Five years. Half a decade. 1,828 days. 157,939,200 seconds. 2,632,320 minutes 43,872 hours. 261 weeks. Whatever unit of time I use it feels too bloody long since I distractedly said goodbye to my husband as he left the house in a flurry to go and play tennis. How can I have survived the half decade that I have since Colin’s heart stopped working at 3.01 on a south London road on Saturday 25th February 2012. When I saw that policeman’s uniform through the windows of my front door I didn’t think I could live a minute without him let alone five whole years. The 25th of February 2012 is the day that my whole life changed completely and forever and somehow this year feels worse than year one, two, three or four. The world has spun me so very far away from him now and the pain may has multiplied with every eon. And now sometimes he feels like a figment of my imagination.
In the months after Colin’s death I could easily recount in minute detail by minute detail the few dreams I had of Col. The one where I was in our house, it was full of people, but I couldn’t find him. I desperately needed to speak to him. I hunted and hunted for my phone to see if I could track him on the phone. But no one had seen my phone. Eventually I found it. And it was blank. There was no key pad. I couldn’t dial his number to call him. I was devastated. I woke just missing his voice.
Col would have turned 43 today. He died at 38. Evie was 22 months old and Isla was nine weeks. I was 36. Colin and I met when he was 28 and I was 25 so we had just under 11 years together. I spent 10 birthdays with him. I bought him 10 presents and probably went for 10 birthday dinners. He has missed five birthdays. That’s five years that the girls have not been able to run in and jump on his sleepy bed head and shout happy birthday daddy on the 26th May. However you crunch those numbers he was too young to die. The girls were too little to lose their daddy. And I had too little time with one of life’s gems.
People probably think come on love…that’s nearly five years now. You’ll be getting over it. But you never get over it. I have learnt to live with our loss. I have learnt to ‘move on’ like so many bereaved people get told to do. Time has healed to some extent but the chasms of grief are too great to ever not feel the sadness waves when you see other children laughing with daddy, playing with daddy or simply just having a daddy. Nope that is not something you ever get over. If you are a dad or you’re married to a great one…just try and imagine for a few moments how deeply you and your children would feel your/his absence and you will see how col’s death at 38 and the fact he is not here to bemoan getting older (and maybe balder and fatter) at 43 just simply does not add up to something I will ever understand or get over.
Last night’s bedtime, the penultimate before turning six, and Evie says this: “I am sad that daddy isn’t here to see me get bigger.”
I tell her a story about how it was the hours before she was born. I was in labour so daddy went to the upstairs room to get some sleep as there was no point, in his words, of us both being tired. When the pain got awful I crawled up the stairs about fiveish to say we should think about going to the hospital. He checked his NCT notes on timings and said we should wait a bit! We made it to the living room and he was in charge of packing the car. But before he left the house we both stood at our dining room table and he cried. He cried with fear and joy and he was never so raw to me. He told me he was so excited to meet our baby.
I told Evie this. And I told her that as soon as she was born in all her screaming he was overwhelmed by her being. He just kissed her and kissed her and kissed her.
She told me she wished he could kiss her now.
I said I know it’s hard but we know he is around us just by the fact that we are. We just are. And then she told me she knows he is invisible. But she thinks he is just there and she waved her hand above the bedcovers. She explained he’s there but we don’t know it and we can’t see but she knows he’s there. I hope so darling Evie. Happy 6th birthday. Love Mama
Dear Darling Col,
It’s unbelievable to think it is four years today that I last looked at you and saw those twinkly eyes of yours. Four years since you raced out the door, with a quick and happy goodbye over your shoulder, to never come back. Never. I still find that so unreal. So full of life and so full of love. So much to live for. So completely unaware that your heart was a ticking time bomb. It’s just bloody unfair, on everyone.
