Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Summertime has officially ended in the UK.

This means that our clocks have gone forward by one hour … and although this means you get up an hour later, you also go home in the dark.

For some reason, the sky at night, the smell of winter in the air, the way the air feels, it all makes me more aware of the fact that he is gone.

I miss him more keenly.

It’s made it worse. How could it? But it has.

Bonfire Night is coming and I am dreading it. I heard a couple of fireworks go off last night and tried to ignore them.

Christmas is coming and Boo is getting thinner.

The air feels thinner too and sometimes it’s hard to breathe. It makes me feel panicky.

Conversely, I feel frustrated at being stuck in this corporeal body and ache to cast it aside so I can join him on his cosmic travels.

If you’ve ever watched Star Trek you will understand what I mean when I say that I think of god as being “Q” these days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My sister

My sister Honey has dengue fever - I am feeling a little freaked out.

I knew I didn't want her to go to India.

And now I know why.

The last joint of pork

Due to the power cut I had to cook everything in my freezer and fridge (not that there's a lot in there these days).

This meant that I had to cook the last joint of pork that Cliff had bought. He was good at selecting meat, and always managed to choose really nice pieces.

It felt strange cooking it ... usually I would have made apple sauce and a roast dinner out of it. I tried to keep myself busy, but the smell permeated the whole house and in the end I was sobbing - because I could visualize him going through all the meat, taking his time (with me tapping my foot impatiently) at the supermarket.

I felt bad that I was always so damn impatient when we went shopping.

I felt sad that he would never go shopping with me again.

And when I got the pork out of the oven, I couldn't stomach trying a slice ... although the dogs did ... having forced themselves to sleep under the oven for 2 hours almost.

Last night, I carved myself two slices. Carving the meat feels alien to me. I just can't cut it as thinly as he did. He took care of me so well, and was so thoughtful, always ensuring there wasn't even a slither of fat on it. I loved watching his hands at work, carving meat, whatever they were doing, just loved his hands. Man's hands. Beautiful hands.

Well, I ate two slices and it was yummy. Fred and Barney thought so too.

Part of me wants to eat it. Part of me wants to preserve it. Part of me wants to chop it in half and give it to the dogs. Part of me wants to sling it in the bin.

But I'll try and eat a little more this evening. He'd want me to.

After all, it's the last chance to have a taste ... of life with him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New blog to recommend

Hi all

I've added a new blog to my list on the right, called "Grief Healing" (or you can also click here:

It will be worth checking this regularly because it is written by Marty Tousley, an extraordinary woman and counsellor (on the Bereavement Forum that I joined, which in itself helped me beyond words, especially during my first few months).

In her own words, Marty says, "In my daily travels around the Web, I’m always discovering valuable resources that I think deserve a wider audience and ought to be shared with everyone who may be interested. Finding useful information about grief, loss and transition is like a treasure hunt for me, and once I find these treasures, I don’t want to lose track of them. I have a need to “put” them somewhere so that others can find and use them, too ~ perhaps more easily and more quickly than I did. This blog offers me a marvelous way to do that.The volume of material available to us on the Internet is exploding, and many of us don’t have the time, the energy, or the inclination to find it, much less digest it all. You might think of this blog as my effort to “search the Web so you don’t have to.”

You can also find a wealth of other "treasures" (thanks to Marty) here:

I have read (and re-read) many articles that Marty herself wrote here:

and a list of music for "grieving and healing hearts" here:

Strength to you today (because Sundays always suck).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What temperament are you?

At some point along this journey, you find yourself becoming philosophical. At least I certainly have. A widow friend sent me this link, because she was interested to know what "temperament" I was ... and the results are pasted below. I found it useful to read through, simply because it highlights my possible weakspots for the journey onwards.

Providers take it upon themselves to insure the health and welfare of those in their care, but they are also the most sociable of all the Guardians, and thus are the great nurturers of social institutions such as schools, churches, social clubs, and civic groups. Providers are very likely more than ten percent of the population, and this is fortunate for the rest of us, because friendly social service is a key to their nature. Wherever they go, Providers happily give their time and energy to make sure that the needs of others are met, and that social functions are a success.
Highly cooperative themselves, Providers are skilled in maintaining teamwork among their helpers, and are also tireless in their attention to the details of furnishing goods and services. They make excellent chairpersons in charge of dances, banquets, class reunions, charity fund-raisers, and the like. They are without peer as masters of ceremonies, able to speak publicly with ease and confidence. And they are outstanding hosts or hostesses, knowing everyone by name, and seemingly aware of what everyone's been doing. Providers love to entertain, and are always concerned about the needs of their guests, wanting to make sure that all are involved and provided for.

Friendly, outgoing, neighborly - in a word, Providers are gregarious, so much so that they can become restless when isolated from people. They love to talk with others, and will often strike up a conversation with strangers and chat pleasantly about any topic that comes to mind. Friendships matter a great deal to Providers, and their conversations with friends often touch on good times from years past. Family traditions are also sacred to them, and they carefully observe birthdays and anniversaries. In addition, Providers show a delightful fascination with news of their friends and neighbors. If we wish to know what's been going on in the local community, school, or church, they're happy to fill us in on all the details.

