Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas is coming

I can't believe that Christmas will be here in less than a month.

That means I haven't seen him for almost a year.

It means that I have spent the better part of a year waiting for him to come home.

It only seems like yesterday ...

It seems like a millennia ago.

The Santa's that he put up last year are still up ...

I still can't bear to take them down.

Last Christmas we went everywhere (at the last minute) to buy a Christmas tree, and failed. It was the only Christmas we didn't have a tree. Perhaps it was meant to be. I can't imagine how painful it would have been to take it down again on my own.

We both so loved Christmas trees and went to the same place every year to buy a Norwegian Spruce. Every year I'd insist on a certain tree and Cliff would tell me it was too large, but I would maintain that it was the right "one" and he'd pretend to get grumpy before agreeing to buy it.

And each year when we got home, sure enough he'd have to saw at least a foot off the bottom.

We'd dress it together, and when he was alive, our dog Hammer would get excited, because to him, Christmas symbolized new toys, sweets, fun and lots of cold cuts of meat.

We have strings of white fairy lights (that can play Christmas tunes), and ornaments (red, gold and green baubles only), wooden ornaments, red and tartan ribbons, matching tinsel, the fake snow, and we finished it off by tying red, green and gold Quality Street sweets to it.

The smell is wonderful. Fresh pine.

I loved piling the gifts up under the tree a week before the day. Cliff always did his shopping on Christmas Eve and put his gifts next to the other offerings fairly late on Christmas Eve. I can still remember the champagne stirrer and the earrings we exchanged on our first Christmas together. Over the years we spoiled each other, buying presents that we didn't need but knew each other would like. Safari and J'adore perfumes, Harry Potter memorabilia, jewellery, a Scalextric set, a bright yellow sea scooter, a saxophone, a telescope (which I inscribed with the words - "You have given me the world, so here is the moon and the stars") ... wonderful memories. We both got more excited about giving each other stuff than we did receiving it.

He'd make cocktails and I'd be preparing for dinner the following day. We'd put snacks out - sweets, crisps, fruit, nuts (which he'd have to crack open for me), mince pies, sausage rolls, and I'd always make a real fresh trifle (faithfully following my own mother's recipe). He always said it was the best trifle he'd ever tasted. We always had an open house over the holidays. Sometimes friends stayed for days.

I can remember sitting on his lap (two years ago), drinking a (half) bottle of champagne through a girly pink straw, surrounded by friends, dogs, music, laughter and love. We were in our bar-room which was decked out like Santa's grotto tastefully, but like Santa's grotto nonetheless. The lights were out because all the fairy lights provided adequately. I remember feeling so happy. I was oblivious and clueless.

Hammer would snooze with his head under the tree, happily dreaming of the meats which permeated his doggy dreams by wafting up his nostrils. Each year, instead of a fairy to top the tree we'd buy a reindeer, santa or other soft toy ... which Hammer would be given when the tree was taken down. After he died we stopped that particular tradition, opting instead in sticking the oversized fairy/angel somewhat irreverently on top of the tree, as pictured.

That dog died in my arms under the Christmas tree - the lights dimmed - surrounded by the smells of meats cooking ... warm, loved and safe. He'd opened his presents, but had no appetite and waited till the early hours of boxing day to go. It broke our hearts.

People used to say that our tree was the nicest they had seen.

We have a couple of beautiful photos of us in front of our tree, two years running (in a frame). I can't find it at the moment, and it's upsetting me. I keep remembering Cliff getting annoyed with me because he wanted to capture the same scene each year, and that particular year, we hadn't got around to it and so the tradition was broken. I'm annoyed with myself too now. I wish I'd taken the time to stop and have the picture taken instead of worrying about mopping the floor or whatever I deemed so important at the time. Each year (apart from the last one) Cliff seemed to have to work until Christmas Eve, so when I left work, usually a week before, I'd kill myself, work myself to a frazzle cleaning and tidying the house, shopping etc etc. In the end I'd get irritable and tired ... until Christmas Eve itself arrived, relieved that I had accomplished all my self-imposed chores. Then the mood would lift and I morphed into a 3 year old. When I find the photos, I'll upload them here.

We have loads of Santa's - one is a ZZ Top style one that is fibre optic and waves, another one hangs from a parachute and kicks his legs, shouting "ho ho ho", another climbs up and down a rope and has a bald patch on his arse where Barney managed to nip him, to mention but a few. We also had chaser lights (one of which he woke me up wearing around his neck the day that he had his stroke), as well as fibre optic angel, church, Peter Pan House, dancing snowmen and santas that we'd put up the staircase. Special candle holders, and endless other items. We were both such big kids about Christmas, and I think the ones I spent with Cliff were equally as magical as the ones I had as a child. Even better actually. We infected each other with the magic, excitement and anticipation. We even had stockings. We preferred to spend the day at home, just the two of us and our dog(s).

Cliff and I would watch, without fail, Chevy Chase's "Christmas Vacation" every single year. We'd sit together and clutch our stomachs laughing at all the same old scenes - and we both agreed that it wasn't Christmas until we'd watched it. This year he'd planned to cover our roof with white fairy lights (just like in the movie) but I know that they'd have worked perfectly.

At exactly one minute after midnight we'd open our gifts. Taking turns - dog(s) included. Last year we didn't buy each other gifts. Cliff had been working so hard to finish the house (I now realize why) so money wasn't so plentiful. We were okay, but couldn't risk buying gifts and being frivolous last year mainly because we had stood as guarantor for his daughter and she had defaulted ... which meant that any spare money had to be set aside, just in case. But he put up some tinsel and the Santa's and I cooked a Christmas dinner for us. It makes me sad because he felt bad about it. The other difference was that instead of taking leave before Christmas, last year I decided not to wear myself out preparing for the day, opting to take a week off after Christmas. Thankfully. Otherwise he'd have been alone when he had his stroke. I can't even bear to think about that scenario.

I now think that it didn't matter to him that he didn't earn money last year. His priority was to finish the house. He knew that it would be paid off when he left. I just don't think he knew how close the day was. He was very fey and in touch with his body and I think he knew that time was running out, slowly.

