When the memory becomes hazy with the passing years, photographs can come to the rescue. An August Friday back in 2015 and the photos bring the memories flooding back as if yesterday. I had forgotten the trip to Bern Zoo on what proved to be our last full day in Switzerland as a family of three. The moon appearing over The Alps accompanied by an old Street Organ playing just in front of the hotel balcony window. Exactly one year later Hawklad’s mum was in a hospice and life was changing.
No more words needed, will let the photos do the rest.
76 MONTHS. This PUP was born in the week Hawklad’s mum passed away. Isn’t that a sobering thought. Why does 76 months sound so much longer than 6 and a bit years.
Stuff has changed in those 76 months, yet other stuff is still the same. Still walking these same muddy tracks. Still trying to figure out the parenting gig. Still trying to juggle things while still trying to pay the bills. Still spending far too much time having conversations with myself. Still not get enough sleep. Still fighting the school system. Still getting post addressed to Hawklad’s mum. Still getting those feelings of guilt. Still getting those pangs of anger. Still feeling like life is on hold.
But yes, some stuff changed. 74 months ago a Mad Pup walked in and that is just about the best decision I made in those 76 months.
Those of a certain age like me think ‘Tiger Feet’ when MUD is mentioned.
Apparently our area is still under a DROUGHT order and we are banned from using hosepipes. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
How is it possible to lose stuff in a small bungalow. Only so many places to look and still things go missing. Maybe one day I might stumble across a goldmine of lost treasures. This time I was looking for some of mum’s cds. Now that would be a musical goldmine. Sinatra, Martin, Cash, Crosby, Davis Jnr. Where had I stored them in this small bungalow back in 2016. Absolutely no sign of them but I did come across my partners cd’s, quietly collecting dust in one hardly visited corner of this little old building. More music untouched since 2016.
Back 6 years ago those cd’s were far too painful to touch. Today I thumbed through them, without pain.
With TIME things can change.
Going through these cd’s one thought kept crossing my mind. Wow she had some appalling tastes in music, well at least to an old headbanger like me. Yes there where one or two gems but wow, so much nameless dance club music. I had forgotten just how little our musical likes ever coincided.
With zero chance of most of these cds ever getting played, a decision was made to relocate them to the attic until I can get them to the charity shop.
CDs should be played and not just sit there collecting dust.
‘And not just sit there collecting dust’, thinking about it, you can apply those words to people as well. I should remember that.
You think you have it cracked and then your nice clean shoes land in the muddiest of puddles.
I was shopping today and I came across a special offer on Jam Donuts. I immediately grabbed a box and thought ‘Mum will be pleased, shall I get her a second box”. Mum loved these and she most definitely loved a special offer. But then the realisation. She is not here anymore, she hasn’t been since 2016.
Definitely one of those unexpected muddy puddles.
Then another muddy puddle.
A few hours later I saw a trailer for ‘A Wonderful Life’, it was on the TV soon. I headed towards my mobile to phone mum. She loved that movie. Then the realisation. She isn’t here anymore.
Stepped in another muddy puddle.
Those muddy puddles seem muddiest during holiday or special occasion time. Maybe you get more muddy puddles to step in. Yes times like Christmas do have a habit of throwing those curve balls, most definitely when your on the grief journey.
If you do stand in one of those muddy puddles, your not alone. We can do this.
Just a few paces from here is one of the places we have been thinking would be a nice place to scatter some of Hawklad’s mums ashes. His mum loved to walk here. However the area is becoming increasingly wet as the years pass by. The landscape is definitely changing. We might need to rethink the plans.
The first proper autumnal fog, the first of many….
I was looking at an online social media chat about Bereavement ….. well it beats watching my team try to play football. The chat was all about the recent UK State Funeral and how it had triggered emotions in many about their own personal losses. It is hard to watch a funeral and not be reminded of matters much closer to hand. I must admit as I watched the Funeral, one thought really struck me. How on earth do you grieve in front of millions, I couldn’t do it in front 40 people.
