Photo courtesy of Martin Thomas. Please respect the copyright of this image, even though I have not. For more information, please see the photo where is was uploaded by the photographer, and read the accompanying post in my friend's own (very amusing) words. If you would like to enjoy more of his work, you can find it here.
Last night, after my last post, I checked in on the blogs that I follow, and this time it was Dan who held my hand and got me through it. What would I do without my fellow/grief-bloggers? I don't know ... they are as important and special to me as my oldest friends and family now. It's so vital to have a connection with those who know what it is to be burned by the flames of loss, because they understand ... because you simply cannot explain adequately what it is that you feel.
I finally fell asleep at around 09h00 this morning, and only awoke an hour ago, courtesy of my dogs, who, I am ashamed to admit, were both sitting there with their legs crossed, although they seemed more intent on procuring some of Manda's turkey from the fridge than they were on relieving themselves and I happily obliged as way of apology to them for sleeping the entire day away.
Cliff's candle is still burning. It's the candle that Tina (my friend and assistant) bought me as part of her goodbye present when she finished her contract at work. The candles that I lit for the Dragon and for the light that is in the lives of my friends on the Grief Healing Boards as well as my fellow-bloggers have both burned themselves out now. Cliff's candle is soothing and emits such a soft peaceful light. It is warming.
Sleep has brought me a reprieve. I feel rested, a little more sane, perhaps stronger.
And now Christmas is officially over, and my tears for him are spent for now, my thoughts turn to the new year, towards which I am being pulled. In one way, I want the year to be over. In another way, I don't, because it's as though I am moving further away from Cliff. Ludicrous, I know. It's my widow-brain. If I look at it from a different perspective, I carry Cliff in my heart, our love is ever present ... and the new year will actually signify that I am moving towards him, not moving away from him at all.
It's only 4 days till New Year's Eve. How can it be? It seems only a week ago that we kissed and held each other - "Happy New Year, Baba," - at midnight, on the patio having watched that last firework.
The whole year feels wobbly and fuzzy ... a constant struggle and battle. I can remember every tiny detail of him leaving, the funeral and then .... it is like a void. There are vague memories of Sweden, but they seem surreal. Business meetings in different parts of the UK - and I find it hard to remember where exactly. Seeing people who are important to me, yet when I try to recall the specifics, it's as if each time I have seen them - that all these times have merged into one. Bizarre. Savannah is a nearer and more prominent memory ... but also appears other-worldly to me now. Stranger still, it's as though he has been here with me this year, and in a way, I suppose he has ... it's just that I haven't adapted or learned how to understand how.
What is more real to me is the love and support that my family and friends have given me all year, it's supply never-ending and unconditional. That is what is left of this year in reality. This blog will serve to fill in the blanks when I am unsure of what happened and when. It will also serve as a record of my progress, and if I ever doubt that I mourned him, missed him, loved him enough, it will serve as evidence should I attempt to wear that hair-shirt once more.I've lost a year of my life. I don't mind, how could I? I mean, Cliff has lost his life, what's a year to me? Or three ... or ten?
I'm not sure why I have been broken ... there must be a reason for it, but it's purpose has not become clear to me. NOT YET. It's forming ... slowly, unclear, blurred, but there is a vague outline coming through the mist and fog. Something to do with learning, love, belief in his unending love, becoming a better person, making him proud of me, finishing what I promised to finish, working hard, being a good friend, helping others who are in pain. There is a calling almost. And it relates to bereavement work strongly. Not sure. I might look into Bereavement Counselling courses and qualifications. It might even help me along this journey. I'm sure Kendra (Biteena) explained that was why she qualified in this field. Clearly not ready. NOT YET ... to be a counsellor ... I am still vocalizing what I'm going through ... if I'm speaking how can I listen? You have to be an excellent listener to be a good Counsellor. NOT YET.