We bought each other cards though, of course. He kept telling me that he wish he'd got a nicer card. He usually took ages choosing his. Beautiful words inside. He kept telling me, "next year I'll go back to that shop and get you a proper one. It's important." Weirdly, we both selected cards with two dogs depicted on the front ... which he kept commenting on.

We had an argument in the run up to last Christmas. One of only two or three serious rows we ever had. Because we were both feeling a little resentful at not being about to revel in the season in the manner to which we were accustomed. We both screamed stuff we didn't mean, but we also cleared the air. He was so stressed and defensive about the guarantor issue biting us in the arse, and just went on the offensive - there was no need - I didn't blame him. How could I? But I did blame him for going on the offensive, to me of all people. I cried. He cried. We held each other and cried. And I shall never forget the look on his face, how deflated he appeared when he received a nasty text from his daughter after Boxing Day, attacking him for not buying presents for her children. How could we? It broke my heart to see his face like that.

I held him and told him the best present was being with him. It was. I realize now why I got so excited about Christmas. It meant that I had time with him. Uninterrupted time. Lie ins with him. Lazy breakfasts. 24/7. He knew that too, thankfully.

Christmases prior to last year were so wonderful, fun, and he always came into his "own" - a superb host, gregarious, social, funny, witty, fooling around, magical. I shall wrap myself in those memories for all the Christmases to come. But that last Christmas was tender. Almost as though we knew. Everything re-prioritized and put into perspective. We had the gifts we needed - our love, each other.

And so to this Christmas ... I have had invitations from family and friends alike, yet remain undecided. I feel as though I don't want to ruin anyone else's day, even though I am mindful of the fact that they are well aware of how I will be feeling and wouldn't have extended an invitation to me if they didn't truly want me with them, and I love them all so much for it. I think I need to wake up in our bed and go back to sleep in it on Christmas night, which discounts travelling too far. I know that wherever I go I can cry, but to really cry, I need to be at home. I know I'll need to do that ... and if I'm staying overnight somewhere I'll refrain, only to have to contend with it afterwards - and that outcome is always more painful.

So, I'd better tell my lovely niece and my sister that I'll spend next year with them instead, hoping that I may be a little stronger. I hope they understand. It's hard to understand when you haven't lost your soul mate yourself ... and I don't want to hurt them. Don't want them to feel that it makes them any less important or special, because they are. It's logistics not a reflection of how much they mean to me.

Which means that I need to decide between two friends - so I shall have to mull it over more.

I know that we have to have a plan, us widow/ers ... and I shall incorporate some of this into the big day this year. But even so ... it doesn't detract from the pain. I wish I could just cancel the whole thing this year, but that's not an option. Well, I could ... but if I don't get back on the horse now, I know I never shall. So I shall. But it'll have to be low-key. Think I've just made up my mind ... let me sleep on it, then I'll let them all know.

One thing is a definite though. I now understand why my Auntie Paula requested that we didn't send her a card the year Uncle Peter died. "Send me a postcard," she pleaded ... we were spending the holidays in the Dominican Republic. I get it now. And am following her footprints on her own Widow's Walk this year, requesting that no one sends me cards or gifts. Not this year. Opening a gift will open up the scars around my heart and will only serve to break it into more pieces. And I have no stomach for Christmas shopping ... nor can I sit and write the customary 100 cards and sign them from myself ... not from us. Not yet. I'll do it next year. NOT YET.

It'll be lonely this Christmas, even though I am fortunate enough to have the wonderful family and friends who have opened their homes and hearts to me. I could be in a room full of people that I love, yet I will still yearn for the one person who shan't be there ... and shall feel completely alone.
I shall miss him wrapping my gifts up in the kitchen and thereby banning me from the room, whilst I am desperately attempting to get everything prepared ... and shouting through the hatchway, "have you got some sellotape there?" (or a pen, or scissors ....)
I shall miss watching his hands wrapping sausages in bacon.
I shall miss peeling all the potatoes.
I shall miss him selecting the cheeses, meats and biscuits.
I shall miss screaming for him because the oven mitts aren't doing the job they were bought for, and him calmly picking up red hot trays with his bare hands, without flinching ... and being in awe of the fact that he can do it.
I shall miss sampling the new cocktails that he would have created this year. Especially the one that had coconut, cream and icecream in it and was artfully made PINK, just for me.
I shall miss cleaning up the armageddon that he created when he made the cocktails.
I shall miss him buying himself cigars and smelling them when he lit them up.
I wouldn't mind rewinding a few years and re-run the Christmas we spent in bed with bird flu. The one where we microwaved a can of ravioli and dropped one of the bowls on the floor - and left it there for 24 hours - because we both felt so weak. So we shared one bowl. The one where he said to me, "I'm really glad you're not as ill as I am ... because I don't think you'd survive it" and I wanted to punch him but couldn't even lift my arm because it felt as though it was made of lead and I ached all over.
I used to say I knew Santa existed because I lived with him.
Santa is dead.

I know this. Accept it even. But doing it will be fucking hard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My goddaughter Georgia

Emma, Georgia, Vicki
My goddaughter is having two wisdom teeth removed today. Right about now she is under general anaesthetic because there are complications. She has never had a general anaesthetic before. Ever.

My stomach is on a fast spin programme.

I want to call her mother (my friend Vicki) but cannot yet. My mouth is too dry to speak.

We would have both happily undergone this for her. Instead of her.

She was so scared.

Poor babe.
If Cliff were still here, I'd have worried less ... everything always felt okay and safe with him here. Now it doesn't. Not anymore. I hate this.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. I am holding you in my heart today, and especially thinking of those of you who have an empty chair at your table.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A voicemail from one of Cliff's brothers

I picked up a voicemail from Cliff's brother Graeme late last night, saying that he was thinking about me and Cliff because it "was coming to that time of year already" and asked me to call him when I had a minute ... so I responded and he said that he'd be at home all over Christmas and that I'd be welcome anytime, whatever I wanted to do.

Nice, I know.

But what was really nice was that he laughed, really laughed when I told him about the fireworks, and he said he'd been looking at the photo that I gave him. Not only that, it was so good to hear that whenever he saw anyone in town that the first subject they brought up was always Cliff, and how highly they thought of him.

