I can’t write myself better, but it does help while I’m doing it.

I’ve taken a part time job, working in our local village shop. It has made me get out in the world and engage with people again. I go in as ‘shop girl’ and can cope. Only a couple of times my worlds have collided causing you to rise to the surface and me to crumble in tears.

T at shop

 

And I’ve bought a little joy into the family.

IMG_7355

 

IMG_7337

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The house is empty without a dog so let me introduce you to Dill. I think I’ve already lost the rule about being on the sofas!

So another year has gone by without you. My days are still a mixture, but I continue to get up each morning and face what comes, and that is the best I can do for now.

 

All my love, always

Teresa x

IMG_5292

Advertisements
Posted in Home Blog, The Empty Nest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Empty Nest – Now We Are Sixty

This blog post is all about me. Well, as it’s my ‘big’ birthday today, I feel I can be indulgent. It’s bloody amazing I’ve made it! So I thought I’d give you a potted account of my life so far. Warts and all. (And there’s plenty of warts, believe me.) I make no apology for the dodgy hairdos.

IMG_6499

Remember those ruched costumes? Height of fashion!

I was born 11/4/1959, number 5 of 6 children, and no, we weren’t Catholic. I never knew why people would ask me that as I was growing up, and would innocently answer, ‘No, Church of England’ hoping this explained everything.

IMG_6496

Here I am at nursery. I’ve always loved colouring in. In fact, I loved school. My best friend at primary school was Sally Baker, who lived down the road and until she became best friends with Janice Brewer, my life was pretty wonderful. Well, maybe there was a slight blip in year 5 when I was involved in a car crash, but seeing as the rumour spread at school that I sustained my injuries saving a runaway pram from being crushed (falsely, I must now confess), life continued in a blissful round of Brownies, netball and making obstacle courses around the garden with my sister Deborah. (We always ended it, after shimmying through the legs of the green, garden seat, with a somersault into the paddling pool.) I’ve always loved books and stories. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer ‘a fairy, with wings.’  My mum indulged me by stroking my back and telling me that my shoulders blades were the beginnings of my wings growing. For many years I believed her.

IMG_6502

I was very proud of that jacket as I knitted it myself.

My early teenage years were tortuous. Just as they should be.  Again, I loved school but as I soon became distracted with the opposite sex, perhaps I didn’t pay as much attention to my studies as I should have done. At 17, I fell in love with a sound engineer. Luckily, my mum was very relaxed by the time it came to parenting me and allowed me to go to California with him in my gap year, returning in time to retake an ‘A’ level which subsequently got me to University. In the meantime, I experienced my first flight in first class to Paris, paid for by Roxy Music, attended their parties at The Sanctuary, Covent Garden and travelled around Europe at a moment’s notice wherever they were on tour, (but that’s a completely different story). Heady stuff for an 17 yr old.

IMG_6507

A perm was so in vogue

By 21, I’d had my heart well and truly broken. I graduated and took my first teaching job and by the time I was 30 had bought my own home, given up teaching to fly as cabin crew, long haul for BA, got married and subsequently gone back to teaching.

IMG_6505

At University

My 30’s were a mixture of extreme highs and lows. I had my daughter Joanna, separated from her father, met and fell in love with Nick, divorced, had my second daughter Ellie and then at 39, my son, Harry. I started my Sugaring business (torture, masquerading as hair removal) working from home. Crazy times often hanging on by my boot straps, but those three children are the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

IMG_6504

The bigger the sunglasses the better.