Next year is as clear to me as my recollections of this year. How so? It has not happened yet - although I have played out scenes in my head .... seeing old friends, family, travelling, lighting the fuses on two large fireworks, decorating my home, work ... -ing on projects to my full capability, a new boss, dog-walking, confidence growing ... the waves hitting me less often, the next step, the next hurdle, loving him, always loving him still. Working on the photo project (my other blog), the Conference on Widowhood, and finally, the unknown. I have nothing to fear, not really, my worst fear already being realized. Having finally found a good doggy-hotel I am going to visit family and friends for weekends, more often. I will be able to visit Jean in Holland, my sister, my nephew and niece ... have girlie nights in London with Sara. I will be able to sit down with Dad and have a couple of drinks with him, go out with John, pour Jenny a Bailey's and insist she join me in another ... enjoy the company of my god-daughter and have her here for a sleepover. Arrange another mini-school reunion.
So to next year ... 2010 ... I have had 2 invitations for NYE (not counting my nephew's) and remain undecided. During the early evening I am adamant that I will spend time talking with my new "family" overseas ... the new friends whom I am privileged and honoured to walk along this path with, and ... need to make a decision on what to do. One option is to attend an old skool dance in the dive beneath where we lived on the coast. I am pretty sure that I will not be able to dance my way through the pain. NOT YET. I feel too old for it, I feel too childish for it - without him. I think I need to be with some of the pallbearers instead. I need that connection to him - the sarcasm, the dark humour, the camaraderie, the things that are unspoken are sometimes as present as those that are. Just being with them, all sharing the secrets of times past will fuel me on, and they shall let me cry ... for a short while. They'll even join me briefly, as long as I never talk of it again. More secrets. Secrets bond us. They have always included me in theirs and Cliff always told me that they didn't normally, if ever and he loved that they made an exception in me ... he loved that these men that he respected and liked - his true friends (you know, the special ones who are on an equal standing to yourself in terms of standards, ethics, morals - the unwritten code), the few in between ... would quite often bear their souls to me and I could no more betray their trust than I could stop loving him. Yes, that's where I'll be when Big Ben strikes midnight. They shan't let me fall. They have never ever, not once, betrayed my confidence in them either. This is a prominent part of his Legacy.
And after NYE? Well there is January the 5th and January the 6th to get through. The anniversary of his stroke and death, respectively. Hard to grasp. Hard to believe. My friend, my beautiful friend Vicki and I are walking 8 miles on January 6th - along the seafront where we lived, where his presence is as palpable as it is at home - bracing ourselves against the wind and cold, taking comfort in the ocean, and doubtlessly adding more tears to the ocean I will have cried in my journey towards healing ... and memories, with the promise of a good hot meal in a local pub afterwards. All in his memory, to honour that giving and generosity of spirit that he embodied to perfection ... and we shall channel this by donating the funds raised through Sponsorship - to the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation and through the generosity of my company donating a fixed sum, also to Widows Rights International. It's something positive to focus on. It provides me with a firm exercise in grounding myself and this loss, keeping some semblance of perspective ... it could be worse. I am not cursed as some widows are today - outcast, with no shelter, protection, support or means of feeding myself. It's humbling.Knowing, and for once, remembering that it is always the day after that hits the hardest, I have taken January the 7th as annual leave, and will doubtlessly mourn him till I am spent, once again.
Then, for me, for us, the New Year will truly start on January the 8th. Like the Chinese, I now have a different New Year's Day. Perhaps it shall always be so. I quite like that because it demonstrates the impact and importance of him in my life, as well as commemorating the loss of him - the fact that it has changed me. I like the fact that it has broken the rules of the Gregorian Calendar. I've always been known to break rules, although never to the extent that he did.So, my next goal is to reach January the 8th.
A fresh year. New adventures, taking him and his love and wisdom forwards with me. Growing. More baby steps as well as big ones. Holding my head up, reaching the pits of despair but knowing that I can crawl back towards the light and life itself, time and again. Heartbroken but never permanently broken ... rather, broken and remodelled. I am his wife.
Which leads me to today's photo. When I saw this earlier today, on my old school-friend's blog, it depicted for me so well ... my hopes for this new year. The old year softly melting away, the light behind it that I am marching or sometimes crawling towards, the possibilities, the unknown not yet come into focus. I think it's such a beautiful photo. What a talented photographer he is. I'd like to learn, but haven't quite got enough enthusiasm, simply because I cannot capture the subject that I most want to. But I still enjoy his photos ... they remind me that there is life still to live ... and one day ... NOT YET ... whole-heartedly enjoy. I'd like to call this photo, "Hope in a New Awakening", but it is not mine to name.