Walking back in the front door with Cliff's brothers and without him, feeling stunned and broken, but managing to pour drinks for them. Then being worried that Dad and Jennifer will be told the news by strangers if they got to the hospital before we return.
Having to concentrate on walking and breathing. Noticing that I am holding my breath all the time.
Seeing Dad and Jennifer who have travelled all the way back from Holland non-stop in the snow and ice to try and see Cliff before he died.
Going to see Jayde and holding her before I tell her that her Dad has died and telling her how much he loved her and that it didn't matter that she said something hurtful to him at Christmas because he knew that she loved him and that was all that mattered.
Jennifer trying to convince me that I need to try and get some sleep, having given up on getting me to eat anything
I'll be sickand being TERRIFIED that I will dream about Cliff and wake up and think it was all a nightmare, then having to re-live it again.
Wondering if this was in fact a nightmare and I would wake up and he'd be there.
My Director at work calling me and spending half an hour on the phone with me because he had just been told, and that he miraculously managed to make me feel calm enough to grab 5 hours sleep.
All the phone calls and texts and voicemails, and Jennifer sharing the phone calls with me.
Sleeping with Jennifer or Vicki because I could not sleep on my own.
Having to check if the hospital have Cliff's wedding ring because I can't remember that I've already told them to leave it on him.
Speaking incessantly for 3 weeks because I am running on pure adrenaline.
Noticing two weeks after Cliff dying that my heart is STILL banging in my chest, wondering if I might have a heart attack, and hoping that I would.
Smelling Cliff on his pillow and feeling my heart break literally. Realizing that this is also a physical thing.
Having to ask people what I am doing and what I am saying because I forget half way through.
Being able to speak to Roy about stuff that was worrying me and feeling so relieved afterwards.
Asking each of the pallbearers if they would carry Cliff at the funeral and each one of them saying, "honoured" in a heartbeat, and feeling so proud to be his wife.
Jenny and Dad gently pushing me to get paperwork done
Sorting clothes out for Cliff to wear and sobbing because I'd never see him wearing his suit again. Writing down the customer number that was on the inside pocket of the jacket even though I would never order clothes from that tailor in Hong Kong again. Going through all the pockets hoping to find some kind of hidden message from him.
Out at a family dinner, going outside on my own for a smoke and feeling so alone, scared and small. Sliding down the wall with pure unadulterated grief and then lying in the snow with no coat on. Not feeling the cold. Begging Cliff to come and get me because I wanted to go with him. Steve gently picking me up and putting me in a car. Completely losing it and howling with primal instinct on the floor and my friend Vicki (who I known since I was 17) coming to collect me from Dad's to take me back to her place for the night. Getting extremely mashed and being put in bed. Vicki crying with me and sitting there holding me for hours and hours.
Shaking because I had to meet the Undertaker.
Deciding to write the Order of Service and Eulogy myself and locking myself away for two and a half days to write it and get it formatted to my satisfaction. Jenny coming up to empty the ashtray and coaxing me to eat. Emailing it to Thailand for Roy to check and laughing with him about the fact that he sat in an internet cafe crying whilst trying to read it with everyone assuming that his girlfriend had left him.
Steve managing to procure the soundbyte from "The Vikings" - the burial scene so that it could be played at the crematorium.
Taking Cliff's swords to the chapel of rest so that he could have them with him, and the undertaker saying, "ah, it's Lara Croft" and laughing, then feeling bad that I had laughed.
Going in with the undertaker and Jenny so that he could put a lock of my hair over Cliff's heart, a cigar, miniature Bacardi and a pirate's "piece of eight" in with him and thinking that Cliff looked cold and deciding that I shouldn't go back again in case that memory overwrote my "alive" memories of him. Then getting back outside in the car and saying,
I always said he looked drop dead gorgeous in that suitand me and Jenny hysterical with laughter, hugging each other and crying all at the same time. And not feeling bad about laughing that time.
Visiting Gaynor to warn her that one of the songs that was going to be played was also played at her brother Paul's funeral so that she can prepare herself.
Vicki and I reading out the Eulogy so that Bobert can time it. Bobert bringing me chocolate every night I slept at Vicki's.
Cliff's really good old friends all closing ranks around me and making me feel safe. Taking errands off my hands. Organizing the wake, getting the venue , managing the guest list with me and managing security for the wake.
The patience of his family with me when I got REALLY fixated on something. Like, he NEEDED the piece of eight. John and Jenny packing up the whole coin collection and taking it to Dad's. Dad spending an entire day looking through it. Then me finding it in the second place I looked when we put the collection back in the safe and crying with relief that he would have it.
Getting hysterical on the phone to Brian about one thing:
Upon telling Brian that only the Pallbearers and family are allowed to see Cliff. I don't want him being turned into a freak show.
Woah. I can feel that coming down the phone in waves. If anyone else wants to see him, tell the Undertaker to speak to one of us and we'll manage it.
The Undertaker getting nervous because he recognizes the Pallbearers' names.
Getting hysterical on the phone with Roy about one thing:
I don't want them to hurt him.
Nearly making the Registrar cry at the hospital when I sob these same words to him in the middle of the lobby.
Jenny waking me up to tell me that there will be no post mortem and crying with relief.