Two funerals in 6 weeks and I didn’t grieve at either of them. Focused on an 8 year old and trying to process far too many thoughts. I’m not that sure I took any of the funerals in. I can’t remember anything that was said. Can’t remember the music. Can’t remember that much at all. I can remember my brother whispering something in my ear that brought a half smile. I can remember standing with Hawklad looking at a fishpond after his mums funeral. That’s about it. Just felt like it was about waiting for them to be over.
It does feel so strange that I took far more in for a woman I had never met than I ever did for either of my mum or partner. I sometimes wish I had a video of both Funerals so I could experience them, hear what was said. Feel a part of them after 6 years.
Back to the online chat, the consensus was very similar. Mostly funerals are an ordeal, to organise, to sit through. Often the grieving can only really start when you have the funeral behind you. That definitely was my experience, it felt like it was months and months later before I started. This may sound crazy but until that point I was hurting but I wasn’t grieving. I wasn’t really accepting the reality, wasn’t ready to let go. Maybe if I had let the Funerals in more, maybe I would have been more receptive to grieving.
The fog of life might have started to clear much sooner.
Sadly we haven’t seen too many of these visitors this year. Add that to the almost complete lack of Bees 🐝. Only a few years back our garden was mobbed by garden visitors but not anymore. Very worrying.
A few weeks back we had a day in the garden and we counted insects for a wildlife survey. You count the highest number of insects at any one time and the best we found was
2 Butterflies in the garden at any one time
0 Bees… ZERO, ZIP, we never saw one all day long
We have been doing this local survey for a few years now. The first time we did the survey, was before Covid, before a Trump President thing, we had the following scores
16 Butterflies at one time
14 Bees at one time
Not good, not good at all.
Sadly something which isn’t missing is the use of the death of a family member in TV and Movies, for dramatic effect. Fine, if it’s a drama movie but Kids stuff….. Two nights ago Hawklad was watching a random Disney type movie and without any warning the mum died. I could see the sadness in his eyes. Then today he’s watching a cartoon and guess what, the mum dies. He turned the TV off and went outside.
At least give some warning if the show is aimed at a young audience. Grief is tough enough without the likes of Disney adding to it.
A few minutes later, Hawklad came back in and quietly said “I’m probably going to stick to Tom & Jerry from now on”. I really can’t disagree with him on this one.
Another one of the annual milestones is close by. I can’t believe so many years have passed.
Loss in whatever form is a part of life. That message is hard to accept at times, it definitely was for me. But when the time is right you can start to see that, eventually I started to appreciate that.
Loss never LEAVES you but it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep living,
It might well be a different life with some doors now closed but when the time is right, there are new doors waiting to be opened. It still can be a wonderful life, one you value even more because loss never LEAVES you.
“Dad at mum’s funeral, why did we sit nearly at the back of the church”.
Nearly six years have passed and I had forgotten that I had chosen to do that. Back in 2016, I wasn’t thinking straight. Two closest of deaths within 6 weeks had taking its toll. I wasn’t sleeping, I was lost, I was trying to sort out my mums affairs and house, trying to sort out my partners affairs and funeral, I was trying to be a single parent. When I needed to be at my best, I was a mess. So that was the first thing I replied to Hawklad.
You know I’m a bit of a muppet at the best of times, imagine how much of a muppet I could be at the worst of times……
He knows me so he completely understood that.
I wanted to protect Hawklad. A small, low key funeral had morphed into something much larger. My partners family and sisters needed something different to me. Many more people. Many more strangers for Hawklad to deal with. He was just starting his Aspergers journey and stranger’s eyes could really bother him.
I thought being at the back of the church would mean you wouldn’t feel like you had lots of strangers looking at you……..more space as well.
“Dad wouldn’t they just turn round and look at me…”
I know, I didn’t really think that one through.
The church only had one exit which was at the back. If you needed to get out quickly then we would have had to walk along the aisle past all the mourners.
I thought it would have been easier to get out from the back.
