We have some really nice postmen who work our mail route. Even down to our third reserve postie who is equally nice and conscientious. So rather than just post an unusual letter he knocked at the door.
“Sorry to bother you but I don’t recognise the name on this letter addressed to you”
After a quick scan I confirmed the letter was correctly addressed to us. You see this postie only occasionally covers our village and probably only for the last couple of years. He has no idea, nor should he. We often think the world stops when someone dies and grief hits. But you quickly realise that the wider world keeps spinning. Only you and maybe a handful of others experience a shuddering world halt. When finally your world does starts spinning again there is no guarantee that it will get back up to the speed of the wider world. Until the speeds harmonise you feel out of synch. Not quite part of this world anymore. For me everything seems to happen in slow motion while outside of my bubble the world flies by. Sometimes I drift into social settings and no one seems to see me. They certainly don’t see the grief baggage that I am am shouldering. My chains. When I do reach out to make contact with the outside world again I often fail. As if I just can’t grasp it anymore. Part of the world yet removed from it. Maybe this is what a ghost feels like.
So when a letter arrives addressed to my partner and only two people blink. An efficient but blissfully unaware postman and me. You realise then that grief is deeply personal. Incredibly localised. All this from one of those letters. A random invite to a furniture sale. A mass produced advert. But the computer generated name on the front of the envelope changes everything. It reminds me of what I have become. Someone going through a process. Transitioning. Currently in the ghost stage.
A largely sleepless night. Too much time to think. World seeming particularly cold this morning. In need of a lift. For some reason the run didn’t work today. Just a freezing slog. A slow 30 minutes and then the motivation battery completely drained. So back home even colder and still in need of a lift.
But then salvation. Old photographs. Memories. Great Memories.
Back to 2001 which finds us in the Loire.
Chateau de Chenonceau was built over the River Cher in 1576. It’s French Renaissance Architecture at at finest. The chateau has a fine collection of masterpieces, tapestries and renaissance furniture. The long Grand Gallery stretches over the bridge and across the river. It’s a stunning place. Inside and outside.
As much as the chateau brings back great memories one photograph lifted my spirits. It reminds me how truly blessed I was to spend time with this special person. Always in love. That makes me smile.
Over the last month or so sunsets have sadly been at a premium in Yorkshire.
But when they do make an appearance they are often stunning.
As grim and frustrating as a day may have been just one moment can lift the spirits. An unexpected smile, a compliment, someone showing that they care, a loving hug or in this case a brief piece of natural theatre. I really hope everyone finds at least one of those moments today.
Yorkshire weather. Good running weather. Why would I want to run in dry warm windless conditions. Well that’s what I tell myself. Maybe I’m like Count Dracula. I would turn to dust in direct sunlight. I wonder what I would do if someone offered me the chance though.
I’m mind wrestling with something at the moment. My partner was an epic traveller. She visited so many countries. It was her extravagance. From her late teens she would save up during the year for one great adventure. Family and her adventures was what she lived for. The adventures only stopped when we became a family. Her dream was that when our son became older we could have adventures together. The two places she always talked about was New Zealand (would have been her first time) and Chile. She always said that we would all love Chile.
Then life happened.
I really want to complete those journeys for her. Our Autism World may preclude that. Circumstances may preclude it. But we will see. I most admit a part of me doesn’t want to do those trips. It’s just not right that it would only be the two of us.
Sorry I digress. Back to my mind wrestling. So many adventures and so many photographs. All sat neatly and well organised in carefully stored albums. Here is the dilemma. Part of me wants to do a retrospective photo journal. Tell her travel story. Her trip to the Soviet Union (gives you an idea of the timeframe) maybe would be a great starting point. YET another part of me recoils at the idea. What if she hates that idea. What if I’m breaking some unwritten bond of trust. It’s like having two competing voices on either shoulder each shouting differing viewpoints on life.
She’s not here anymore. What’s the problem!
YOU KNOW SHE WOULD SAY NO. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOUR SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT THIS!
But this feeling is something I’ve grown used to over these three years. On virtually every major decision I have these doubts. ‘What do I want to do’ balanced against ‘what would she do’. I try to see the world through my eyes and at the same time through her eyes. Problem is that we were two completely different characters. We each had our own unique take on the world. We would frequently disagree on the right answer. Often we would compromise. I’m still trying to compromise now. Yet I can’t replicate her thought process. I never could and I never will. I’m probably getting her point of view completely wrong. But I still do it.
Maybe other people do this. Maybe it’s just me sinking further into cabin fever.
So am I going to publish this travel journal? I don’t know. WE still haven’t decided.