My 40’s (and the millennium – so full of promise!) was dominated by illness and bereavement. I had cancer, my mum died of cancer, I lost my sister and sister-in-law to cancer, and one of my best friends from secondary school was wiped out with her husband and son in the Asian Tsunami. I underwent a five-year, drug trial which involved being injected in the groin and under the arms fortnightly, but there were some highs. Nick and I got married and with the kids, relocated to the country and embarked on our rural idyll.

img_3241.jpg

My 50’s seemed to start well. I had amazing birthday celebrations. Sadly, I lost my father early on but otherwise, life pottered along nicely. I started my online home accessories business and then,

IMG_0024

I loved my 50th birthday party.

after much deliberation, Nick and I started our own company, working together (a testament to any marriage) and we were chugging along towards plans of long weekends, ‘us’ time now the kids were moving on and finally retirement. Mmmmmm… silly me. Not to be. My brother became ill and subsequently passed away, my brother -in-law became ill and passed away, both with cancer. Then only 2 months after that, and those of you who have been following my posts will know, Nick was diagnosed with renal cancer, and passed away within 6 months.

img_0763.jpg

Mother’s Day 2017

So, you can see, I nearly made it to 60 with my heart intact. I nearly made it to 60 with (perhaps) life’s usual trials and tribulations, but not quite. But the fact I have made it to 60 is a thing to rejoice and to be celebrated. So many people I loved dearly, didn’t make it. So, doesn’t that mean I must rejoice in my good fortune?

I don’t know what my 60’s are going to bring. I don’t want to know. All I hope is that it is better than what I’ve been through recently. That somehow I will come out of this void, find a little bit of fun and perhaps a sprinkling of fairy dust for good measure.

TFHK6604

At Dream Beach on my recent trip to Bali.

I can always hope.

Teresa x

Posted in Home Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Empty Nest – Happy Birthday- again.

Happy birthday, Nick!

IMG_5292

It’s strange learning to go from two to one. If you’ve always been single it must seem like a doddle and what am I harping on about? But if you’ve always been two – and working from home our daily lives revolved around each other – being one is hard. Don’t get me wrong, I need my space and like my own company, but even as two we managed to give each other that.

15368_212637958302_506498302_3255287_4252378_n - Copy I’m learning and adapting.

IMG_2465 - Copy

Doesn’t mean I like it, but I’m getting used to it. Luckily, because I am blessed with such caring people around me, there haven’t been many occasions when I have been on my own. If they haven’t been living here, the family are always popping down.  But the times of ‘oneness’ are becoming more frequent. It’s certainly made me think more of others in the same situation.

When I wrote The Bereavement Club after losing some people very close to me back in 2005, it said what I was feeling at the time. I had no idea there was a deeper layer of grief I hadn’t even touched on.

With the help of our gorgeous gardener, we have planned and planted (she was the one getting her hands dirty, of course) a redesign of the Garden of Remembrance at the church where you lie. I’ve sorted your tablet and hopefully you will eventually be surrounded with snowdrops and alliums, agapanthus, verbena and hellebores, amongst others…and a large dollop of rosemary for remembrance.

IMG_5295

I’ve been writing again. I went back to Canada with a deadline in mind to finish my middle-grade adventure manuscript. Other writers will understand the feeling when you write, The End. Yes, there’s always rewrites to do but at least, instead of procrastination, I now have words to juggle with.

IMG_5012

We went away for your first anniversary to Majorca. It was a good break in the beautiful old town of Pollenca. All cobbled streets and sunshine. It was strange you not being with us. We’ve never been away as a family without you. You always did the driving, took charge and managed us. Of course, we coped, but your absence around the table was huge. We missed you so much.

IMG_4832 (2).JPG

Only 2 years ago I wrote this about our weekend in Amsterdam. How I was getting stressed about getting ready for Christmas. How petty all that stress seems now. It’s the simple things that are the hardest. Writing four names on birthday cards is difficult enough, I have to take a moment to physically stop the pen from forming your name. So, writing numerous numbers of Christmas cards, would be like banging it into my head again, and again, and again. So I’ve cancelled Christmas again this year. I’m sure in time I will come round and look for ways to enjoy it. But for now I can’t face it. It was such a big, happy part of our lives.

Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016 – our last with Nick and his brother David.

People say I’m doing well. I don’t know what that means. What is it judged against? Is it because I haven’t spent the last 15 months under my duvet, but made myself get up each day and engage with the world? Albeit on my own terms, but even on the mornings when I have that split second, cocooned in my dreams of our old life before I open my eyes and face reality, I endeavour to eventually haul myself out of my pit and push back the curtains.