Providers are extremely sensitive to the feelings of others, which makes them perhaps the most sympathetic of all the types, but which also leaves them somewhat self-conscious, that is, highly sensitive to what others think of them. Loving and affectionate themselves, they need to be loved in return. In fact, Providers can be crushed by personal criticism, and are happiest when given ample appreciation both for themselves personally and for the tireless service they give to others.

William Howard Taft, Barbara Walters, J C Penney, Ray Kroc, Louis B. Mayer, Sam Walton, Dolley Madison, and Dave Thomas are examples of Provider Guardians.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Meet Me Halfway

oh yes ...

no need for an explanation


The past couple of days have been tough ... as I mentioned it was my Mom's birthday, plus am very tired (still adjusting to time difference and I have lots of work on at the moment).

So when a stranger rang my doorbell and asked me if I had a little white and tan dog my heart stopped beating. I really thought Barney was dead ... thank god she was standing there to tell me that she had nearly run him over and had put him in the neighbour's garden (2 houses away) and locked him in there. I could barely speak ... I thanked her profusely and went to the back door where I knew he would be, with our other dog, Fred ... pretending nothing had happened. He ran in and I smacked him for the first ever time (on his arse) and then I howled and howled incessantly. I begged him not to be bad and go out the front again, that he would get hurt or worse and I can't take it. Now I am neurotic that he will do it again so insist on going in the garden with him - he is getting very frustrated as he can't garden hop now - his usual practice is to play with Toby next door, and partake in a Bourbon biscuit and milk two doors away ... tough shit, the little bastard.

How much more shit can I take? And just as I thought that thought ... the power went off in my house. It's dark and both dogs insist on playing chicken with me going up AND down the feckin stairs, whilst I fumble about with candles and lighters (mental note: charge the torches up) trying to figure out by process of elimination what has made the trip go. To NO avail. By midnight I am hysterical ... and screaming for him, literally. Finally set mobile alarm so I can go to work, but in the morning decide to take the day as leave ... it appears that it's something to do with the heating (when you turn it off, it makes the trip go) ... sweet jesus I am going to give that plumber the privilege of hearing my wide range of swearwords when I see him.

But the fact is, Barney IS alive, the power is back on, my Mom's birthday has passed for another year, and I'm used to being tired.

So, I'm feeling lighter ...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Words of comfort ... received on my Mom's birthday

Today I feel sad. People surrounding me in the open plan office environment where I sit are unlikely to perceive it ... because it is a sadness that I have learned to incorporate into my life having lost my Mom some 15 years ago. But today is her birthday, and the "window" that normally runs silently and unseen in the background of my "operating environment" has now come through to the front. It is not silent to me today and it is highly visible (but only to me) ... I can see her clearly in my mind's eye. Anniversaries are always tough and I know they always shall be.

I'd like to write about her but I simply can't. I know I will start sobbing and the tears are already clouding my vision, but one day I shall because she is the most perfect mother you could have wished for.

So, carrying this sadness alone ... and wishing my sister was not in India today so I could sit with her (not to mention that the fact that I no longer have Cliff to soothe away the pain ... which in itself brings more loss ... loss that seems so enormous that it frightens me ... and all my fears become more real - turning into demons that I want to hide from). These beautiful and warm words of comfort on Roads' blog could not have been sent at a better time, because right here, right now is when I needed to hear them ( - this blog can also be accessed via my Blogs that I Follow List) .

His words were the balm, as well as the band-aid, that I so needed. (I have pasted the words below, for ease.)

I can't stress how much I'd recommend this blog to anyone affected by grief, cancer, whether they be a victim, bereaved spouse, or simply want to understand how they can help support a person whom they love or care about ... going through the fear and horror of loss (or someone sadly losing their own valiant battle against cancer, but especially anyone who has to face their greatest fear, that almost unspeakable reality ... that they will lose their love, their world, their soulmate to this cruel disease) ... it is one of THE best blogs I have ever read.

"Thank you, Boo. Of all the things I would want to save from the ravages of flood or fire, family photos are at the top. Increasingly, I feel that possessions are simply unimportant, since finally it is memories that make us who we are.

I love the way you write about Cliff. He really sounds to be quite a card. Looking at his photo, there’s a twinkle in his eye and a wry smile in defiance of life and time — and no doubt of death itself.

You must be enormously proud of him, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Years have passed for me, and despite the inadequacy and marvellously ironic inappropriateness of that endlessly heard cliche, it’s clear that does make it easier.

Much later as you go through this experience, and no matter how you cling to the past, or the past hangs on to you, eventually you find that life moves on in its own mysterious ways.

One day you find, quite unexpectedly, that in the midst of a new life there’s much less scope and merit, most of the time, in moping about the old.