Hindsight and regret is so easy to fall back into. We all do it. Especially when you suffer bereavement. I do it. I could fill a War and Peace size book with all the missed opportunities.
- The deterioration came so quickly that we never had that last proper conversation. The last goodbye. I guess the last chat was about sorting out her laptop for when she came out after the tests.
- We never got to New Zealand.
- We didn’t have that family Santa trip to Lapland.
- We never got to Chile.
- We never got round to trying for a second child.
- The trip to Tibet and Nepal eluded us.
- I never did get round to putting those shelves up which she really wanted.
- Looking at the Northern Lights together remained unfulfilled.
- I never got round to getting the clip of our sons first steps off the broken camera and on to the video so my partner could see them.
Plenty of time to do these. So no rush. WRONG.
But as that line goes. That’s what it is. Until someone invents time travel I just can’t change the past. Maybe occasionally in dreams but when you wake up it’s back to the reality. But this misses the big issue. Yes stuff got missed. I occasionally unintentionally messed up (maybe more than occasionally). We didn’t complete our bucket list. BUT just wait a picking moment. Look at the stuff we did.
- Switzerland lots of times.
- That first romantic trip to the Lakes.
- The two mad cats and a savage Hamster.
- The three trips to Disneyland Paris.
- Buying our first house.
- Those trips to France.
- All those walks on the North Yorkshire Moors.
- That trip to the Newcastle match when you almost got run over by the Juventus Team Bus and the Police Horse ate my Mars Bar.
- That winter we got snowed in with 18 inches of snow. Days of snow fun.
- The trips to the Peak District.
- That stay in one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.
- Skinny Dipping in the freezing sea at Anglesey.
- That week in the Scottish Highlands and that cottage next to the grave yard.
- That walk up Snowdon.
- That mad evening at a Blues Brothers New Years Eve Dance.
- The trip to the French Grand Prix
- That week in the Gypsy Cottage In Northumberland.
- The concerts. Even Ronan Keating – twice.
- Getting to see some of the Olympics events.
- Producing our beautiful son. The single most perfect we both ever did.
Too many great memories to mention here. That’s the stuff I should be focusing on. The memories which should be on permanent replay. You know what – we had a hell of a ride. That’s what it is. Thank you.
Every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide.
Too many die in silence. We need to continue to change our society. Progress is being made but not enough. A stigma still exists about Mental Health and Suicide. In my country you die of a heart attack but you commit suicide. Commit is associated with crime. That’s just wrong.
It’s time for change. It’s time to make it ok to talk. The more we talk the more acceptable it becomes.
I suffer from depression. It comes in waves. When I was young I hated being me. That’s still with me today. Two big things have stopped me becoming a suicide statistic. HOPE and LOVE. Both give you the strength to keep walking through the dark times. Just a fraction of either is all it takes for many.
So today and everyday let’s try to give that love and that hope to others.
Dreams and memories are a vital part of life. After my partner died memories became my essential comfort blanket – something which kept me going. Three years later they are just as important to my soul. The occasional forgotten photograph find rekindle long forgotten life snapshots.
Dreams come in three forms for me. Those dreams of a future life, memories and those dreams which come during those all too brief periods of sleep. My future life dreams died when my partner left us. All I see is darkness. My job is to give our son the best possible childhood. After that nothing. It’s something I’ve heard from others in a similar position to me – I live through my son.
After the world changed my night dreams became a weird bizarre place. Reality completely warped. But increasingly the dreams became memory driven. Accurate replays of precious moments. This brought great solace with a few tearful mornings. But recently things have changed. Suddenly the night dreams are actual memory based but morphed in some important and strange way.
A lovely visit family trip to Edinburgh Zoo to see the Pandas. But in the dream the family trip becomes a trip round Jurassic Park world. All the actual incidents but with a dinosaur flavour.
A trip to the Royal Ascot Racing Festival held for one year at York. The Queen riding past us. 2005. Yet in the dreams it’s not Horse Racing. Sometimes it’s Dragster Racing. Sometimes it’s donkey racing. YES I get these strange morphed dreams repeatedly.
A family trip to the beach. It’s cold so it’s double jumpers. Ice cream and hot doughnuts. Yet on the first sandcastle we strike oil. Oil gushes out of the beach.
A romantic meal. Days filled of love and smiles. Yet the fine food is replaced with bugs and slugs and grubs.
A hand in hand walk round York’s Roman Walls. But instead of lovely views of York and it’s stunning Minster we see Paris on side and Nepal on the other side.
A New Years Eve Blues Brothers Themed Night replaced with a WWE wrestling night.
I could go on. So many odd dreams. I’m not a clever man so I’m not going to venture into Descartes territory. I suspect the reasons may not be that fundamental. But the bottom line is that I want my precious original sleep dreams back. Often they are all that remain of a better place. I like a bit of craziness but not here please.