Is it because I haven’t succumbed to depression? I know I’m not depressed – I’m deeply sad. I feel my emotions have plateaued. Everything is just ‘ok.’ Maybe that is what life is for some anyway? But it wasn’t for me in my old life. Life was good, with highs and lows. Yes, I still find things funny and laugh at things, but nothing seems to touch my soul anymore, giving those rushes of elation.

Is it because I don’t burst into tears at the drop of a hat so much anymore? Mostly I can live in my superficial world. I still well up at music or memories that spring into my mind at the weirdest of times, but usually I just glaze over and feel disconnected a lot of the time.

It seems there are two choices to me; give in and become a burden on your loved ones or keep going and get through, any way you can.

IMG_4874

These three are my reason to get up each morning.

I feel as though this is all a story belonging to someone else. I look at photos of our old life and can’t believe it’s gone. It feels as though you are just out; visiting a site, down the pub with the boys or …anything… but gone for ever. But I have to look at the positives if I want to live, not merely exist – what I have got, not what I haven’t.  I am blessed with three wonderful children, whose love, resolve and courage are astounding; a loving family doing whatever they can to help and, supportive friends, who have stuck by me in my darkest moments, even when I have been selfish. I have a beautiful home in a stunning place with the most amazing views to wake up to. Not so many people are this lucky. I must just keep going.

So, happy 58th birthday, my darling.

IMG_0215

Messing about on our last holiday, January 2017.

All my love, always

Teresa x

PS. I don’t feel I have much joy to spread but as I’m not a completely, heartless Grinch, I wish everyone reading this a Happy Christmas and healthy New Year.

Posted in Home Blog, The Empty Nest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Empty Nest – The Bereavement Club

Until you’ve joined the Bereavement Club you have no idea what it feels like. You can never change your mind, put it off for another day or revoke your membership. No words I’ve ever read come anywhere near expressing the pain and heartache that paralyses you when you lose a beloved. It’s a myth that time heals, it doesn’t, it just numbs. The all consuming, intense pain of the first few months diminishes so that you can exist on a day to day basis, but life sends reminders to catch you unawares causing that pain to spring out of its box.

With so many terrible events happening in the world, it seems our emotions are wrung out to dry on a daily basis as we are confronted with a regular dose of exposure to suffering. But like a movie rolling before our eyes it is difficult to comprehend the suffering involved with each disaster. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the seemingly regular news about attackers or accidents causing fatal injuries, each remind us that someone else is joining the club, but even then it doesn’t touch our lives unless you have a loved one caught up in these traumas.

Before we had immediate access to national and international events, there was an element of shelter from such mass trauma. Unless you were bought up in the countryside, death didn’t enter your daily life. The first person I was aware of dying was my grandfather when I was seven, but even he was hidden from me when he quietly died in hospital. My mother told me one morning whilst I was eating my Weetabix that he wouldn’t be coming out of hospital and then nothing more was said about it in my earshot. I wasn’t even present at the funeral as I was sent to play with a friend.

When my mother died in 2001 from cancer, even though her last few weeks had been nursed in a sunshine yellow room in my home, I in turn, protected my two and four-year olds from the sadness of their grandmother’s funeral by sending them to play with a friend for the day. Perhaps it was more from my own selfishness? I knew I would be inconsolable during the day and didn’t want them to see their oh-so-in-control-mother reduced to a sobbing heap. Was that the right thing to do? I still don’t know, but when my sister died after a short illness, again from cancer two years later, I decided that they couldn’t be sheltered for ever from this natural part of life and I was doing them more harm than good by pretending it wasn’t upsetting. How, when they’d been aware of my four-day vigil by her bedside whilst she struggled for life in Intensive Care, and watched as I collapsed yet again in a heap after her demise, could I pretend that this major life event was anything but devastating?