But for you, this is still fresh and new, and I’m full of admiration for the way that you forge ahead whilst looking reflectively and lovingly behind you. That’s no small achievement, I know — even if finally, sadly, there’s just no other way.

Many thanks indeed for taking the time to write and share your thoughts and insights, and with all best wishes to you today from the early morning London train."

Thanks Roads - you summed up my beautiful husband very accurately ... it's amazing what you can learn of someone's character by looking at a photo, but your insight is startling! xx

Monday, October 19, 2009

"tear down those curtains and make me a dress"***

Taking advice from Kendra, that it is just as important to take a break from grief work (as it is to work at your grief), I took a break from blogging, reading my sisters-in-arms' blogs, and participating on the Grief Healing Discussion Boards whilst in Savannah ... so am writing this lengthy post (over a week's worth of blogging) on my return flight(s) home.

*** thanks to my lovely friend (and fellow widow) Liz Burns for leaving this quote on Facebook for me whilst I was in Savannah, and for making me LO (very) L.

Taking off from Heathrow, I rub my locket as though releasing the genie from its bottle and whisper to him, "Come with me baby."

The terrified flyer next to me seems to be helped to make light of her own fear because I giggle each time we hit turbulence. Her husband works at Quantico - an unlikelier alliance you would not find, yet I share my reserve of sweets with her and we chat easily ... it turns out her mother grew up in Savannah,_Georgia and she knows Thunderbolt / Isle of Armstrong,+GA,+USA&gl=uk&ei=74rcSpHoE9Wr4Qa_9bX1Bg&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CAwQ8gEwAA too.

I choose "The Hurt Locker" to watch and find myself identifying with the almost death-wish recklessness and buzz that the main character in the bomb disposal unit (based in Iraq) thrives on, leading me to wonder how Bokalollie is doing.

Due to being delayed at Heathrow, I miss my connecting flight, and consequently land in Savannah at almost midnight. I rapidly control my composure - the sound of crickets and the humidity in the air, the smells too - are so reminiscent of him and our many trips to the Caribbean. The delay did allow me to view the most spectacular sunset in Washington however ... I definitely associate these with him and actually believe he has a hand in them these days ... he always said that I tended to think of him as "Superman" (I did) ... and now I really do. The extra time at Washington Dulles Airport also affords me the opportunity to buy a bell for Cliff's Mum's collection, which Jenny carries on adding to, as well as buying 2 postcards for Dad and Jenny for their stamp and postcard collections, respectively.

Karen greets me with a huge smile and cuddle and we head for her jeep where Ronnie the wonderdog and a vodka, coke and ice are waiting for me. This really touches me as it is something that Cliff and I used to do for each other.

Half an hour later Karen, Mike, Ronnie and I are sitting in their screened porch, chatting, drinking and smoking until around 02h00. There are white Christmas style lights wrapped around her palm trees and this makes me think of Cliff and the resort where we got married. It makes me smile.

After a really good sleep, Mike takes us out on the boat from around 11h00 till 16h00. It makes me think of Cliff so much, but I'm smiling each time I think of him, and it feels as though he is close by. Karen takes control of driving the boat and we get lost (but of course it is Mike's fault LOL) ... I really don't care. It feels so good to be on the water - there is something so cleansing and healing about being there. We moor at a great place for lunch - again I know that Cliff would have loved it there - the music, the food, the drinks. But it makes my week when lots of dolphins come so close to the boat - seeing them makes my heart smile.

The dolphins remind me of the time we took a catamaran trip in the Dominican Republic and I spot a MASSIVE turtle. At the time, I am so so so excited that I shout, "Look everyone, a DOLPHIN" but it didn't matter - what mattered was that Cliff, the crew, and everyone else saw this big old turtle, even if they all laughed at my expense later.

I'd told Karen that I don't normally drink during the day until she suggested frozen margaritas and guzzled a few at leisure. Total bliss. I am so pleased that I am able to enjoy the whole day, that I am able to think of Cliff and smile, and to share those memories with them.

Mike is the "big cheese" at Savannah's Hinckley Boat Yard, and both of my hosts used to work at Palmer-Johnson, so it is fun to cruise around and look at the boats moored there. One of them is worth $68 million (yes really), and they know many of the owners, the crews and the community that is involved in the industry, so I lap up the stories, and enjoy learning more about their careers and experiences.

When we return home, I announce to Mike that, "I am a good, happy tired" and I truly am.

During the course of the week, it's almost as though I'm visiting Karen, and Cliff is really at home waiting for my return. And you know what, it's good to have a break and pretend for a while. I will dream of him VIVIDLY each night I am in Savannah, and I wonder if this is his way of telling me that he has come with me.

After one lazy morning (they all were for me in truth), Karen takes me to a Mall so I can do some shopping (dollars burning hole in pocket) ... whilst there we decide to eat lunch at the Mexican restaurant and when we sit down, I notice it's called "The Dugout" causing me to blink away the rising tears. It's a strange name choice for this restaurant, as it's on ground level and nothing like its namesake where Cliff, in his own words, "grew into a man". I feel the panic rising within me when I hear Peter Frampton being played on the PA system of another store, and tell Karen so that she can deal with my shopping if need be.

I still don't (thankfully) seem to have the buying frenzy that used to fuel me when on holiday with Cliff, but I do buy a t-shirt for myself, a dog toy and other items for other people ... but I am really pleased with the stamps that I purloin at the local Post Office for Cliff's Dad. They are normal US stamps, but come in a sheet commemorating US TV shows from the 50's and are a nice addition for his collection.

Each night we take Ronnie for a walk and stop at Bill and Ginny's on the way home. Bill is a good old Southern gent with some fairly bigoted views and is 80 years old if he's a day ... but damn he's easy to fall in love with, and I find myself looking forward to sitting on his screened porch (which is around the size of a small English cottage in itself), watching the sunset, chatting and laughing. I will consume 2 vodkas each time we visit, and Ronnie and Karen will partake in 2 dog biscuits and scotches respectively.

At the end of the week when I say goodbye to Ronnie (and Bill) I will tell them both that they had damn well better be here when I return to visit in a couple of years. I can't stomach goodbyes now, neither can I bear the thought that they may not be, nor do I want to imagine the pain of loss that others would feel.

Karen and Mike are "hosts extraordinaire" and I really do (genuinely) manage to smile, laugh, rest, sleep well, unwind, and until the very last night ... there is no need to release the sorrow and pain - the tears - but after a whole week, even a wonderful respite from everything as this was, my cup is ready to runneth over with tears .... I can feel them building up from deep within my body, not knowing when they will strike, and they eventually come whilst waiting with Ronnie in the Jeep for Karen to return with the pizzas that she has pre-ordered. I start crying because I so desperately wish I was returning home to Cliff. Ronnie becomes quite concerned about my visible anguish until the smell of pizzas wafts up his nostrils, thereby taking ALL his attention. Karen notices me wiping tears away and is upset for me. But the pizzas are from Papajohn's in Thunderbolt, which grounds me and strengthens my resolve - because I start thinking about Kathy Papajohn and wonder how she is doing (she lost her soulmate and husband - Stephen - on the same day as I lost Cliff). This thought then leads me to PJ, and I hope with all my being, that her kidney stones are dispersing - I know that I thought Cliff was dying when he suffered from these once years ago, and saw his silent tears roll down his face with the sheer agony that they impose on your body. I can't contemplate feeling that ill now, the thought alone terrifies me - and I choose my mood and reaction ... by the time we're back I am fine.

I do check Facebook most days and leave a message for Lloyd who is also on leave in Spain and has been enjoying the sun. Roy and Marcus both leave me such beautiful, candid and touching messages on there ... which make my heart soar and keep my spirits soaring ... these men, all these men, who are "real men" in my opinion, and who are also "true" friends of Cliff's are immensely special and VIPs to me.

It is hard to sit in "Tequilera" at Washington Dulles Airport, where I am currently enjoying a frozen margarita and some yummy Mexican culinary (ok, maybe fast food would be a more accurate descriptor) delights ... then I think to myself ... it could be worse, I could be at Boston Airport which is where the two of us ate and enjoyed a cocktail or two, waiting for our flight back to the UK. I simply couldn't bear being there. The memory would overwhelm me ... the way we were ... how easy it was in each other's company, the banter and the laughter ... the way he would look at me and his ability to make me feel special with his eyes - the language that they spoke and that I understood. I could get goosebumps from one look. I miss those clear blue eyes so badly. The memory is so vivid that I can scarcely breath ... of us buying some soldiers a round of beers - they were in the same bar as us at New Orleans Airport en route back to Iraq (I think). I remember whispering to Cliff that they didn't look old enough to be fighting in a war. And him looking at me, really looking at me (so I knew he was serious) and gently saying, almost admonishing me - "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh Boo".

And I smile, really grin broadly, because I helped a soldier on the flight from Savannah to Dulles just earlier today ... because of Kim and Warren. I like to think that someone would have helped Warren if he'd been struggling to find somewhere to stow his bag ... and when we landed at Dulles, I made everyone wait while I passed his bag back to him. In gratitude, he proceeded to accompany me to the correct gate for my connecting flight ... "just want to ensure you are safe Ma'am" ... it felt very nice indeed being walked all the way there by a handsome (and young) soldier. Kim would have laughed her rocks off (if she had them), but I also know she'd understand why I did it.

Cliff would have been in his element in this trip, although I suspect I wouldn't have seen that much of him ... he'd have been happiest playing in the Hinckley Boat Yard with Mike, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he'd also have happily fixed the flashing on their roof for them. I am so proud to be his wife and know I always will be.

It was a poor second-best to light a candle for him in Savannah cathedral, and although I couldn't find it within myself to pray when I did so, having Karen next to me lighting a candle for her beloved (and very very missed) Daddy, gave me enough strength not to cry, and I'd like to think that my presence afforded her the same. We left quickly after lighting the candles, my mind and body certainly, if not hers too, seeking out the warmth and sunshine, along with a different focus.

I am so so proud to be her friend. Karen is a beautiful woman - in and out - and I love her. It's incredible that we were friends at Ursuline Convent for Girls between 1974 - 1976, and despite the fact that we've only met up once since then (2 years ago), we remain firm and fond friends. It's easy, you know ... it's really easy to be in one another's company.

(Karen is standing on the far right. Boo is right in the middle, her hair tastefully done by Vidal Sassoon - in two pig-tails.)

What else did we do?

Well ... being the two convent boarding school girls that we once were, we went to the ironically named Bonaventure Cemetery (made famous by the book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and a history lesson in itself which is the true purpose of our visit - not a new obsession with graveyards I am happy to confirm) in true Patsy and Edina (AbFab) style, sporting the obligatory wine (or was it bubbles?) and vodka in Karen's "Weekend Waterford". I somewhat irreverently posed for a photo, in the spot where the statue of the Bird Girl used to stand, balancing our drinks on my hands as though they were the Bird baths that the haunting statue held. The original statue was eventually removed by the parents (due to the overwhelming unwanted fame that having her on the cover of the book and the DVD brought to their daughter's grave). I felt somewhat disrespectful afterwards and can only admit that I got swept away with the whole Patsy and Edina moment.

We then wandered into the Jewish part of the cemetery. Karen and I both placed stones on some of the graves which had none. I notice that Karen is walking on the little dividing walls, in preference to walking over any body's final resting place. I become aware that my voice is low and quiet. I mention to her that Cliff's Mum's family was Jewish and she comments on the Hebrew poem that I'd included in his Eulogy.

I was honoured and privileged to be accompanied around the cemetery (and the City of Savannah too) by Savannah's very own Jim Bell (pronounced Ji-im) whose own uncle was mentioned twice in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" ... and mightily pissed off he was about it too. Jim can trace his family right back to the birth of this beautiful City and I found him to be a charming Southern Gentleman who is far more entertaining and has vast insight and sometimes unpublished and rare snippets of local history. He is a treasure trove of information, knowledge and gossip too!

Jim points out the Confederate "markers" on some of the graves - these denote that the deceased fought in the Civil War, and I find myself in awe of this ... often stopping to touch one of these markers (shaped like a George cross), very gently. It is Jim who encourages me to pose as the statue of the Bird Girl, so I feel as though I have been given permission by someone whose blood is rich in old Savannah birth-rights. At one point, he growls, "This is my City and I will damn well do as I please."

The words on one gravestone really speak to me and make sense: "Cosmos Mariner. Destination Unknown." I wonder if this man had common traits, strengths, loves and interests to my husband.

We sit on the marble bench erected in Johnny Mercer's memory, the songs that he wrote inscribed on its side ... and "Moon River" reminds me of my Uncle Peter, as well as taking me to another time ... in New Orleans with Cliff, walking down to the waterfront, so happy, safe and loved ... en route to a trip up the Mississippi on a paddle steamer ... a sax player catches my eye and I smile. He asks what I'd like him to play for me, and I reply in a heartbeat .... Moon River ... and Cliff pauses to give him $20 for his trouble, barely admonishing me ... "Boo, he's not being friendly, if you request a tune, I really need to pay him, OK?" In a time when I was clueless - to this loss and pain and would have failed any streetwise exam ... in truth I still would, but I am learning to pause before acting/speaking (some of the time), but at least I have learned to not be pressurized into anything I'm unsure about ... and I know who to seek counsel from ... now that the person who was my counsel entirely can no longer gently guide me. That said, I still hear his voice when I need to ... it comes from within me ... I actually know what he would say, so I DID listen.

It happened to be Karen's birthday whilst I was there, and I mention this to Jim, so he insists on picking up the tab when we wine and dine at "1790" Upon arrival, he introduces us "Ladies - and I mean the term loosely," to Savannah's Judge ... and I can almost hear my beautiful husband laughing next to me. Being the week of her birthday also means that I am fortunate enough to meet three sets of her friends and I happily jest and banter with the South African ex-pat contingency over a very good lunch, later meeting other friends at Tubby's Bar (which happens to be Mike's local much to his amusement), as well as a charming British couple who are ex pats there too - I felt very much at home there too ... these were people my parents would have befriended with ease.

As Jim showed us around Savannah, I could almost see Scarlett O'Hara swishing around in her long ruby and white dress. It is the most charming and beautiful city, resplendent with Live Oaks covered in moss and resurrection moss, giving the whole city an aura of romance and sense of history. Karen tells me that she feels that trees - old trees such as these - soak up so much history and have stories to tell us if we only knew how to listen and I find myself agreeing. We both have our photos taken with the "Waving Lady with her dog" - I feel a connection to the statue ... her story is that of being widowed yet walking down to the harbour each day to wave goodbye to all the men going to sea.

One afternoon, Michele calls me from Florida and her Mum walks into her home whilst we are chatting, so she puts her on the phone without telling her it's me on the other end of the line. This lady has known me since I was three years old, and lived on the next street to us in Belgium, additionally she loved my Mom so much and they were good friends for decades, both being ex-pat wives. Of course I cry when I hear the delight in her voice upon discovering she is talking to me ... it had to happen - her voice conjures up nostalgia for a lost childhood, when life was so simple, before I knew anything of the heartache of pain and loss - her voice brings my mother to me, her words are so apt - "There is nothing I can say to you my love ... there are no words to describe your loss ... but I still imagine you as a child ... and WHEN ARE YOU coming to visit us?" She tells me that she is proud of me for endeavouring to make Cliff proud of me, and agrees that memories are the single most important thing we have as we grow older, before instructing me that I have to make more newer memories, hastily clarifying that she is NOT insinuating with someone new, just in case, god forbid I have misinterpreted her meaning. The tears that come are soft tears, but it is a hard battle ... which I win in time to say goodbye.

A girlfriend from my second boarding school - Carolyn drives for 4 hours after work, simply so we can have some time to catch up properly, and this means the world to me. Karen and Mike welcome her as if she is my sister - and she fits in so easily that there are moments when I forget that we three girls do not share the same school memories ... and we stay up late (for me) chatting, talking candidly and without reserve about our lives since we left school. Just as with Karen, I slip into that comfortable feeling of no time having passed, even though we have lived a lifetime since those days. Karen is so thoughtful and cooks a dinner worthy of any Michelin-starred restaurant - then quietly slips away to bed leaving us to share the heartaches and highs of our lives ... even though she needn't have ... I wanted her to stay in fact, to share my second school's memories and days through being immersed in the laughter and things that we confided. I love learning about her twin girls and the respect and fondness that I already hold for Carolyn mounts even higher, when I learn about the hurdles and heartaches she has encountered and overcome. These old school ties run VERY deep indeed. During the course of the evening, we chat (via Blackberry) to Melanie in Sydney who is sad that she cannot be with us.

Another old schoolfriend, Rob Phillips finds me on Facebook whilst there ... and when I share my plans to visit Geoff Richman, Andrew Yule, Melanie Roberts and family next year (in Australia, followed by a stopover in Singapore to see Kendra a.k.a. Biteena) ... also mentioning (for humour value) that Cliff used to watch me "like a hawk" due to my never-ending ability to talk to (and trust) everybody and anybody - he responds to my mail the following day, suggesting that I visit him in Thailand en route, then "just a thought" ... "we could descend on everyone together and travel together," adding his brother Richard (based in Melbourne) to my existing itinerary.

OMG, I love these old friends - the boys (now men) always gave me a sense of security and safety (sometimes in a fraternal brotherly way, sometimes something more - we were going through adolescence and hormones were popping all over the place). I reply briefly to his mail, exclaiming that Cliff is probably exhaling with relief at the prospect of him joining me on this next adventure, and leave him my landline number so we can start to make plans in the new year.

Thank you, Daddy for spending extortionate amounts of money on my schooling, and for choosing the schools that you and Mum chose ... yes, I happened to receive a good, solid education. I learned how to learn. I learned to love certain subjects. I learned how to drink. I learned how to love. But above all else, I was priveleged to make friends for LIFE, some of whom I have flown halfway around the world for when they found themselves facing their darkest hours, and some of whom have done the same for me.

And so I sit here on this 747 and I realize that I can now picture Karen in my mind's eye, walking Ronnie past the policeman's house (who happens to be married to the neighbourhood kleptomaniac - LOL) and I will now be able to visualize her sitting with her neighbours (and all of their dogs) enjoying a social drink on Bill's porch each evening.

And I sit here thinking that for the first time since I lost him, he has not given me a beautiful sunset today ... then we take off and I look backwards out of my window, to be rewarded with one so majestic that it takes my breath away. No one else seems to notice, and I remain selfish with it ... a private moment ... love ... just the two of us, as it always was.

I ponder a while on sunsets and then for some inexplicable reason, my thoughts lead onto alternate realities and I ache, literally crave finding the other "Boo" out there somewhere ... I am desperate to tell her to love this magical special man she is with - as much as she can today - because he could be cruelly stolen from her at any time, and when that happens, all she will be able to do ... is to love him enough to let him go, the ultimate selfless sacrifice that she can make for him, evidence of the feelings that reside deep in her soul and her heart and her very being.

I pray that Mike will be ok so that Karen does not have to know this pain too.

I think of Kendra and the love I feel for my old friend almost overwhelms me. Because, despite her own unimaginable and unspeakable pain through loss, she has helped me beyond words throughout this year.