“Easier for me Dad”.
Easier for both of us. Easier for ME. You were dealing with everything better than I was.
“Can you remember who sat near us Dad”
Not a clue, it was just a confusing storm to me. I know my brother sat behind me because I remember unbelievably that he made me smile at one stage with a comment he whispered in my ear. That’s one of the only things I can remember from the funeral. I had even forgotten we were at the back.
Hawklad then described the funeral to me. It was like I wasn’t there, all this detail has just passed me by.
A bright, warm autumnal morning back in 2016. I was driving back from The Crematorium with my Partners Ashes secured with the seatbelt to the passenger seat. A never ending torture drive. That might well have been my lowest point. That morning I had seemingly been ok until the Ashes were handed to me. Handed to me in what can only be described as a container that resembled something you would see traditional old sweets sold in. A Sweet Jar. Then the weight, it was surprisingly heavy. It wasn’t until back in the car that the reality hit home. Less than a month ago she sat in that car seat, now it was her ashes. It became such a painful memory that I had to sell that car within weeks.
Now in 2022 she is in two containers. An undertaker divided the ashes into two. One secured, wrapped with the necessary paperwork to go abroad. One in a matching unsecured container. The Sweet Jar now gone, replaced by cylinder containers like you get Malt Whiskey presented in. For 6 years they have sat on a sideboard, waiting. Now unexpectedly we are sorting a small portion out for a family member.
It was a surprisingly easy call to say YES to the family member but I can’t begin to tell you just how much I fretted over the DOING part of the process. Odd as it’s not the first time I’ve dealt with ashes. I scattered my mums ashes over her family grave. A potential emotional meltdown saved by the presence of a cute squirrel simultaneously digging away on the very next grave. Mum would have loved the humour in that. Rather than buckets of tears, SMILES.
This time around this felt a million miles from smiles. I was really uneasy and unnerved. What was the appropriate way to do this. Do I say prayers. Do I explain to the ashes what I’m doing. Do I wear gloves and a mask. What do I use to do this. I felt clueless and lost. Prayers and I talked her through what I was doing. I could almost here her voice telling me off for doing this all wrong. I carefully unscrewed the lid off one of the containers. What can only be described as a ‘ring-pull’ was next. I had a crazy thought, what happens if it goes pop like one of those party poppers, ashes going everywhere. I wasn’t smiling, I was panicking. No pop, no disaster this time.
Then the next issue. This bit might be gross. How do I get some of the ashes out. In the end I opted for an old spoon. A spoon my partner used to stir her tea with. It’s been unused in 6 years. And here’s the thing. I can’t just put it in the sink and wash the spoon now. That can’t be right. So it’s going to sit next to the ashes until called upon again.
I can’t spill a single grain. Not one. I have never been more careful. What on Earth happens if I get this bit wrong. Unbelievably my nerve held and my inner muppet stayed hidden. Well almost hidden….
I searched the house and every draw for a container or small bag to put the ashes in. All I could find was a food freezer bag. Too big and surely inappropriate. I can’t put my partner in a bag with the following instructions emblazoned across the front.
Consume within one month of freezing.
Once defrosted consume within one day.
Just NO. Here was the next best option. Please don’t be too hard on me. The only other clear, small plastic bags I could find were a few unopened mini lego sets that came in the Star Wars Advent Calendar. Yes I carefully opened two, removed the lego and used them. A Stormtrooper and a droid now without bag. So one bag inside of the other, ashes inside. Sealed tight with cello tape. I’m shaking me head at the thought.
Carefully wrapped up, the ashes headed on a journey. Several hundred miles. By POST. Yes I put a stamp on and posted them . Was that wrong. What is the protocol. I did check if it was legal. I had fears that they would be impounded. But in the UK you can post up to 50g of human or animal ashes. Thankfully they arrived safely and within 24 hours.
So after 6 years, the process has started. It might take some time to complete but in a strange way it feels reassuring that a very small start has been made. Next time I will be better prepared. HOPEFULLY……