As the subsequent years pass learning to cope with your membership to the Bereavement Club is difficult.  The triggers sneak up on you any time any place, like assassins ready to make you crumble. For me it’s especially times alone; driving the car or those few, quiet moments of reflection late at night before sleep takes you to its haven. But it doesn’t have to be only then; days when I feel in full control up beat and raring to go, a dagger can still pierce my heart by the sound of a few significant bars of a tune, sight of something beautiful or an associative scent. Sometimes I think I’m really brave able to mention their name and talk about them, but I have to keep my thoughts at a distance, not connecting with my heart. I know that death is part of life and makes the circle complete; it’s said that if we hadn’t loved the deceased so dearly it wouldn’t hurt so much and that we have to have one to have the other, but no matter how hard I try these words sound empty and meaningless.

When my closest friend since gymslip days was whipped so swiftly and unexpectedly off the face of this earth in the 2004 Asian Tsunami, my children cried with me, probably more from the pain of seeing my raw grief, but I was weak enough with this third death of a beloved, to have lost my mothering, protective instinct. Why shouldn’t they see me cry? I wish I could have wailed and beat my breast it hurt so much.

Getting through the first year for each of them was the worst. It was hard not to negatively think back with a ‘this time last year she was still alive’ approach which doesn’t help at all. And the looming anniversary only serves to make the whole loss seem so final again. Eventually I learnt that distraction worked for me. The first anniversary after my mother died, my sisters and I blew the little bit of money she left us and took our families off to Disneyland Paris, staying in the most expensive hotel we could afford. My mother would have loved the fact that we were all together having a fabulous time at her expense. It didn’t stop our tears, but at least we were crying together and remembering her in a positive way.

Many people can’t or don’t want to talk to you when they know you’ve been recently bereaved. Or they expect you, after what they consider to be a reasonable amount of time, to have got over it and moved on.  Often kindness can be the thing that causes your fragile defenses to break down, but I began not to care whether my eyes welled up whilst talking to someone – I wasn’t ashamed of my tears, it was their problem, not mine. I’ve found those who chose the head-in–the-sand approach to be more hurtful by not mentioning it.  It is really only fellow members of the Club who are likely to understand the down days and remember to treat others with empathy around anniversaries.

Given time, I’ve learnt to live with my three angels. I still laugh, cry and live my life but it’s the pain of not sharing it with them that is so hard to bear. It is inevitable that we will all join the Bereavement Club at some stage in our lives; I just hope your membership comes to you as late as possible.

Posted in Home Blog, The Empty Nest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Empty Nest – A year has passed…

Dearest Nick

So we’ve made it through our first year without you. How can that be? How can I not have spoken to you for 365 days? Not heard your voice, kissed your cheek or seen you smile? How did we even manage to get to this point? Too many questions…and never the answers.

WP_20150613_008 (2)

Nick on holiday in Italy

This last year has passed in a blur. We are all still numb and I still cannot believe how dramatically my life has changed. Only those who have been through this kind of trauma will understand what it feels like. Even with my previous bereavements, I had no idea when I offered platitudes to grieving friends just what they were possibly coping with. You can’t until it happens to you.

I’ve always tried to find the positive in life. Always tried to find humour. Even when things have been dark… and there have been many dark days in my life…but losing you has completely floored me. I have had to dig so deep. I have become a person I don’t recognise. I still have all the initial feelings of numbness and disbelief. I still live on two different levels – the daily superficial one and the real one tucked below. Time is supposed to heal. But I’ve learnt there is no limit to how long it can take to find your equilibrium again. There is no magic switch or formula that will get you to where you want to be. It is literally a day-by-day process. Some days are easier than others, but all have a cloak of sadness over them. The cloak does lift occasionally for you to take a break but soon envelopes you again in its familiar fold.

Kitley Lodge Pencil From London to Lewes 1

I’ve learnt this year our home is not our sanctuary. Yes, it’s comforting and familiar, but you are around every corner. Still in the kitchen when I make my morning tea or standing beside me when I brush my teeth and stare in the mirror moaning that I am looking (and feeling) old that day. You would pause in your brushing, grin at me and say, ‘ me too, but at least we’re doing it together.’ Now you won’t get any older. I will be doing it on my own.

