Saturday, 29 October 2011


My friend posted this picture on her facebook page the other day.  

The first four words you spot in the word search are supposed to describe your personality.  There is no scientific logic as to why this would work but for fun I decided to give it a go.

  •  1 – Naïve
I admit I don’t always understand rude jokes, although I sometimes pretend I do.  Also I like to see the best in people and am therefore very trusting, so yes I’ll accept naivety as one of my characteristics.

  •  2 – Sweet
I am definitely a girlie girl who subscribes to the theory that “little girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice”.  So that gets a tick as well although I am not sure when I was last called “sweet”.  Probably when I was seven.

  • 3 – Dramatic
My hair was once more auburn, my temper more fiery and I must admit I love being the centre of attention putting on a show.  Big tick there then.

  • 4 – Dependent
Hmmmmm!  Here I stopped and stared at the word before me.  Could I choose another?  This was just a game after all.

  • 4 – Thoughtful
Whether pensive and dreamy or always considering others it was a much better description and the one I settled on.

Dependent made me sound needy and not self-reliant.  It implied I couldn’t survive on my own and here I am nearly a year gone by without Andrew, managing and coping, solo and independently.

Actually maybe the word was INDEPENDENT and I had missed the first two letters.  I checked and regrettably I had been right the first time.

The word DEPENDENT stayed lodged in my brain, niggling away, worthy of more consideration. Ultimately sparking off another post on the blog!

For years I have been dependent on Andrew, most noticeably financially.  In fact I am still dependent on Andrew’s pension and thoughtful forward planning in this area.

But he provided so much more than material security.

Emotionally he was my rock, sometimes a bit crumbly and then we supported each other.  However there were plenty of occasions when I needed his strength and wisdom guiding and sheltering me in my naivety.  Reassuring me and still loving me despite my failings and doubts.

Practically he was in charge of the D.I.Y., getting rid of creepy crawlies, cutting the grass, securing the best insurance quotes and doing anything that related to the computer, broadband, Wi Fi…

He was always proud of my ability to deal with stuff while he was away but then I always loved him coming home and being able to rest once more in his dependable arms.  OK so in reality it didn’t work like that all the time.  He hated it when I couldn’t cope with something he thought trivial when he was away.  Similarly when he came home and didn’t help me and wasn’t the strong one it caused tensions.  At the end of the day we were dependent on each other, needing each other’s strengths to balance out our own weaknesses.

So where does that leave me now?  Independent?

The more I thought about it the longer the list grew of people I am very dependent on.

I’ve long held onto the strength of my own personal trinity of family, friends and faith.

I truly believe God has put me in the place he wants me and has surrounded me with the family and friends I need for this journey.  They love me and care for me, holding my hand and cheering me on.  They don’t mind if I cry or ramble on or ring them at short notice with a request for help.  The love we share is reciprocated and I am only too willing to return the favour and be there for them too.

There are others I have been dependent on this year – the professionals.  I still see my GP on a regular basis and she has been able to assure me that I am normal; my feelings are all part of the grieving process.  I have a financial advisor who has sorted out the money side of things and accountant who’s helped with the tax forms.  Without them to understand the financial jargon I would be in a complete muddle.   Then there’s my estate agent who has offered his good experienced advice about my house sale.

The hardest thing is actually finding people you can trust and depend on.  When you discover them you hang on to them like gold dust.

It’s a cliché but as John Donne put it, “no man is an island”, no woman either, we all need other people.

I had a picture the other day of standing on a rock, but not just any rock one that runs through to the centre of the earth and the beginning of time.  That rock is God - solid and dependable.

I was looking for a passage about God being a rock and found Psalm 40.  In one of my many Bibles these verses are underlined and starred.

You let me stand on a rock
With my feet firm
And you gave me a new song
A song of praise to you.
Many will see this,
And they will honour
And trust you, the Lord God.

Verses 2 and 3

Maybe being dependent isn’t such a bad characteristic after all; it’s just a matter of where you place your trust.   

This year my dependence on God has grown amazingly, I still have a long way to go but I can imagine him smiling as he holds my hand.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ulterior Motives

I can’t believe that my weekend away was over a week ago.  I’d been looking forward to the “me” time for so long and now it’s been and gone!

The last week has flown by.  I haven’t had chance to look back over the notes I made or even had the opportunity to contact with any of the lovely ladies I met.

On the literature it said that we would make friends with people who truly understood.  They did but everyone lives so far away from me I’m not sure if I’ve made any long lasting friendships.

The real problem is I had an ulterior motive for going away.  I wanted to meet someone special on the weekend.  Not just another “girlfriend” to empathise with but I had visions of meeting a widower in a similar situation to me and for something special to develop.  I saw this as an opportunity to meet someone who would understand this journey and we would be able to rebuild our lives together…

My imagination was working overtime because the weekend was run by a couple who had met at a similar event and there is another blog I follow written by a man who again met his second wife at one of these weekends.  So to me it made sense to be “looking” or at least keep my eyes open.