I really liked that. It makes my heart swell with pride.

That's my husband.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lost in the night sky ... and a common theme running through lyrics

I was 10 minutes away from the venue where today's meeting was held, when despite following the sat-nav's directions (and leaving home at 06h30) ... something went very awry ... and I ended up driving around Birmingham in what felt like a Groundhog Day ... until I got so upset that I had to pull over to calm down.

Cue - police car.

Then I really bawled.

So much so, that they asked me which hotel I needed to get to ... and then instructed me to follow them ALL THE WAY THERE. Yes, really.

Jesus wept. I was a mess.

So I sorted myself out, bounced into the room (all men) and told them the truth.

They were decent enough NOT to laugh, however, when I offered to drop a couple of them off at the airport when the meeting closed, they hurriedly informed me that they had already decided to take a cab.

The meeting itself was excellent, really productive, and I didn't feel too bad because I had done a lot of pre-work ... in fact all they had covered during my absence were my ideas and slides ... phew.

Coming home was actually fine (meaning I didn't get lost), except that the traffic was tantamount to wading through treacle. So, I ended up stationary for 2.5 hours at the QEII Bridge. Marvellous.

I couldn't stop looking at the beautiful moon and stars - the stars were so so bright. It looked magical - ethereal almost. Just like the night sky when we drove back from the coast a few days before Cliff died.

Having missed the sunset, I wondered if he had arranged the moon and stars for me instead ... the sky was AMAZING and just like that night.

I could almost hear him .... "look at the sky Boo, look at the stars"

and I started screaming, really screaming in my car. Totally lost it. And didn't give a fuck if anyone noticed.

I had music playing LOUDLY, so it's likely that no one heard me screaming. Or if they did, that they assumed music lessons were in order.

And then it started .... I was station-hopping at random and these songs came on - all on different stations, consecutively:

This song was the first ever song that Cliff played for me.

Followed by two songs I had never heard before. Here are the lyrics:

When I think back

On these times

And the dreams

We left behind

I'll be glad 'cause I was blessed to get

To have you in my life

When I look back

On these days

I'll look and see your face

You were right there for me

In my dreams I'll always see you soar

Above the sky

In my heart

There will always be a place

For you for all my life

I'll keep a part of you with me

And everywhere I am

There you'll be

And everywhere I am

There you'll be

Well you showed me

How it feels

To feel the sky

Within my reach

And I always will remember all

The strength you gave to me

Your love made me

Make it through

Oh, I owe so much to you

You were right there for me

'Cause I always saw in you

My light, my strength

And I want to thank you

Now for all the ways

You were right there for me

For always

In my dreams

I'll always see you soar

Above the sky

In my heart

There will always be a place

For you for all my life

I'll keep a part of you with me

And everywhere I am

There you'll be

And everywhere I am

There you'll be

There you'll be

- Faith Hill

I search the ruins of the world I call my own

In hopeless desperation now I make the journey home

I find that everything is not the way it was

You cannot fight the future; no you can't turn back the clock

The rain upon the mountains

The eagle in the sky

And the wolf and raven prowling all around

A broken cross will mark the holy ground

And when I'm gone, the world carries on

And you must carry on too

When I'm not around, time won't stand still

Your memories will always be true

You've got to hold onto the dreams we once shared

Always be together even when I am not there

I'll be beside you every step of every day

Though you cannot see me, feel my presence on the way

- Williams

The screaming turned to sobs, which then turned into sniffles, finally abating.

I felt as though he was there with me. I felt warm again.

But I was to be hit by another wave. A mo-fo tsunami, courtesy of Kings of Leon, with these lyrics:

I've been roaming around

always looking down at all i see

painted faces fill the places i can't reach

you know that i could use somebody

you know that i could use somebody

someone like you

and all you know and how you speak


and it broke me. I realized my heart is not breaking at all. My heart IS BROKEN. Irreparably.

Because there is NO ONE like him on this entire planet. He was the one. He was my one.

All I could see was a crystal clear image of him after I helped him to lay down on the floor straight after his stroke, just before I ran down the stairs to get my phone to call the ambulance. ... when I paused to say, "I love you so so much Cliff," and he responded by telling me that he loved me equally with his eyes, instead of saying the words. I shall never forget his love burning for me - from his very essence and being, all of him ... his heart and soul. All of it, shining through to me so powerfully, from his eyes. Real unconditional selfless love. The last thing he told me. The last thing I told him.

I will never feel the same again, until I run back into his arms. How much longer ... this is torture. It's cruel. I am dying slowly.

People got out of their cars. I was untouchable. Unapproachable. A couple of builders smiled at me and I made my mouth curl up like the Cheshire Cat's. They couldn't see that the smile didn't reach my eyes. I'd imagine all they could see was the fact that I was practically chain-smoking. In my peripheral vision I could see them all calling home, explaining why they were late. And that hurt so much. I wanted to phone him so badly.

Instead I resorted to turning the volume up ... higher and higher.

The final offering was this before I decided to listen to CDs:

Cold Desert - Kings of Leon

I'm on the corner waiting for a light to come on

That's when I know that you're alone

It's cold in the desert, water never sees the ground

Special unspoken without sound

Told me you love me, that I'd never die alone

Hand over your heart

Let's go home

Everyone noticed, everyone has seen the signs

I've always been known to cross lines

I never ever cried when I was feeling down

I've always been scared of the sound

Jesus don't love me, no one ever carried my load

I'm too young to feel this old

Here's to you, here's to me

On to us, nobody knows

Nobody sees, nobody but me

My mind went off at a tangent afterwards ... and a memory came to me. My Dad telling me about his life in India just after WWII. I remember him telling me that the British Army tried (unsuccessfully) for years to ban the tradition of sati and sometimes they used to deploy snipers (well camouflaged) to "put them out of their misery" instead of leaving them to burn to death.
At the time (aged 15) I was totally grossed out by the thought of it.
Today, I'd gladly walk through those flames to get to him. But that's another time, another world, just as my world before losing Cliff was entirely different.
And in that vein, on the anniversary of Cliff's death, January 6th 2010, Vicki and I are walking 8 miles around Knole Park (provided I can get permission ... otherwise we may walk along the coast) to raise funds for those very widows ... the widows who DO have it worse than I. The ones who have no roof, no car, no job. The ones who are outcast by their families and friends. The ones who have to beg for food. The widows in India and Africa.
It humbles and grounds me.
The traffic moves ...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A better day

What WOULD I do without our friends?