IMG_1314

Nick wanted to do more sailing. This was on holiday in Turkey.

I’ve found I have to go away regularly for my own sanity to take off the cloak of grief that pervades in the very walls of the house. If not, I sink deeper and deeper until I can’t see the sun through the cloud. When I’m in a different environment I feel a bit lighter. We’ve all found this so are making sure we don’t get sucked in too deeply. Luckily we recognise it now so can take steps to get away for a while so we have the strength to come back to the house and live a little before the sadness covers us again.

Reflecting on the last year I was feeling that baby steps were being made. I had made some decisions. I’ve collected your ashes from the funeral directors. Harry came with me and carried you home. You sat on the dresser for a while. I have part of you in a scatter tube so that we can take you to the mountains when we feel able. I also have a small muslin bag with a tiny part of you ( I like to think it’s mostly your heart and I keep it under my pillow) which we want to put into pieces of jewelry, and I know some may not understand this but, I want another tattoo. They can mix a little of the ashes into the ink. I thought a sweetpea would be suitable. That way you will always be with me. But now the main part of you lies in Laughton churchyard in the Garden of Remembrance. I’ve booked a double spot so that you can wait there until it’s my turn to join you. Thinking about my own death doesn’t bother me at all anymore. Not that it did before but now it has become more of a reality. Conversations about your last wishes are so hard to have with your loved ones at any time but so much easier when you are fit and well.  I couldn’t equate pouring your ashes into the earth with it being you anyway.

IMG_4781

All Saints Church, Laughton

We have achieved a lot this past year. You would be so proud of the kids. Jo is changing career direction and doing something that makes her happy. Ellie managed to complete her chalet season in France and now has a new career to start in London and Harry got through his second year at Uni, passing his exams well. All these steps have taken courage. They have dug deep and made themselves keep going even though many days they didn’t want to.

IMG_3295

Jo, Harry and Ellie all dressed up for their cousin’s wedding.

And me? I’m still lost. We were a partnership. You were the anchor that kept me grounded.  Now I am adrift. You were the reassuring presence for us all. We both took on different roles within the family and now I have to cover them all.  I don’t know what to do with my life. I am still sorting the company out.  Still grateful to family and friends for propping me up. I take each day as it comes. Some are ok, some are shit but I am determined to struggle out of my pit each morning and draw back the curtains to see what the day brings. I began to detach my ears from my shoulders, not waiting so much for something to hit me all the time, when only a week ago we had a huge knock back when we had to say goodbye to Bisou. Your dog. 

Just a dog some might think. But this was a special dog. One we hand reared and bottle fed from 10 days old. One who thought we were her pack. One who was so pleased to see us when we came home we’d have to say hello outside in case she peed herself in her excitement. One who never tired of chasing balls. It was sudden and unexpected, and it brought back our deep feelings of the life we have lost.

I found this recently

IMG_4752

It really resonated with me. Friends tell me it’s still early days, that I must be kind to myself. I just know that I must take a day at a time because each day I feel different. I still feel as though I’m standing in front of a huge black void, toes curled over the edge wanting to find my way across but not knowing how. Perhaps as time goes on a path will become clearer and I will find my way to the other side without realising. I do hope so.

Meanwhile we have to start a new year. A year where I can’t think back and say ‘this time last year you were still with us.’

all smile retouched copy - Copy

One of my favourite photos of us all, we were laughing at Bisou

Now I have to ‘make a life’. I will always miss you and you will always be part of me.

Perhaps this new life will be terrific, who knows…

…but I do know it will most certainly never be the same.

all my love

Teresa x

IMG_4770

Posted in Home Blog, The Empty Nest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Empty Nest -A letter to my love on our anniversary.

My darling Nick

Happy anniversary!

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.

IMG_3243

My mum and Ellie having fun on our wedding day

 

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.

IMG_3238

 

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.

IMG_3235

Harry doing his own thing in the background…

 

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.

IMG_3239

Harry preferring to hide behind the trees

 

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! 

IMG_0830 (5)

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.

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.

IMG_3299

All dressed up and ready to go to a wedding – April 18

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.