I sit here and look at the "Skymap" and wonder how womanNshadows is doing - because I can see Charlotte on the map and know that is in North Carolina ... when the map zooms out, I can see the outline of Wales, and think of J and Moose, and find myself looking forward to phoning her ... it strikes me as no coincidence that she and I both found ourselves in vaulted churches away from home, yet we never desire to do the same at home. The map zooms in again, and I can see cities and towns in Canada, and my thoughts drift to SuddenWidow, and another old schoolpal, Karen whose husband is battling cancer currently. I pray he is strong enough to beat it simply because I want to protect her from this ... this ... this ... horror and pain.

I sit here scribbling this post down in my new, yet well worn Moleskine notebook that Lynette advised me to buy, so that I could capture some of my more personal or private memories within its pages ... and hope that she is feeling better so that she can cope with the daily battle of widowhood ....

and that leads me to realize just how much I have missed these new friends - my sisters in arms - my fellow widows ... from blogging, from the Bereavement Forum ... and I smile.

I sit here and choose to watch "Angels and Demons" and wonder WTF no one told me that Ewan McGregor stars in the movie.

I sit here and bargain with God (and Cliff) ... "No, not this flight .... there is a baby and a toddler a few seats ahead ...," but I can't stop the grin spreading across my face when we hit some bad turbulence.

I sit here and realize how much I miss my dogs.

I sit here and rub my locket. I whisper to him, "Come home with me, Baba ... if this plane should go down, catch me ... I shan't be scared if you are there to catch me. I love you. I miss you beyond belief and beyond words."

I sit here and I know that I will howl uncontrollably, that it will bring me to my knees, literally, probably as soon as the dog-sitter leaves. But I also know that this has been a milestone - an achievement - in this unwanted journey ...

and I sit here and think, "he'd be proud of me .... my ability to talk about him, without any hesitation, with a smile, even laughter, instead of sobbing ... and it occurs to me that I've made some progress, just a smidgeon, but for the better nonetheless."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Exhausted, excited and just a little wobbly

Having to get ready for my break in Savannah has left me exhausted, which shows just how much Cliff fundamentally helped me. Everything's done, so at least I can relax this evening.

I am excited about seeing Karen, Mike and Ronnie the wonderdog.

I am happy because Carolyn is joining us next Friday evening (and the following day) and it will be wonderful to have some time to catch up properly. Not only that, intuitively, I know that she and Karen will get along really well.

But, I have this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach because I am going without him.

I'll carry him in my heart.

I'll carry him in my locket.

I wonder if he'll take a break from flying around the cosmos and flit down to Georgia for a while.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Miscellaneous happenings and thoughts this week

The locket

Although I'm not quite ready to put the ashes in my locket (, I did manage to put some hair and a rose petal from Cliff's wreath in one of the two compartments (the other compartment is empty and will eventually house a small amount of his ashes). It was fiddly and required a degree of patience, something I am not blessed with, but when the little screw flew out of my fingers and pinged off the coffee table, I really did lose it ... I was howling for him and also howling for a friend of mine because I knew that they would have been able to put the screw in with ease. After telling myself off, when I realized that I was crawling around the floor in a dimly-lit lounge, both dogs licking the tears off my face ... I stood up, poured a vodka and coke, turned the lights up, and hoorah! The little screw was still on the coffee table. Once it was in place and the locket placed around my neck, I could physically feel the weight being lifted from my shoulders, and I'm relieved that I can take him to Savannah with me.

I've had a strong couple of weeks at work, but I've had several tough moments to contend with at home:

Stargate Universe

Despite being painfully aware of how much he would have enjoyed this new series, I allowed myself to enjoy watching it alone. But it's so hard.


The last time we used these were for our Caribbean Cruise in 2004, so I had to dust my one off, and I cried when I saw the address label on it (and still haven't changed it but must). I packed last night and sorted through my "holiday clothes", many of which brought a smile to my face with the memories that they brought with them.

The Painted House

My friend Lizi bought me this book for my flights to and from Savannah from a charity shop. It made me gulp because that's something Cliff used to do for me, and it also touched me so much that she thought to do so. My fingers keep going towards it in my hand luggage, but I'll abstain till I am taxi-ing on the runway.

Chasing Cars

Driving home on Tuesday night, either Scott Mills or Zane Lowe played this one, and it was one of those moments, you know, when the loss becomes palpable, turns into a tsunami that engulfs you, and brings you to your knees ... making me literally howl and scream and sob in my car. In the end I had to switch station and get myself under control because I couldn't see to drive safely.

Chasing Cars

We’ll do it all
On our own
We don’t need
Or anyone

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
I don’t quite know
How to say
How I feel
Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

Let’s waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life
All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see
I don’t know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

These days it feels as though Cliff is within me and therefore the answers to the questions that I have, all the dilemmas that lay ahead, the will to carry on also lie within me. Sometimes I surprise myself with strength that I am sure I did not have before. It's as though he has left me some of his own, but not enough to make me foolhardy ... although last night I certainly didn't give a damn, yelling at the people who have betrayed me: "I am going to release the dogs of war onto your stupid little world and you are going to regret fucking with me. How DARE you think you can abuse my trust and take me for a xxxx? It has taken me 9 months of sheer hell to get to where I am today, and you think you can just knock me back 6 months with your behaviour? You will NOT. I have made a choice and I am not falling behind 6 months in confidence and progress because of a bunch of pikeys. "

Nose up in the air, march back through door.

