Friday, 11 March 2011

A lesson from literature

While sorting out and the other day I came across an invitation to a firework party.  I have kept it because I had made it.

It’s on black card with silver writing announcing “REMEMBER!  REMEMBER!”

I used a red glitter pen to show the sparkling fireworks exploding in the night sky. 

A simple design but very effective.

It was the first party Andrew and I hosted together in 1993.  We were recently engaged and if I remember correctly my mum and dad came to stay for the weekend and brought my sewing machine with them so I could make my wedding dress!

But what really sent a shiver down my spine wasn’t the memories of times past but the date of our party.  With Andrew working away we didn’t have our party on the 5th November, the nearest Saturday we could find free was the 13th.

13th November 1993 – Firework Party

13th November 2011 – Andrew died

It reminded me of a passage in “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”.  Don’t be too impressed with my literary knowledge, someone else pointed it out to me over a year ago and the idea stuck. 

“She (Tess) philosophically noted dates as they came past in the revolution of the year…..her own birthday; and every other day individualised by incidents in which she had taken some share.  She suddenly thought one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that of her own death, when all these charms would have disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there.  When was it?  Why did she not feel the chill of each yearly encounter with such a cold relation?”

Exactly eighteen years before Andrew died we were preparing for a party.  The day passed with fun and laughter.

I wanted to find out other things we had done together on this particular day.
My diary writing has never been as prolific or regular as it is now and by November I’ve usually long given up recording the day’s events.  So the sparse diary entries were no help.

The photo album was my next reference point.  Particularly from 1994 when we were enjoying our honeymoon.  Although we married in May we waited until the following November to jet off to New Zealand.

I hadn’t dated all the photos but I think I worked out what we were up to on that Sunday.

On 13th November 1994 we were visiting some steam trains at Glenbrook Vintage Railway with my aunt and uncle.  I have a photo of Andrew standing on the footplate of a green engine called Gabriel.  Then there is another photo of him camera in hand.  He is wearing a sweatshirt that I won’t yet part with.
The memories come flooding back with the photos.  We were leaving for home in a couple of days and this was one of our last outings.

How happy we were just starting on our journey together.

But how did we spend our other November 13ths?

Were we happy or sad, together or apart?  Did we laugh?  Did we make the most of our precious time?

Just as Thomas Hardy so eloquently put it they passed “with no sign or sound”, there was no “chill” or knowledge that this date would become an important milestone.  One I am now unlikely to forget.

And then I cleared another draw and sifted through yet another pile of papers.

There was the date again staring up at me.


A Personal Health Assessment Record for Andrew aged 46, two years to the day before he passed away.

                Heart function – normal.
                Resting ECG (heart tracing) – normal.
“We hope you found your recent medical assessment informative and helpful in planning your future health needs.”

There are so many things we never know.  So much we can’t plan for.

But we can choose to make the best of things and plan something good for all the November 13ths yet to come.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah, Just popping by to say hello and bring my love to you and the boys.
    Its so strange that we find dates to keep rearing their heads in our lives.I wonder how many others have also stood on Gabriels Footplate since that day.What a Lovely Photo to treasure. Stay Strong and Know you have so many people that are still praying for you and your lovely boys. Take Care xx
    Huge Hugs Maureen xx