IMG_0876 (3)

Nick in Lyme Regis, a month before his operation.

 

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. 

copy 1

In Lyme Regis – May 2017.

You are with me now and always will be.

All my love

Teresa x

 

 

Posted in Home Blog, The Empty Nest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Empty Nest – Birthdays are a Bonus

My darling Nick

So it’s my birthday today. The first one without you for 25 years. We’ve had a few momentous ones… remember my 41st? That was the day we learnt about my cancer results. And this day last year we had an appointment with the oncologist to learn about your treatment. I remember seeing your right kidney on the scan and the consultant calmly saying you were a young, fit man so after recovery from the operation to remove it you would embark on the inhibitor drugs, as though he were discussing a cold.

‘Should we stop work?’ we asked ‘and dissolve the company?’  No, life would continue in some form. You would be able to work – possibly for years as long as the pills held the cancer at bay. I even had a holiday to Cornwall booked six weeks after the surgery. The specialist nurse said I wasn’t being silly, she thought it would be ok to go by then. I bought a special sun lounger so you could stretch out and recuperate. There was decking at the holiday cottage that looked over the beach where I thought you could while away the time watching the surfers battling the waves.

How did we get it so wrong?

It’s hard not to look at my diary and relive how the events of last year played out.

On my recent road trip, after Canada, we went to Barbados. Yeah, I know, awesome. And it was. I was amazed how healing the feel of sun on your skin could be. Swapping my winter boots for flip flops as we came into land was so removed from my life in England I felt as though I was in a dream world.

IMG_2460

Barbados is a beautiful place. My trip helped enormously. I came back a little stronger. I’ve been in hibernation. I feel as though I’m emerging from a deep sleep. But I am getting up each day.

IMG_2399

 

I’m still in a dream world. This life is not my life. I don’t know what my life will be like yet. There are too many decisions I have to make and I find making decisions difficult at the moment. I am lost. I have to find a new career and I don’t know which direction to go in. But I’m beginning to change things because I can’t live the life I had.

You. Are. Not. In. It.

So I’ve sold your car, and mine, and bought another that makes me happy. It is big and bold and called Idris. I can see you raise your eyebrows, but you would  approve even though it is a little outrageous, because I know you’d want me to be happy.

I’m going blonde. Only gradually, but I can’t be the old me and it is supposed to be fun. Fun is what I’d like.

IMG_2477

I’ve moved the office. I can no longer sit in a room which is so full of your presence. I now look out over the garden; the sunlight can stream in and the view is invigorating.

InstagramCapture_9d9ea9e1-4408-44f5-a0a6-144fd5530ef8

I have started playing tennis again. Only in small doses but it’s a start. I just have to learn to cope with the pity in people’s eyes when they see me for the first time. I’m not responsible for their emotions but sometimes it feels as though I have to take charge of the situation as they are waiting for my reaction.

These are all superficial things. They don’t detract from the fact that my life has changed beyond comprehension but in a small way they help.

But I can’t change some things. I can’t tackle your clothes yet. I still need to bury my head amongst your shirts and take a deep breath. You still linger there.

I still don’t sleep well but I have discovered Audible. It is comforting to listen to a story in the quiet of the night especially if it is the gravelly, grandpa voice of Laurie Lee reading Cider with Rosie.

I still haven’t collected you from the funeral directors. I feel bad about that but I think it’s because if I do it will make it real. How can you be in a small box? You’re here with me in the kitchen standing at the island chopping veg, or in the garden shed potting up sweetpeas as I bring you a beer, or pondering the cryptic crossword, pen in your mouth, glasses resting on your head.img_6773.jpg

My birthday is just one of many ‘firsts’ we have to get through. Our wedding anniversary is coming up next month. I wanted more.

And more.

And more.

But I can’t have any more.

I have to be content with the magic I had. This is a journey I was unprepared for and never wanted to take but as today is my birthday and every one of those is a bonus, I must make the most of it…

All my love

Teresa x

 

Posted in Home Blog, The Empty Nest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment