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.

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