I don't want to contemplate it ...

After the dark day yesterday, I awoke to sunshine, and happily got out of bed and into the shower because I knew I was going to spend the whole day with friends.

When I arrived at the bar, they were standing outside in the rain, watching out for me. Just like Cliff would have done.

We laughed a lot. Cliff was ever present in our minds and words. I love that. It makes me feel closer to him. I really felt as though he was there today, silently watching us and smiling, proud of his friends for looking out for me, and proud of me for being able to go out in our old hometown, where the memories are almost palpable.

I couldn't help myself today. I had to stand on the street corner and look at the view ... the view of the sea that we had from our old apartment. Then my eyes involuntarily focused on the entrance to the apartment. So many happy times there. Cliff, Hammer and I. We three. Now it's a different "we three". Instead of living with a man who would have died for me, along with a dog who would have done the same ... today I live with two midget dogs who probably would die for me, but couldn't, in reality, really protect me. I'd probably die protecting THEM.

People used to ask me. "What's it like living with two rottweilers? I want to live in YOUR head. It's nice there."

Yes it was. My two boys. I'd have died for them too, I still would.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


It's 17h00 and I'm still in my PJs.

Just can't be bothered today.

What's the point?

Why clean? I'm on my own.

I'm exhausted.

Tomorrow will be better ... going down to the coast to spend the whole day with old friends.

Monday I'm in Birmingham for a meeting.

Thursday I'm in London - this will be a very late and bubbles-fuelled night (Marketing Awards in Park Lane).

Just thinking about the next few days is tiring ...

but I'll do it, mainly because I've given myself permission to be a lazy moo today.

I just can't do it all anymore .... shows just how much Cliff supported me.

The trash needs taking out, shopping is a necessity now, the floor needs mopping ... I could go on, but it'll only stress me out.

Today, I have a day off.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A song for wNs

I'd like to dedicate this song to wNs because she needs to hear it right now <3

Here are the lyrics:

Can anybody help me, I'm outta plans
guess I left my world in somebody’s hands
I don’t like to hurt but everyone gets weak
someone to rely on that’s what I really need

Now here we stay its all that we're worth
I’ve been thru the pain and been dragged thru the dirt
whatever they tell you we're bigger than words
I’ve been where you're standing
I know how it hurts

let this be a song now and this be a day
and we stand together
we'll be okay
Because we're survivors
we're making it work
expecting the best when they hope for the worst

One love - this is the way we found
One love - even though they'll let you down
One love - nobody’s perfect now
One love - don’t let that hold u down
One love - let's stick together now
One love - we got to stand our ground
One love - its easy to believe in
One love - believe in u and me
Onee loveeeeeeeee

Now I could try and fix this all by myself
but I know it’d turn out better if u help
no one likes to hurt but but everyone gets weak
someone to rely on that’s what everybody needs

Now here we stay it's all that were worth
I’ve been thru the pain and been dragged thru the dirt
whatever they tell you we're bigger than words
I’ve been where your standing
I know how it hurts

let this be a song now and this be our day
and we stand together
we'll be okay
Because we're survivors we're making it work
expecting the best when they hope for the worst

One love - this is the way we found
One love - even though they'll let you down
One love - nobody’s perfect now
One love - don’t let that hold u down
One love - let's stick together now
One love - we got to stand our ground
One love - its easy to believe in
One love - believe in you and me

Onee loveeeeeeeee, its oneee loveeee,
I'm here to tell you it's one love,
oh One loveeeee, said it's one loveeee
Sing with meee one loveee,
One love to be oh that’s all we need
One love.

The biggest Christmas Tree

At work, we have a huge fir tree in the grounds and they always light the white bulbs on it on December the 1st, which I was preparing myself for.

But they lit the tree last night and I was so not ready for that.

I managed to get to my car before I started howling and had to sit there for 5 minutes composing myself.

I thought I'd got a grip on myself, then Radio One played "Many Rivers to Cross" - this was Cliff's signature song for years. And off I went again, only for the DJ to announce at the end of it, "ahhh, the White Cliffs of Dover ... beautiful ... but not as beautiful as the blue mountains of Jamaica." OMG, I'm amazed I didn't wipe myself off the motorway. It felt like I was being targetted ... memories of School, Cliff, where we got married ... all overwhelming me at the same time.

Then I got into work today, and Kimberly had sent me an email to say that she knows that Christmas is going to be very tough for me, and suggested that as a reward for simply getting through the holidays, that we have a weekend away together.

Would I?

Fuck, yes.

So, we are going to have a weekend together in Italy, anywhere but Rome "because we'll feel like slitting our wrists watching the lovebirds" (her words). I love her, she is so funny and she treats me the way she always did. Earlier this year I had to apologize to her for not attending a fashion launch she'd arranged in London (because I couldn't face getting the train home, knowing that Cliff would not be at the station waiting for me). Her response? "I totally understand, but don't think that you can use the dead husband excuse next year ... I want you there."

LOL. Only the darkest humour is appropriate these days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ho ho ho

This has just made my day.

Not because I find it offensive.

It just upsets me ... I wrote about it here

ho ho ho ... read about the complaints they've received here.

I hope they pull the entire ad.

ho ho ho

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A man's work is never done

Have to say I'm quite proud of myself.

The oil light (in my car) came on so I stopped at the gas station and found myself staring at all the different types of oil for sale ... for what felt like an eternity. I could feel that useless feeling rising up from the pit of my stomach ... and I bit the bullet, instead of waiting till I got home so I could call one of his friends and ask them.

I selected the type that sounded like it was the right one ... and asked a random man who confirmed it was indeed correct .... then ... I. PUT. THE. OIL. IN. MY. CAR. yes really. ON. MY. OWN.