When grief comes calling your life changes. It changes almost everything. Your concept of time. Your priorities. Your dreams. You hobbies, Your finances. Your sleep. Your diet. Your confidence. Your mood. Your lifestyle. Your social life. Even the food you have in the fridge. It’s complete upheaval and your life will never be the same.
Almost everything. Grief doesn’t change three key things.
The world – it just keeps spinning, the world continues without blinking an eyelid at your personal tragedy.
Grief doesn’t change your love. Your special person may have left this world but you still love them dearly. More than ever
Grief doesn’t change your memories. They will be your special gift forever.
It’s been one of those Yorkshire days. Long periods of rain punctuated with spells of stair rod duck weather. It’s the perfect weather for a leaking back door. If we had ducks then they would be happily swimming about in the utility room. I know what the rich must feel like now – an indoor pool. Looking at ours I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.
It’s was similar weather three years ago when I had to go and see the solicitor about my partners will. I was in such a daze that I hadn’t realised that I had forgot to put a coat on when I got out of the car. Within minutes I was a drowned rat but I only realised when I saw my disheveled reflection in a shop window. Previously I would have had an angelic voice quietly whisper – why don’t you put a coat on dear. It’s the one thing I have never adjusted to. Not having that caring soul help guide this bumbling fool through the twist and turns of life. That’s probably why I still tend to avoid social gatherings. Not sure I trust myself.
I’m so blessed to have been with that caring soul for a wonderful 17 years. It’s created so many memories. Fortunately years of over using the camera has created multiple photo albums filled with these memories. Those photographs tell our story perfectly. But one thing is missing and it’s so haunting. I just can’t seem to remember her voice. After all those years we spent together how can I forget something so important. I just can’t get it right in my memories.
So I have been trying to find a video with my partner talking. So many videos taken but they all focus on our son. Then I came across our old video camera. The one we bought during the pregnancy. The one which has been gathering dust since mobile phones became the memory recorder of choice. No luck so far but I did come across something which completely floored me. A mini video disc marked up as sons first walk.
When it happened I had picked our son up from nursery. My partner was still at work. Son was sat on the floor singing away so I started filming him. Within seconds he managed to pull himself up and waddled across to me. All captured on film. Unfortunately our dvd was broken at the time so we couldn’t replay it. So I said I would go into the city and get it transferred to video. I kept putting it off. I never got round to it. Over time the disc was forgotten about. I never did share that moment with my partner.
You assume you have all the time in the world but in reality you never know how much sand is left in the egg timer.
It so important that we remember to seize the day. Don’t assume you will get another chance tomorrow.
So the voice hunt will continue. I know somewhere I will find it. Then my memories will be complete. And again I will hear my angelic angel.
What’s that behind you. It’s that pesky grief sneaking up on you again.
Lost in a world of spreadsheets and work while listening to the radio. It’s a rock station so plenty of Aerosmith , Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd. Playing a game of which bands I’ve seen and which I might still see. Then an innocuous advert. NEXT sale starts at 7am.
Nothing wrong with that surely.
Suddenly taken back to a now closed off world. In the immediate aftermath of the funeral I took bag after bag of NEXT clothes to the charity shop. NEXT was her favourite shop. It’s just not right that I’m here and she is not. Tears. A few minutes later the mood has changed. More memories.
My partners ears would always prick up if she heard the two words NEXT and SALE. The alarm would be set 6am. For the big New Years sale it would be set for 5am.
Come on bag man get up.
That was my role. Trudge down to the store. Try to look vaguely interested. Then don’t get in the way and hold the potential purchase items. Occasionally chipping in with a helpful thats nice. Then the bagman carries the laden bags home. For the next couple of hours while our partner tries on the truck load of clothes I replenish all the lost calories with coffee and biscuits. Then bagman sets off back to NEXT again to take back the unwanted items. On the return visit I would briefly look at the Men’s section. A few muttered are you sure these are sales prices and its off to the coffee shop to reflect on the joy which is knowing that’s the sales are finished for 6 months. Not sure how she put up with me….
It’s smiles and tears now.
Spending money on clothes has been replaced with spending money on school.
Dad have you paid for the school reward trip?
Yes I have but like the NEXT sales I’m struggling to get my head round it. All the kids at the school who didn’t get a detention or didn’t pick up too many negatives qualify for a reward. The reward is a trip to a cool destination. As it was a school reward I assumed school would pay for it. NO. Parents have to pay. So the parents of kids who behaved badly don’t have to fork out this wedge of cash. Life was easier when I was the bagman.