Monday, 28 February 2011

The Final Farewell

It sounds kind of morbid but I want to write about seeing Andrew for the last time.  Seeing his body in the coffin and saying goodbye.

Maybe it will bring some closure in my own mind and help the enormity of my loss sink in.  It's still so unbelievable.

I’ve just had a busy half term holiday with the boys, both visiting and then having visitors and when we were finally alone again I felt bereft, once more overwhelmed with widowhood.  There’s a realisation that when everyone’s gone it’s just us three, no longer four, and I have no one to discuss all the day’s events with.

Maybe I want to write about a dead body because I’m reading a crime novel.  It’s the only book I’ve been able to get absorbed in for a while.  It’s so far removed from my everyday world.  There’s a serial killer on the loose, the body count is rising and there is a dysfunctional but savvy detective on the case and you just know by the last page all the loose ends will be neatly tied.  If only life and death was so tidy!

Andrew’s was the first dead body I’ve ever seen.

I’ve never wanted to see one before.  When my Grandma died and then my Grandad two years later I was only in my twenties.  The thought of seeing a dead body was “disgusting” back then.  I was nowhere near prepared, death was something remote and distant.  

My Grandma died suddenly, I’ve written about her before, but my Grandad had been ill for quite a while.  I couldn’t even cope with visiting him in hospital, so I have no recollection of the last time I saw him.  Now that makes me feel selfish and heartless.

I can’t really remember seeing a dead pet before until our guinea pigs died.  I remember with one of them Andrew gingerly lifted it up on a trowel so as not to touch it and laid it in a shoe box coffin.

We were both amazed when your youngest child wanted to touch it!

What thoughts and fears go through our heads?  There’s an adult repulsion as we imagine all kinds of microscopic beasties that could inhabit the fur.  But to a child it’s just their pet “sleeping”.

Obviously with Andrew there was no question of all of us going to see him.  We’d all been there when we found him and I’m certain now he had already gone then.

This was our chance to say a proper goodbye.

I went twice, the first time with the boys.

Because we had found him in a kneeling position face down the blood had rushed to his head.  The undertaker warned us there were some red patches around his eyes but nothing really prepares you for the first glimpse.

There’s a gasp, maybe not even audible but deep inside.  The disbelief despite the physical evidence before your eyes.

Then there’s the coffin framing the resting body giving it an eerie finite quality.

The boys were very brave and I held it together for them as best as I could.  I had a briefly longer stay than them but was so aware they were waiting outside the door for me to take them home that I had to leave.  So I kissed Andrew on the forehead and thought that was it.

Fortunately I got another chance to say goodbye.

My parents said they would like to see him.  So the following day we went along with a friend who had flown all the way from Chicago to England to be with us.

After saying their own goodbyes they left me for my final farewell.

It was easier to look at his face the second time.  The red blotches appeared to fade and I could see beyond them.   

Andrew’s hair had been brushed back, so uncharacteristic, so I pulled some forward and messed it up a bit with my fingers.  

He had been shaved, so much better than he even managed himself.

“You’ve missed a bit!” I’d tease him rubbing my hand along the rough stubble.

“Get off!” he’d say, playfully pushing me away!

I stuck my finger in the hole in his jeans on his thigh.  The hole was where a dog had bit him.  He’d been teasing the guard dog at the bus company where he worked, his own fault so I had no sympathy.  I loved putting my finger in and touching his flesh.

“Get off!  Leave it alone!” He’d pull away, but not this time.

His leg was firm to touch as it always had been.  I loved feeling the solid muscles in his legs so different from my own legs which feel soft and flabby!  He always felt physically so strong and powerful.  I always felt safe and protected in his arms.

I sat and held his hand for a while, fingers entwined together.  Telling him how much I loved him.

I wanted to touch his chest but under the Tshirt I could feel the crinkle of plastic.  I suspect it was something to cover up the scar where they had done the post mortem.  Where they had been inside to find his heart that to the outside world was so full of love but inside was so full of pain.

There was some tell-tale cotton wool poked behind his ears, some other sign of an internal investigation that I can’t begin to imagine, nor do I want to!

Finally I kissed him on the lips.  They were cold like he’d just come inside on a winter’s day.  But they still felt soft.  I kissed them again.

And that was my final farewell to my Andrew who was there and yet wasn’t really there all at the same time.

I know it’s not really the end and I will see him again one day but being without his physical presence is so hard.  And the more I miss the physical the more I seem to actually ache.

 No hands to hold or arms to embrace,
         no chest to rest my head on,
                     no eyes to sparkle and light up my world,
                            no lips to kiss....

Just some of the many things in the list of things I miss….

Friday, 18 February 2011

Occupation: Human Being

Did you know there are 1900 bloggers on here who describe their occupation as Human Being?  

I like that.  I’m going to make it 1901!

Occupation = a means of passing one’s time, a job, profession, career, employment, activity, task.

Being = existence, the nature or essence of a person, personality, consciousness.

The two are polar opposites, one is about doing and is active while the other is passive, stillness, just resting.

So many times on here I have complained about having too much to “do”.  I’m still caught in the middle of all the busyness of things to be dealt with when someone dies.  I am elated when I achieve something and can tick it off.  I get down when I hit a brick wall and the list seems never ending.

My personal “brick wall” today - dealing with the solicitor – I would post a whole blog but it would be  ** ** ****** * ** **** ** ***** ******* ******* ******* ****** ****** ** **** ****** *****!!

(don’t even attempt to work out what that could mean because it’s random punching the keyboard!  But goodness me I thought he was providing a service – I think his occupation is just BEING my solicitor and not DOING anything!!!!)

But I digress.

I keep getting told I’m DOING really well.

Then I get told don’t DO too much.  I don’t need to fill my days with activity but take time to grieve – which is how I came to write the poem the other day.

All this BEING and DOING made me think of the story of Mary and Martha.

For those who don’t know the story (and even for those that do) this is my version of Luke chapter 10 verses 38-42.

Once upon a time there were two sisters and they were great friends of Jesus. 

One day Jesus came to tea so Martha put on her pinny and set to work in the kitchen.  She became so absorbed in all she had to do that when Jesus arrived she was still busy with her baking and didn’t notice her sister Mary slip out of the room.

Martha warmed the pot and made some tea.  Now where was her lazy sister, she thought.  Carefully she carried the well laid out tea tray to the front room and there was Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet! 

Well Martha nearly dropped the tray, the cheek of it!  There were still scones in the oven and cream that needed to be whipped and here was her good for nothing sister not doing a thing to help.

She hastily turned on her heel to return to her work.

“Martha,” said Jesus gently as she was leaving, “your sister has chosen well to sit by me.” 

“Leaving me to DO everything,” muttered Martha under her breath.  Typical man, she thought, he has no idea!

OK maybe it doesn’t say the last bit but I can really empathise with Martha.  Somebody has to DO things.  Wouldn’t it have made sense for the sisters to work together and then they could both sit down and spend time with their friend?

I can imagine Martha like Monica on “Friends” – a bit of a perfectionist!  But don’t we all want to get things right, do things properly and make a good impression?

Did you know Martha is the patron saint of Housewives?

Martha is also the name of my Great Grandmother.  This picture is one of those printed on the back of a post card.  On the back it says “Mother” in my Grandma’s old fashioned writing.

Martha looks a very stern woman but maybe that’s just the style of the time.  I really should find out more about her and her life. 
Do I look anything like her?   I think maybe I have her nose!  The more I look, the more I see.   I can certainly see a resemblance to my Grandma.  Now she was another formidable woman, widowed in her 50s with seven children to look after and a shop to run!

I suppose in her day you just got on with things and kept on DOING.

But I have come to place where I am going to stop DOING so much.  I have given up some of the things I do in order to give me time to come to terms with all that has happened.  (Keep reading to see how this goes!)

I have a Bible verse that has been going through my head that Martha may not agree with but Mary would certainly approve.

Be still and know that I am God.

I can't even remember where it is from.  It's just been there behind all my other thoughts and typically I've been ignoring it in all my activity.
“Yes God - I heard but I’ll DO that later!  It would make a good blog entry.”

Now I’m trying really hard to listen properly.

It reminded me of something I read in a book, I can’t claim credit for it.  And as I type this I know I have to slow down for a few minutes and set aside all I HAVE to DO…..

It’s not easy when there are so many distractions but here goes…

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that
Be still and know
Be still and
Be still

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

An interesting question

I was asked the other day if it bothered me seeing other couples together.

It’s an interesting question particularly as yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

Andrew obviously had very little time for the patron saint of all things romantic.  It was just another money making venture for florists and card shops – in his humble opinion!

But back to the question – does it make me jealous or sad or angry to see other people happy?  To see couples holding hands or sharing a private joke?

Not at all – it actually makes me smile.

It helps me to recall the good times we had.  All the happy memories flood back as I remember when….

We usually did hold hands walking down the street.

When we started going out we would let go if we spotted someone we knew.  We had a code word - “Ruth!” (Ruth was Andrew’s mum’s neighbour.)  At the mention of her name we would drop hands quickly.  

As time went on I wouldn’t let go no matter how many times Andrew would mutter “Ruth!” under his breath!  I didn’t want it to be a secret that I was falling in love with him.  We got engaged, got married and the rest, as they say, is history… Andrew’s ambition was to still hold hands walking down the street when we were old and grey.

I love to see couples together enjoying each other’s company.   

I’m glad when a friend talks about her husband and I can see her face light up and her eyes begin to sparkle.  

Let’s face it girls, there are many, many times when we get together and moan about our husbands and I’m sure they have one or two not-so-kind words to say about us occasionally!  

How much better it is to know your friends are contented and in love.   That despite all the day to day problems deep down there is real love.

As you can expect I had several emails and messages after Andrew died.  Lots of people remembered special things about him.  The ones I like best spoke of “us” and our relationship.

I remember Andrew standing in the middle of his huge train set at the top of the house and being in his absolute elements; whilst you smiled at the side to see him so happy.

I always remember that with Andy the moment he spoke of yourself and the Boys he drifted into a very calm wonderful world for himself as if he was suddenly transported home to you.

Andrew spoke so loving and committed about you and the children, what life threw at you both you always managed to deal with and I know Andrew struggled with this at times, but you were his rock and I know how devoted he was to you. There is one thing I can honestly say about your relationship, you had something special that others can only envy, and that is something no-one could damage.

For all the difficulties a marriage can bring I am so glad that friends remember us at our best.  That they witnessed our love for each other in the simple things, the smiles and laughter and seeing us hold hands.

When I was shopping at the weekend and trying some clothes on, there was another woman opposite peering out from behind a curtain looking for her husband.

She wanted his opinion of the dress she had tried on but typically he had disappeared from the shop.

I knew that feeling all too well and remarked to the friend I was with that at least I’d never again be standing in a fitting room looking for Andrew above a sea of heads and clothes racks, desperate for his attention – how dare he wander off!

The woman said she would ring her husband – whatever did we do before mobile phones?

I said I’d love to be able to ring my husband to ask for advice but that he had died thirteen weeks ago.

I wasn’t looking for sympathy.  Maybe I shouldn’t have said it but after expressing her condolences the woman added, 

                       “I’ll be a bit nicer when I ring him now.”

My hope and prayer is that because of everything I’ve been through my friends will appreciate what they’ve got and “be a bit nicer”.  I don’t mind them whinging about their husbands.   Marriage is never easy,it takes a lot of work.  I’ve been there and got the Tshirt!

But what I like best of all is to see other couples enjoying being together.

Because once upon a time, not all of the time, sometimes even for the briefest of moments I lived in that fairytale when all was right with the world

          and I was truly blessed 

            to be deeply loved.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Learning to Grieve

No one gives you lessons
On "how to live your life"
How to cope with loss
When you become a single wife

No one has the answers
To mend a broken heart
There’s no secret knitting pattern
To stitch what’s torn apart

No one knows the depth
Of sorrow you can reach
It’s not a subject that you learn
Or something you can teach

No one else remembers now
All the memories that you hold
Those hushed night-time whisperings
Shared treasures of pure gold

No one truly understands
The guilt that still remains
The hurtful words and silences
You can’t take away their pain

No one ever tells you
That "all in life is fair"
Grief is mine and grief is yours
And some parts we can’t share

No one said it would be easy
That would be a mortal lie
Some moments there are laughter
Then all you can do is cry

No one can ever make this stop
By a kind word of phrase
A bit of comfort here and there
Will get you through these days

No one could give you lessons
On how to grieve a life
With baby steps you’ll learn your way
To be a single wife