And .... only two more sleeps till I get to Savannah - can't wait!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Say will

Thankfully, no one shies away from speaking about Cliff to me, and they are graciously tolerant of me talking of him incessantly. Yesterday, it was so good - it felt so good - to sit and talk about him, stories, laughing ... with Gary and Gaynor.

Marcus emailed me today to tell me that he will never be forgotten - that he has a special place safe in his heart - he told me that he cried like a baby - he confirmed that he too mourns him.

So why am I including this abridged poem here? Well, simply because it states so simply just how it is - how we feel.

And to let you know that you help me when you talk about Cliff with me. So please don't ever stop, PLEASE. It gives me a small taste of him again and lifts my mood, tops up my strength. It never upsets me ... although I wouldn't advise talking about him in an unflattering light. No seriously, don't go there. I might just grab his samurai sword again.

The time of concern is over. No longer am I asked how I am doing.
Never is the name of my partner mentioned to me.
A curtain descends. The moment has passed.
A life slips from frequent recall.
There are exceptions … close and comforting friends, sensitive and loving family.
For most, the drama is over. The spotlight is off.
Applause is silent.

But for me, the play will never end. The effects are timeless.
Say Will to me.
On the stage of my life, he has been both lead and supporting actor.
Do not tiptoe around the greatest event of my life. Love does not die.
His name is written on my life. The sound of his voice replays within my mind.
You feel he is dead. I feel he is of the dead and still lives.
You say he was my partner. I say he is.

Say Will to me and say Will again.
It hurts to bury his memory in silence.
What he was in the flesh has now turned to ash.
What he is in spirit, stirs within me always. He is of my past, but he is part of my present.
He is my hope for the future. You say not to remind me. How little you understand that I cannot forget. I would not if I could.

I forgive you, because you cannot know. I strive not to judge you, for yesterday I was like you.
I do not ask you to walk this road. The ascent is steep and the burden heavy. I walk it not by choice. I would rather walk it with him in the flesh.

I am what I have to be. What I have lost you cannot feel. What I have gained you cannot see.

Say Will, for he is alive in me.
He and I will meet again, though in many ways we have never parted. He and his life play light songs on my mind, sunrises and sunsets on my dreams. He is real and he is shadow.
He was and he is. He is my partner and I love him as I always did.

Say Will to me and say Will again.

(This poem was rephrased and based on the book “Saying Olin to Goodbye” by Donald Hackett.)

This is how my heart feels today

no need for any more words ...

Empathy, good advice and safety

Because of what's happened at home, I have taken the decision not to leave the house empty whilst I am pretending to be Scarlett O'Hara in Savannah.

Vern is going to stay here and dog-sit ... Shaun and Gary have a spare door key too and will be using home as a base to sleep periodically, whilst travelling up and down to North London to finish a construction project, as well as checking the house en route, and bringing materials and tools that they'll need to finish the roof and the bay window.

So I can now go and leave my niggling doubts and worries behind ... this morning I almost felt like cancelling my much needed R & R with Karen, Mike and Ronnie the wonderdog, because it has now transpired that the little shits have been through every room in the house. An antique planter pot is missing, along with the Rolex, and around 4 boxes of building materials (taps, fixtures, electrical stuff that Cliff was eventually going to install here or on some future project). My fear was that more sentimental stuff might have been taken while I was on vacation, but if they try to break in, thinking I'm not there, they will be in for a surprise (and it's not a teddy bears' picnic).

After dropping Vern off at home this afternoon, I found myself driving on to the coast to see Gary and Gaynor to seek advice about who to involve, primarily because I was fretting over whether to tell Shaun ... I've told Gary everything, the unabridged version ... and appealed to his discretion when recounting the details to Shaun ... because I know he will go ballistic and he is far more precious to me than a Rolex or anything material.

A friend of ours locally - who Cliff liked and had respect for rang me while I was drinking tea with Gary and Gaynor - he had just found out ... and was on his way out with his sons to get the message out there ... to bring the stuff back.

I feckin hate this shit. Cliffy always kept me well away from it - I was so safe. I know I still am ... but it's not the same ... I can't trust anyone else quite like him, i.e. his judgement, his fearlessness, his quick thinking, his ability to predict what others would do, and his execution of last minute plans, ensuring my safety (getting me miles away and babysat to boot), and assuring his own. I miss his counsel, his intellect, his protection. I miss him confirming that what I was doing was ok. No, I miss the fact that I would not have had to deal with this. I miss the eye contact, body language and not minding that he, on occasion, told me what to do, and I always followed his instructions, without question - I never minded, not one bit.

I wish he was here, I miss him immensely. The pain is beyond words ... it's unspeakable.