I'd also bought some windscreen wash, but couldn't undo the cap, so asked yet another random man to break the seal, and proceeded to pour it into the (correct) receptacle in the car ... and he drove really slowly past me and said, "you DO know that you need to dilute that, don't you?"

Erm, yes I do.

So I stop pouring it, turn the bottle around so he can read the words, "READY MIXED" and he grins and adds, "ok, just checking."

Is there a neon sign above my head that says WIDOW?

I'm not sure if I mind (or not) if there is.

For now, I think I don't mind ...

just till I get the confidence to do these things ...

a man's work ... the multitude of little (and big) things that Cliff always used to do for me, without being asked, or even expecting thanks (although I did always appreciate it and said thanks, but I have to admit that I did kind of expect him to do that stuff).


I wish I could just lay down with him and fall asleep in his arms. That would be the ultimate prize/luxury/heaven for me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Being thankful for my colleagues

I sent this email to our CEO today. For obvious reasons, I have changed names to initials.

When I wrote this in draft, I was astounded at how much support I've received at work this year.

I'll let the email speak for itself.


Dear J

Even though I am not American, with Thanksgiving approaching, it felt like the right time to write to you.

On January 6th this year my husband died unexpectedly from a stroke. Thankfully I was on vacation and with him at the time, which gives me comfort today.

Obviously this has had an enormous impact on me emotionally and physically throughout this year, and I just wanted to share with you how important a role this Company has played in my grief journey, with some examples:

· Despite being immensely busy with “.................” work, PW called me for half an hour on January 6th. Speaking to him for this time calmed me sufficiently and enabled me to sleep for a few hours straight afterwards, having not slept for 48 hours in a row. P then somehow found another slot to call me after the funeral to talk again, and just having a taste of that sense of normalcy was tantamount to a ship seeing a lighthouse in a Nor’wester.

· KS proof-read the Eulogy that I wrote for my husband.

· I received approximately 100 cards, messages and phone calls from HO in the UK over the course of those early days.

· FS picked me up from home and dropped me off for the first month when I returned to work. I had never driven in the snow before and at the time we had 12” of snow here. The thought of attempting this alone at the time, would have been simply terrifying.

· SJ took my husband’s tax affairs from me so that her husband could take care of them.

· ST (my Line Manager at the time) was incredibly protective of me and extremely supportive. There is no need to describe all the details, however she attended Cliff’s funeral, she knew (far better than I) what I was capable of and gently persuaded me to not set myself up to fail. S called me every single day to check how I was and just to talk. She even introduced a charity raising element at each team meeting, to commemorate Cliff throughout the year. It is also because of S that I sought counselling and began my journey towards healing. I can honestly say that I would not have coped as well this year, on a personal basis, without the foundation that she laid down for me at work.

· I was terrified that I would be treated differently when I returned to work and need not have been. Not one person in this building avoided me, in fact everyone from Senior Managers to the ladies who work in the Deli, all came straight up to me on my first attempt to return to work.

· AS took an hour on a Saturday to talk to my local BMW car dealership to ensure that the car I was thinking of purchasing was the right decision for me, because I was so used to my husband dealing with those issues that I didn’t feel confident enough, not to mention the fact that I frankly wasn’t capable of making a sensible choice at the time. This resulted in my driving confidence returning, and today the car is literally my umbilical cord to the world.

· My new Line Manager, DS is now helping to support me by agreeing realistic objectives for 2010 and gently guiding me into the new year, managing me to ensure that I do not take on more than I am ready for, because she understands that I ache to run before I can walk, somehow ensuring that I don’t even feel bad about it.

The list is endless, truly. It is always a dangerous thing to do – to start mentioning people by name in case you omit someone, and I know that I have, however it is simply to keep this email to a sensible length. Suffice to say, that my peers have been amazing, simply by offering to help, by listening, by giving empathy and offering their company at weekends. Previous Line Managers, such as OM have dropped whatever they have been doing and given me 5 minutes so that I can sanity-check decisions that I now have to make on my own. Senior Managers, especially RB and PS, during an exceptionally busy year, have made a point of stopping by my desk to see how I am doing.

I am very fortunate to have a loving and solid network of family and friends, but I have to say that this year, and for the next couple of years, ........ will be my anchor. This year it has been the only place where I have felt as though I am in my comfort zone. I sincerely doubt that any of the colleagues I have mentioned are aware of the impact that their actions or words have had, but I shall never forget.

It is very important, especially when you feel as though your whole world has gone, to remain grounded, and for me, one of the ways to accomplish this is to think about what I have to be thankful for. There are many things that I have to be grateful for, however one answer that I felt compelled to share with you is this. ........... is DEFINITELY a great place to work.

Have a good Thanksgiving.

Best wishes


Monday, November 16, 2009

What is normal


If you think you are going insane,

If all you can do is cry,

If you can’t taste food or have any
semblance of an appetite,

If you have feelings of rage, denial
and depression,

If you find yourself enjoying a funny
moment and immediately feeling guilty,

If your friends dwindle away and you feel
like you have the plague,

If your blood boils and the hair in your
nose curls when someone tells you,
“It was God’s will,”

If you can’t talk about it, but can smash
dishes, shred old phone books or kick
the garbage can (preferably empty)
down the lane,

If you can share your story, your feelings
with an understanding listener…
another person,

If you can get a glimmer of your loved
one’s life while grieving the death,

If you can remember your loved one
with a smile,

If you are able to reach out to others,

<3 Author Unknown

.... and if one more person compares their parent dying to my husband dying I think I am going to be beyond rude to them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without ...

grrrrrrrrrrrrr ... I hate Marks and Spencer's Xmas advertisement.

The answer is clearly "my husband".

NOT ... stuffing, mince pies, or whatever ...

The proof is in the pudding

I woke up feeling as though my load had lightened somehow.

Evidence that vocalizing/blogging what you feel does help you.

My last post ... rather, the demon within it, was pushing me into that deep dark place.

Because I got it off my chest, I am lighter.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I can see clearly now the rain has gone

I can.

It's become very apparent that for the last year of Cliff's life, he knew that time was running out. He was so in touch with his body and very fey.

I'm so sorry baba, I didn't understand.

He knew I wasn't strong enough. Even as his strength was being depleted, he tried to leave me in my little world where I was happy and safe.

I didn't know. I didn't understand why he was trying so hard to finish the house. Why it seemed less important to him to earn money instead of finishing our home.

It's all become crystal clear.

That's how much he loved me.

And I couldn't even grasp it.

I'm sorry baba.

John Suchet

I met John Suchet today.

He's an amazing man.

His wife, Bonnie, has Alzheimer's Disease (dementia) and he came into work to talk to us about her journey - their journey.

Several things that he said really spoke to me. The guilt. The despair. The heartbreak. The grief.

And then it struck me ...

I am grieving for my husband, but Cliff is dead. And because of that hard fact, I receive empathy, sympathy, some understanding from those untouched by the flames of grief.

John Suchet doesn't really. Bonnie is still alive, although, in his own words, "the Bonnie I know is gone." So he grieves for her now. Even though she lives. Which means that he doesn't have the support network afforded to me.

Yet he tirelessly provides his voice for the cause ... to fund more Admiral Nurses in the UK. Because they help the carer as well as the patient.

"This is Bonnie's Legacy" were his closing words, whilst visibly struggling to maintain his composure. I felt such empathy and respect for him.
I certainly wasn't capable of giving him comfort, but I did run around the building, making people put donations in an envelope for Admiral Nurses ... a fair bit of money actually.

And it occurred to me that he clearly loves his wife as much as Cliff loves me. Because he explained how he goes into her world rather than dragging her outside her world into his own, because it would be too much for her ... too bewildering and incomprehensible.
He protects her.
To his own cost.
I was so lucky. I had a husband like that.

When I battled my own demons many years ago, Cliff bore the brunt of these for me. He let me stay in my own safe little bubble, never pushing me too far, and when I took tiny steps, he walked them with me ... he built me up again. He healed me, literally.

I realized that if Cliff hadn't died, and in ten years, if I'd been afflicted by this dreadfully cruel disease, that Cliff would have reacted the same way. He'd have borne the brunt again. He'd have let me be in my little world.
(As it was, I lived in la-la land, even when times were great. People used to say to me, "I want to live in YOUR head.")

I wish John Suchet had the same luxury. I wish that he'd be rewarded with Bonnie being healed.

He's another rare example of a dying breed. A man.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Exhaustion and rockets

I'm so tired.

I'm so tired all of the time.

I'm tired of this ... it feels like some kind of sick joke.

I got in my car this evening to come home, and sat in the car park for 5 minutes sobbing, calling to him, telling him I didn't want to go home if he was not there.

But then, I know that I have to go on ... and make him proud of me, so I will keep trying.

But this is EXHAUSTING on every level. Emotionally, mentally, intellectually, physically.

My feet move although my heart does not want them to.

I keep telling him this can't be true ... it can't be real ... how CAN it be? He is my world.

When I am warm, it is he who makes me so - he put the heating in. I have a roof over my head and a car because of him. I have protection because of him. I have a job because he gave me the confidence to do it. When I turn on my jacuzzi, it is he who soothes and washes me, and the shower feels as though he is wiping away my tears.

I spoke to the man who we used to buy our fireworks from ... and they will be ready in around 3 weeks. He is building us 3 huge rockets ... one for family from the garden next summer, one for a good friend of ours when he comes home in a couple of years, and one for January - for his friends (from the beach). This man put my mind at rest, telling me not to worry, that he would take care of him, and that Cliff would be sleeping in their bedroom until he's put into the fireworks. I thought it would be expensive, but he refuses to charge me anything above what the rockets cost him. What a lovely man ... he's 76 years old now, but will personally be building our ones. And just before we hung up, around 30 minutes later the cheeky bugger asked me, "Are you still good looking?" I told him I'd aged some ... but he did make me smile.

Makes me so proud to be his wife.

I always will be.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chiropractors and Cribbage

For the past 3 days, I've been in so much pain.

My neck is crook.

It hurts to even blow my nose. I can't drive because I can't check traffic to the right of me.

Yesterday I got an emergency appointment to see a chiropractor and he told me to have 24 hour bed rest, roll a towel and place it under my neck, use ice packs (which give me headaches but do seem to be helping) and do some gentle exercises (which hurt excruciatingly).

When you live alone with 2 dogs, 24 hour bed rest isn't that viable an option. My baba is not here to take care of me like he always did so well.

Today it feels as though I am waiting for Cliff to come and rescue me. I honestly feel like I am losing my mind. It's not healthy for me to be off work ... I CANNOT cope with all this thinking time. So I am returning to work tomorrow regardless, even if I have to take a cab.

Being ill, in pain, hurt or just incapacitated simply magnifies everything. Every time I wake up I howl with the agony of him not being here. And can't blow my nose ... not a pretty picture.

I think I know why my neck is crook. It's the tension ... the tension never leaves my body like it used to when he was here. He made everything ok. Even while I sleep I am tense. I know because my legs and arms ache when I awake. I've got tooth damage where I have ground my teeth at night.

Someone suggested that I get regular massages. Nice idea - makes sense even.

But I can't.

Because I know that someone touching me, soothing me, that human contact - skin on skin - will release the demons. It may all come out and I can't risk that ... for fear that the horror will really dawn on me.

I'm not ready. My mind has reached its own limit. I cannot bear the thought of someone else touching me. It scares me.

I fear I may never come back.

My body feels like it is failing slowly. I've had high blood pressure. I have no energy. My immune system is totally dependant on taking a Berocca a day. I've never been so ill as I have been this year. The year when I needed my health more than ever ... so that I can work.

Because work provides me with a focus other than misery. I just want to be at work.

Of course, I also want my life back. Interestingly, I would take one other option ... to be back at school with my old friends. I want to feel happy and safe. I want him back. I still don't want to be here, but I'm not going to act upon those feelings. I'm no longer afraid of death ... but I hold this childlike view that if I ended this struggle, I could be sent to a place different to where he is. FOR. ETERNITY. Then I'd be in a worse place than I am now. Not worth the risk. I want it to happen TO me, preferably in pain-free circumstances. I might not be frightened of dying, but I still have a healthy fear of pain.