Not comprehending why there is air for me to breath when Cliff is no longer breathing.
Pretending that he's not dead.
Thanking my late father out loud for paying for my education so that I had the ability to write the Eulogy myself.
Being overwhelmed with support and messages from work and wanting to go back so that I could escape the living nightmare.
Speaking to Cliff and crying every time I took a shower so that I could be strong in front of his Dad.
John following me in his car back down to the coast as it was the first time I had driven since Cliff died.
Realizing that Cliff and my Dad shared a lot of traits and ethics.
Feeling safe every time I spoke to one of Cliff's friends. Trying my hardest to be brave when I do and managing it most of the time because I know it's hard for them too. I know that every man can deal with his own wife booing but they always find it hard if someone else's is.
My cousin telling me that my 83 year old Aunt is coming for the funeral - all the way from Liverpool, and there is no stopping her.
My sister panicking because she can't get me a flight to South Africa straight after the funeral and she feels like she has let me down.
Vicki begging me not to go to South Africa because she has this vision of me freaking out on the plane half way there.
Booking my flight to Sweden so that I can stay with Kathy after the funeral. There are no seats to South Africa, even in First Class.
Shaun telling me that he had to hear my voice and saying he knew I'd either be a quivering lump of jelly on the floor, or, that I'd have put my backbone back in ... and I had my backbone in. Shaun being the first person brave enough to ask me what exactly happened and I find myself relieved by sharing most of it, step by step. He tells me that he's happy his friend went with a wink and a smile with me there, and adds,
never mind about his speech slurring, that doesn't matter, he always fuckin' mumbled anyhow.
Being able to open my front door, car bonnet and the safe with ease for the first time in 12 months and thinking that he's near me, helping me.
Finding it really important that his family feel included in all the arrangements and doing my best, my very best, so that I get TOTALLY FIXATED AND OBSESSED with the smallest details. But finding that no-one seems to mind and in fact they give you permission to be that way.
Cliff's Dad telling me that I can do whatever I want for the funeral.
Steve telling me that if I want all the brothers to wear dresses and surf into the crematorium they will do it for me.
Jayde agreeing to hold my hand and walk next to me behind the coffin, and feeling very proud of her because she is only 25 and I didn't even do that at my own father's funeral when I was 32.
Eating whatever was put in front of me.
Drinking buckets of tea.
Peeing a lot.
Eating a cookie and saying,
I've had breakfast.
I've had breakfast.
Seeing Esther (Cliff's niece) for the first time. She has arrived from Denmark during the night and we hold each other for a long time without speaking. We talk quietly with silent tears running down our faces and don't bother to wipe them away. Everyone stays out of the room for a couple of hours so we can just be.
Missing my dogs and getting so much fuss from them every time I see them.
Feeling like a child.
Not understanding or believing.
Believing and numb.
Believing and feeling it.
Sitting and staring for hours.
Tipping my head upside down over the toilet and hacking off some hair, seeing that there were some split ends on it, then hacking off some more, so that it could go in with Cliff. Then having to get it trimmed before the funeral because there is a big chunk missing.
Wanting to see old school-friends. Needing those old trusted friends around me once more.
Going to walk into a shop, hearing Joss Stone and walking straight back out.
Scanning the crowds, looking for him and starting to panic that I might be losing my sanity and saying,
Get me home right now
Working out that there will be 250 at the funeral and 150 at the wake and my stomach going round like a washing machine.
Speaking to Brian every night for an hour before I can go to bed and sleep. Brian taking stuff off me and sharing it amongst the pallbearers so that I have less to worry about. They basically take everything off me that they can but leave me with enough to do so that I don't just sit there bawling.
Going to buy my funeral clothes on my own. Driving with tom-tom. It's only a 3 minute drive, but I manage to end up in the middle of the countryside on a road I've never been on before. I choose my reaction. I laugh and tell Cliff that I'm fucking useless without him. It's a nice drive but the car is COVERED in mud. I don't have to panic.
During this time period I go through being:
I feel guilty that I didn't go to the doctors with him and question the doctor about which meds he was prescribed for high blood pressure. I feel guilty that I work in the pharma industry and didn't insist he was given the best statin on the market. I feel guilty that I didn't give up smoking which means he didn't either. I feel guilty that I was spoiled by him and able to go through life with him without a care in the world, and had the luxury of living in la-la land while he dealt with everything. I feel guilty because I truly believed that he was that big and strong that he would go on forever. I feel guilty if I laugh. I feel guilty if I don't cry all the time. I feel like I didn't deserve him, that nobody deserved him and that we all treated him like shit in one way or another.
The fear is IMMENSE. The one person in this world who I can totally trust has gone. I am now thinking about people in the following terms:
Can say anything to him
Will sort out any shit for you
Careful if you ask him to sort out any shit for you or he may go completely psycho
Yes, he's fun but he WILL try and shag you so keep him at arm's length or be chaperoned
OK to call at 2 in the morning
Who the fuck is going to guide me now? I'm not ready. I'm not grown up enough for this. I can't do this. Breath. Breath. For fuck's sake, calm down.
I sit and stare and smoke. I talk to try and vocalize what I am going through, to try and make sense of it. Every part of me is screaming for him and I am exhausted.