A week before I went I had a phone call from the husband of the host couple, just to go over a few details.  When he met his wife he hadn’t been intentionally looking but I enquired, did anyone come along wanting to start a new relationship, after all that was what one of the seminars was all about.

“It’s not really for that.”  He replied.

When I asked just how many men were going he said only two.

My heart completely sank after that phone call and I must admit I cried myself to sleep that night convinced I will never meet anyone and hating the loneliness.  "I don’t want to be on my own forever", these words kept going round and round my head as I tossed and turned.

Even though the chances were remote I still tentatively held onto my romantic notions.  I tried not to think about it but just maybe one of the men was just right for me and my reason for going.

Although both seemed lovely men they didn’t set my heart a flutter.  I hardly got chance to talk to either of them anyway as they were in a different group to me.  Probably a good thing for all concerned. 

The weekend was beneficial for so many other reasons, I certainly enjoyed being surrounded by other “singles” and having time and space for me.  We were made to feel special by the attention to detail, a card and chocolates in our room when we arrived and a gorgeous meal on the Saturday evening with wine, flowers and candles.

This is not the first time I have written about wanting to find someone new.  Andrew and I always joked I’d find a toy boy next time!  Well he was six years older and statistically men die younger than women, we always thought it would happen this way round but never imagined the day would arrive so soon.

It’s not that I am looking for a replacement for Andrew.  I am realising more and more that no one can ever fill that gap.  Hence “looking” for a widower who will comprehend that Andrew will always be an important part of my life.

I’ve not just lost a husband but my best-friend and companion, someone to laugh with, share secrets and dreams with.  Someone to love me and someone for me to love and support too.

When I was away we had to fill in a sheet of “loss and change”. 

·         What did I lose when my husband died?
·         What am I now not able to give my husband?
·         What shared hopes and dreams did we have that have been lost?
·         How has my life changed since my husband died?

I’d never written it down like this before.  I’ve covered the same ground in my blog but this made it all so real and emphasised my loneliness.  Here in black and white were the reasons why some times I have little or no motivation.

In some ways it seems not much has changed.  I try and keep everything ticking over in an orderly manner to give stability to the boys, the way I usually did when Andrew worked away.  I accepted months ago that this time he was never coming back and now I have to also accept that I may have to be on my own for a while.  For longer than I would really like.

Friends are kind and say that I will meet someone new “one day” when I am least expecting it.  Who really knows if I will?  What if this is it?  Or this is the way things will be for years to come?

There were people on the weekend that had been alone far longer than me.  And what of my single friends who have never found love?  At least I have the boys to keep me going, along with many happy memories.

It’s something I have to face and come to terms with as much as any other part of this grief.  At the moment that is what I am struggling with the most; rebuilding a life with three where once there used to be four.

Ultimately rebuilding me as a single person embracing the loss and the change.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Unexpected Fruit

Once upon a time in our garden we had a two bushes that grew up either side of a set of steps leading down to the lower part of the garden, otherwise known as the football pitch.  Their branches grew tall and slender with tiny white flowers suddenly blossoming one year in the spring.  I can’t remember them flowering the first few years we were here but they blossomed every year thereafter.

“Andrew, could we try and get them to join and grow into an archway?”  I asked one day.

So Andrew being the resourceful man he was took some electricians cable and tied the top branches together.

The foliage continued to grow and make an impressive arch, especially when Andrew shaped the branches with his hedge trimmer.

It’s got a bit over grown of late although I did give it a bit of a prune with the blunt shears we possess.  I don’t fancy using the electrical option.

On Monday my garden angel appeared again, that’s actually the name of my gardener and she is a wonderful find!  

She asked for the step ladder to reach the top and cut the sticking up branches she couldn’t reach that make the plant look like is has a spiky hairdo.  

In the end it was a bit too windy and the ladder a bit too wobbly but she did make a fantastic discovery.

She knocked on my door, “Sarah, come quick and bring a bowl, you lucky, lucky girl.  You have damsons!”

As we stared up into the tree there were tiny perfectly formed black fruits hiding amongst the green leaves.

“I think I have another damson tree.”  I exclaimed leading her further into the garden to another tree that flowers at the same time of year in a similar fashion.

Once again staring up into the branches high above we could see the small black plums out of reach.

When it was less windy another day I tried to reach what I could.  Between all the plants I have collected about a pound of fruit, enough to make a small quantity of jam at least.  Only I’ve never made jam, so at the moment I have frozen them to use when my mum comes to stay, our little project.

This is fruit I would never have discovered without the keen trained eye of my gardener.  An unexpected blessing.

The next day at the prayer meeting we read Isaiah chapter 55.  I knew exactly what it was without opening my Bible.  It is God calling his people to come to him those who are hungry and thirsty.

Listen to me and eat what is good
And your soul will delight in the richest of fare

Wasn’t that just what I had been blessed with with my damson tree.

The passage goes on to talk about the rain and the snow that falls on the earth and how it waters the ground and doesn’t return until it has caused the plants to flourish.

So too God’s words go out and 

Will not return to [God] empty
But will accomplish what [He] desires
And achieve the purpose for which [He] sent it.