So, as that's not going to happen till it's "my time", I just wish I could be spared this latest ailment. I feel like screaming: HOW. MUCH. MORE. DO. I. NEED. TO. FUCKING. TAKE?

I know I can't have him back, I'm not even asking for that.

All I'm asking is the ability to get back to work. Because I can't do another day of this.


Today, as I sleep fitfully, I opened my eyes and they focused on a box. The box was made by someone taking a carpentry/woodworking course many years ago. The box holds many of our games, including another wooden box - which unfolds into a cribbage board. I bought Cliff his own cribbage board (for his birthday when we were first together) because he used to play cards (and cribbage) quite a lot. He taught me, although I can't remember the rules now. I remember the first two games I won, and it was years before I realized that he let me win. This memory caused a jolt of pain to course through my body. I really didn't want to cry because it hurts my neck, but couldn't stop the tears. The next second I have this technicolour image in my mind - of the grey dicky-bow that he wore when we married. WTF? More images ... more pain. I love him more than I love life.

I know that I was so privileged to be loved by him. He really was ... is ... a special magical man. Fearless. Larger than life. Even though my counsellor tells me that those bereaved in healthy happy relationships fare better than those who do not ... I still disagree. He's harder to miss. I'm sure it would be easier if he had been a bastard. But the truth is I wouldn't have it any other way. He was my North Star, my world, my confidant, my best friend, my lover, my husband, my everything. He was all I ever wanted and needed. And now he's gone. It won't be long till a year has passed. HOW. CAN. THIS. BE? How can my world, so safe and secure be gone, just like that? How can this be real? I cannot believe it. I cannot accept it.

Every second of this pain is worth the 15 years we were together. But I would do anything, ANYTHING just for a taste of him again. This is surreal.
I talked to myself in a mirror earlier, god only knows why ... and I said, "Would he even recognize you now?" He would because we are soulmates, but I have changed beyond recognition to myself. I feel like I am failing him. I wish for 5 minutes with him, just to be reassured. I think I could do this then.

More snot.

He always scared away my imaginary monsters. He always healed me.

The question is this. Am I strong enough? Can I heal myself?
Highway, Highway - Joe Cocker
The circle turns and the seasons change
Dogs grow old and in the summer it still rains
But I never thought you and I would ever be apart
Babies cry at their mothers breast
And Sunday morning is still a day to be blessed
But what can I tell my broken heart
Highway, Highway
Where you go I don't know
Maybe closer to my dreams, maybe far away
Take me today
Highway, Highway
Give me wings to fly
It's gonna be hard letting go of you
And living separate lives
The stars aren't diamonds and the moons not blue
There's no gold at the end of the rainbow
There's no dream to hold on to, without you
The only thing that's real is this lonely road tonight
Maybe a change would be good for me
Who knows where this road might lead
Highway, Highway
Where you go I don't know
Maybe closer to my dreams, maybe far away
Take me today
Highway, Highway
Give me wings to fly
It's gonna be hard letting go of you
And living separate lives
It's gonna be hard letting go of you
And living separate lives

Monday, November 9, 2009

The first mini school reunion

It was fortunate that we had arranged our first mini-reunion in Brighton for November 7th, considering how low I felt.
I felt awful. I had stomach cramps. I looked like shit. I sobbed halfway down the motorway.
But there was never any question of going.
I knew I'd be alright when I got there.
And I was.
Even though it took me a while to let go of everything and relax.
I sat there all tense, knowing that there was no need to ... but refusing to stop hugging myself regardless ... like a tightly spring coil ... lest I cracked and all my hurt came tumbling out, making a mess on the restaurant's table.
It was probably half an hour later - fully immersed in the company of these old schoolfriends, that fit like your favourite faded blue Levi's ... it's just so easy, familiar, you really KNOW each other - that I noticed the tension had left my body.
Gossip, banter, laughter, sharing secrets.
Food, drink, Marlboro Lites.
Easy, safe, comfortable.
Some of us, myself included feel the need to bare our souls. And we do because we can. It's a safe, guaranteed environment. No fear of being judged.
And the vow of Omerta is not the Mafia's alone ... ask any boarding school child.
After dinner, we head back to Debbie and Gary's. When I walked in their home, I felt completely chilled.
More food and drink. More laughter, more fears and dreams shared.
I confide in Sara ... and I have to say that even when she's shit-faced, she gives the best advice. Solid, grounded, rational. My shoulders feel as though they have lost their load. I am lighter.
At 04h00 we pile into a cab and head for the car park where I've left my car.
Can't find the car.
Sara and I try to ascertain if it's the right car park, whilst Lionel falls about laughing at my inability to remember where the car is. Martin keeps telling me that whilst he has always loved my sense of humour, he thinks it's time to stop joking ... is that yours? is that yours? is that yours?
It's the wrong car park.
Walk round the corner into the correct one, and go straight to car.
Everyone's in.
Martin tells Sara to get out and sit in the front.
Five minutes later we're en route to Sara's hotel.
Which way, Martin?
Whatever you do, don't turn left.
I turn right and drop Sara off, then head to Martin's to drop the boys off, finally heading home.
Two hours sleep.
Cold, freezing cold. Snuggle into dogs' warmth.
Run round like headless chicken, smoking.
Calm down.
Shower, mop floor, try to start Cliff's van .... splutter splutter ... shit! The man who is imminently due, and has driven all the way from Portsmouth is not going to be a happy bunny when I tell him the battery is dead.
Freak, smoke, calm down.
Run next door.
"Help ... can you jump start the van please."
Five minutes later the van is purring on the drive ... and they roll up.
Ten minutes later they have paid me.
I'm handling this pretty well, mainly because I like the man's son (who the van is for). They are both lovely. Normal. Friendly. He's got a personality and he makes me feel at ease.
I realize that my soul is happy for him to have Cliff's van.
Because Cliff would have liked him.
I can't help myself. I have to stand on the drive and watch him drive it away. I have to. I wave. He keeps waving instead of focussing on reversing safely, much to his father's chagrin.
And then ... a last glimpse of white. And it's gone.
I quietly shut the front door, fall to my knees and howl.
It's primal this loss is. It's also physical. I feel like I'm losing it, but force myself to slap on some makeup, get back in my car and head back to Brighton to meet everyone for lunch.
As soon as I'm on the road, I'm fine, but I know without a shadow of doubt that I won't be when I park on the drive later ... and I am right.
But for a few hours though, respite. I am back in the fold.
I am soothed with them.
And I don't want to say goodbye when all go our separate ways ... till the next time.
Thanks to Martin for the photos ... here they are:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It hurts

It's been long enough now.