I thought of my words I have written.  My blog posts hanging like fruit on the tree ripe and ready to be picked.  I would like to get them published and reach a wider audience, if my talent is from God and this is meant to be one day someone will spot the fruit and harvest it.

God’s timing is always perfect it’s us that are always in a rush.

My damson trees have been there all the time we have lived here and now is the time we have found the fruit just when I needed blessing and reminding once more of God's goodness.  I know it's going to be a tough few months coming up and these are the good things I will hold on to to see me through.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Different Journey

I have just come home from a weekend away.  It’s not the first time I have been away from the boys and left them in someone else’s care.  I had a weekend away earlier in the year with friends and a great time we had shopping, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

This weekend was very different.  I went on my own to somewhere completely new where I knew no one! 

The weekend was run by Care for the Family and was called A Different Journey.  It was especially for people who had been widowed at a young age (is it strangely comforting to know 43 is young in some situations when I often feel so old?) 

The drive was over 3 hours long and the last hour and a half was on completely uncharted territory for me.  Driving there didn’t faze me one bit. I’d managed to find a stable position for the Sat Nav and had some good directions to follow. 
On the way I listened to Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a CD I had picked up in the church shop, one of those free ones that get given away with newspapers which we can’t sell on but occasionally leave on the counter for customers to help themselves to.  It’s a story I have read and it passed the time wonderfully.  

(Trivia fact - Hugh Grant is reading it at the end of the film “Notting Hill” while he and a heavily pregnant Julia Roberts sit on a park bench.  Well you never know if it will come up in a quiz one day!)

It was only once I arrived that the nerves took over.   I sat physically shaking in the car, apprehensively wondering what I was doing so far away from home - alone.

My friend told me, now I am back safe and sound, that she hadn’t wanted to say to me before how brave I was for going because she knew I might have second thoughts.  Probably third and fourth too.

But I tend to jump with both feet and here I was once again undaunted and leaping before thinking with little chance to now retreat.  What were my options?  A three and a half hour drive back home through the Friday rush hour or find a hotel nearby and still be on my own!  At least this one was booked and paid for and I could spend the time locked away in my room if it got too much.

All of us were in the same boat as we arrived, unsure and uncertain.   More than that we had all been torn apart by grief and here was a chance to meet others who shared our pain because they were walking a comparable path.

So often I glibly say, “you know when you feel like….” or “you know when this happens and…” Well here we all “got it” and all did KNOW and could empathise from our own experience.

It was heart wrenching to hear other people’s tales and there were times I will confess when I sat there and thought – why am I here too?  This can’t apply to me.   Then once more I remembered my own circumstances that were so painfully real and in some cases so similar.

We covered a lot of emotional ground over the weekend and I need to go back and unpack everything and process the thoughts that have been raked to the surface.  There’s plenty to write about I am sure and maybe I will another day.   However today I want to keep it brief and express the lasting impressions I took away with me.

The final session was called Seeds of Hope, a chance to look forward to a future.  Different from the one we’d once planned together.  For Andrew and I that meant we’d never spend our golden years still walking along hand in hand.

We’d written down what we had lost earlier in the weekend but we could choose to change and grow still holding fast to the things that mattered from the past.  We didn’t have to abandon all hope for the future. 

We were given this quote by Roy W Fairchild.  (I’ve googled him and he’s written a book called “Finding Hope Again”, maybe they told us that but I wasn’t listening!)

“The hopeful person is fully aware of the harshness and losses of life...hope takes us on a different journey but it can still be good.” 

Also we were each given a plant, a viola otherwise known as Heartsease.  An infusion of this plant was said to help mend a broken heart, you can break the name in two, hearts ease.

It looks very much like a small pansy and on investigation it is a wild version around long before the garden flower was cultivated.  It was around in Shakespeare’s day, in Hamlet Ophelia has a speech where she gives out flowers according to their meaning .

“Pansies, that’s for thoughts.”
From the French "pensée".

The viola is to help us remember that good can grow from the smallest seeds and sometimes in the most barren of places.  There has been so much I have written on my own blog about the garden bringing me peace and joy; it’s impossible to not feel hopeful when you gaze on a wonderful blossoming flower.

I am sure we all left restored and more hopeful even though the weekend had been emotionally draining.  There was laughter mixed with the tears and plenty of chocolate and tissues on hand.

Perhaps I now have new friends reading this from my time away and I would certainly recommend the weekend to anyone who has lost their spouse or partner.

As I drove away I switched the CD player on once more.  Captain Corelli’s story was over.  It has been a poignant tale to listen to on my journey there, one of love and loss and unexpected events which transpired to shatter the dreams of Pelegia and Antonio.

On my return journey I listened to Lady Antebellum, a CD I’d recently bought and hadn’t had chance to properly digest the words of.  These are the ones that struck a chord as I drove.

Hope is the soul of the dreamer
And heaven is the home of my God
It only takes on true believer
To believe you can still beat the odds.
I'll never not be your girl
‘Cause love is the heart of the world

from Heart of the World

Andrew will always be an amazing part of my life but now I have to dream new dreams and live in hope that I will blossom anew while still remembering the love we shared.