I've been good.

I've tried my hardest.

Now will you just come back?

I've had enough ....

I don't think I've really grasped the concept fully, you know? That he isn't coming back. That he can't. I think my mind only grasps what it can cope with, one step at a time. Rationally, I "get" the concept of death. But where Cliff is concerned, I just don't quite seem to be able to apply it to him.

Because it is too much. Because it will blow my mind apart. Because I will lose my sanity.

The whole Bonfire Night thing has blown my mind apart in itself.

Last night I could see the shadows of the flames from bonfires in the neighbourhood and I just kept wandering, lost in my own home again ... just as I did in the beginning ... searching for god only knows what, the sobs racking my body, the hysteria bubbling just below the surface.

It's at times like this that I seriously doubt my ability to do this.

I feel so weak, vulnerable, broken, incomplete, defeated.

Every firework exploding adds to the pain in my already heavy heart.

I hate them because he is not here to enjoy them with me.

"Can you meet me halfway, right at the borderline?
That's where I'm going to wait for you.
I'll be looking out, night and day.
Took my heart to its limit, and this is where I'll stay."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guy Fawkes

Tonight is Bonfire Night.


We always used to celebrate this big style, with lots of fireworks. To us, this day was as big as Christmas. Almost.

Even our rottweiler loved them. The year after we lost Hammer, I sat indoors cuddling my deaf (and therefore oblivious) dog, my voice waivering. I can remember saying to Cliff:

"Next year, I'll be okay ... I just can't do it this year."

It was too painful without my beautiful dog and the tears are rising as I think about it.

So there is no way I am going to cope with it this year.

My stomach is doing back-flips thinking about the drive home tonight in the dark ... I know I'll see fireworks all along the journey.

This is going to break me.

I don't want to be alone.
I don't want to be with anyone else.
I want to be with him.

It also happens to be my Dad's Birthday and I can't even go THERE right now.

Anyway what a stupid thing to celebrate ... the fact that Guy Fawkes almost blew up the Houses of Parliament ... doesn't that make him a terrorist?

I know that we, in reality, celebrate the fact that the plot was uncovered ... but I am in a contrary mood today.

So, how am I going to cope?

I'm not.

I'm going to get into bed early with a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, my dogs and a book.

I'm going to ignore it.
I'm going to ignore the phone.
I'm going to ignore the door.

I don't want to know.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Motorbikes and Hummingbirds

For some reason I seem to notice nature more now. I mean the beauty and brilliance of a sunset (which I associate with Cliff), amazing landscapes, misty mornings over a field ... it gives me comfort somehow, and I have no idea why. Whilst reading the news on the BBC site at lunchtime, I came across this wonderful clip of a hummingbird. It is truly amazing, so am sharing it here.

Driving home I felt very emotional today. I could feel the loss, my grief rising deep from within me ... and then this song came on:

and I lost it completely. We used to listen to this a lot ... and it's another one of those tunes that's morphed itself into something apt for today too.

Driving on the M25 lends itself as a good reason to get to grips with your emotional state ... crying isn't conducive at all to driving safely. And so I did, then a truck with Dutch plates decided to swing over into my lane (I was doing 80 mph) so I swerved half way into the fast lane ... causing car behind me to brake, but hey ... not my fault. He started freaking out and I managed to stay very calm ... but I really wished he'd been in the car with me. Because then I would have FELT calm.

Another thing that I can't explain is that I seem to worry about motorbikes more these days ... there was one next to me tonight ... and I saw him look at the truck next to him ... he seemed so small compared to it ... and I just willed him to get past, but I could sense his hesitance, so I held back the traffic in my lane and waved him in front of me ... I just don't want someone to open the door to the worst news of their lives. I know I'm not omnipotent by any means, but find myself doing this for motorbikes a lot these days. It just worries me.

Cliff used to say, "oh there goes another bunch of flowers on a lamp-post" in his own dark sense of humour (which I share). I still share that sense of humour, even more so these days, yet I want to help them avoid morphing themselves into that bunch of flowers, you know?

WTF is THAT about?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Update on the wind and rain

Well, half an hour after my last post, Shaun and Gary appeared even though they knew working on the roof was out of the question. I was so happy to see them. Gary had an abscess on his tooth and a fat face ... he was clearly in pain - yet they still came.

We chatted, talked seriously, laughed and gossiped for a couple of hours ... and then they suggested I follow them back down to the coast ... which I did, and I overcame another major hurdle with them ... because of them.

I WENT FOR A DRINK IN OUR OLD HOMETOWN and I kept my shit together! Yes really, no tears ... although those came this evening - but they would have done anyhow.

Afterwards, I saw Gaynor and that's always good. She is such a beautiful person. An earth mother. I feel calm and completely relaxed with her ... I can say what I want and she understands, not only that, she gives me a balanced perspective and solid advice, interjected with her own inimitable sense of humour.

And the bonus - their son Carl, who is also my friend ... and who Cliff was very fond of and had respect for even ... popped round with his two sons - and they are a delight. Good for the soul :-)

I love our friends.

Vans, eBay and the rain & wind

So, PayPal and eBay finally sorted out the problem with my account(s) so I have managed to put Cliff's van up for sale. Unfortunately, the original description that I'd uploaded (with John's help) had mysteriously disappeared making me have to look through the whole vehicle document wallet alone.

I know he'd be proud of me for doing it, but ...

it was hard. Really painful. Seeing his signature on the transfer of ownership papers, his fingerprints on receipts for parts ... all reminding me of just how hard he worked, bringing back memories ... and when I pressed the "submit" button I cried.

For us.

And the weather?

It's miserable out there this morning ... pouring down with rain, windy and grey. Which means that Gary and Shaun won't be coming up to do the roof ... and I was so looking forward to seeing them.