Why do you not to have all the great times you should be having right now with our little girls? They are so funny and sharp and much fun to spend time with. I laugh out loud so often but every time I do I wish you were there right beside me so I could catch your eye Continue reading “It’s Been Four Years…Darling”
Evie turns five tomorrow. Can you believe it? As she went to bed tonight she whispered to you to say: “Daddy, I’m five tomorrow. Send me a kiss from heaven.” I hope you manage some way to do so. I simply can’t believe we’ve managed four of our first baby’s birthdays without you. She’s grown so much. She looks so like you and after several years of worrying that your loss was creating a sad little girl she has changed so much recently. She still carries a sadness but she is so caring and has such lovely friends and happy times. She has her moments, of course, but she is becoming very much a little person you would be proud of. Clever, thoughtful and a little bit feisty. You only ever spent the big One birthday with her. I simply can’t get over that fact. But at least we had that. We all miss you at these times but I hope that we can feel your love tomorrow. I had a discussion with the girls as I was rushing them to nursery the other morning. As I was going half crazy about footwear or lack of I can’t remember how it started but Isla said something about where is daddy or why is daddy not here. I told them both that you surrounded them with your love everyday it is just sometimes we can’t see it. That’s how I understand it. Simple. You can’t give us the hugs and kisses we would love to have but you caress us with your love everyday we just simply know it but can’t physically feel it. Love you always darling. Lamb-a x
PS I found this pic tonight when looking for another one…I love this more. Evie looks more like you than ever now. Mini me or what
A fog has lifted. Mother’s day was the marker. I can admit now that for the last three Mother’s Days I have struggled. My negativity towards the world of two parent families was quite intense for 2012, 2013 and even 2014. I only ever had one Mother’s Day with Colin all present and correct so I felt robbed of breakfasts in bed or other such little treats that he may or may not have thought of doing. Knowing Col so well though I know if he had been here for those three special annual Hallmark feted Sundays the day would have been marked by a card rapidly bought on the way home from work and perhaps a chaotic Sunday lunch before he scooted off to play squash. I am under no illusions that he would have meticulously planned presents from the girls, arranged a massive bunch of flowers and given me a spa voucher for a massage to take away the stresses and strains I thought I was suffering because I didn’t know how good I actually had it. Nope elaborately thought out gifts…that just wasn’t him. He flew a little more by the seat of his pants when it came to his gift buying and because I didn’t know how much I Continue reading “The Best Presents..ever”
Recently, someone I have never met before, and certainly who has never met me with my children or indeed ever set eyes upon my children at all, sat earnestly before me at a dinner party and told me she felt I was projecting my grief onto my offspring. Yes it was like a punch in the stomach to learn once again that someone has an opinion on how I am dealing with Col’s death but it’s not a new thing, at all. We all do it, we all judge the way others are living their lives. It’s just some of us have learned through experience that sometimes you need to keep that thought inside and perhaps not verbalise it until we are in a position to know what we are talking about. And I wouldn’t wish the knowledge I have lived and learned through on anyone.
From the moment your husband, wife, partner dies it does feel like everyone feels they have a right to an opinion on stuff you are doing or not doing – the little and the big stuff. I am sure most who have gone through this have had moments where they’ve wanted to scream at people ‘how on earth do you know what is right or wrong here, you’re not where I am right now and although you’ve just made me mad I wouldn’t want you to know how this feels but just, just, arghhhh leave me alone to do this my way.’ People’s concern means that they care but there are often judgements within the worry – she’s not coping/ she’s coping too well/ she’s drinking too much/ she’s eating too little/ she’s not accepted it/ she’s not looking after herself/ she’s made the wrong big scary financial decision/ she’s being a cow (for too long)/ she’s moved on too quickly/ she’s not moved on enough/ she needs to find someone new to complete her once again/ she needs to be careful who she’s met because he might take advantage of her/ she is not being the best parent she can be/ she’s OK now/ she’s not OK enough to deal with this so we won’t tell her. Argggghhhhhh. The list is endless.
I still make the mistake of judging others’ choices in life. I should know better. I catch myself when I can and try to put myself in other people’s shoes before thinking they are doing the wrong thing. I try not to speak it out loud when I do have that opinion because what can my opinion add if I am not living their life.
I was particularly sensitive in the early days and many who crossed me with their well-intentioned tuppence-worth suffered my wrath directly or indirectly. I am sorry for that. I really am and I have learnt from that mistake but it still happens a wee bit here and there so apologies friends and family. Now I am less sensitive but I am still terribly thin-skinned when it comes to how I am helping my children through a loss that is lifelong and not fixable. Having read a significant amount on the subject I feel I have chosen the path that works for me and the girls. Below is a poem by Henry Scott Holland that was read at Colin’s memorial service almost three years ago. Many will know it. I believe its words and all in this house and those around me kind of live by them.
Death is Nothing at All
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
It is the line “Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,” that resonates. Since Col’s death I have never allowed his name to be said in hushed tones or not spoken at all. I speak about him as if he were still here beside us all. I don’t change this for new friends that never knew him or me with him or Cameron’s friends who have only met me since I met him. It’s a 100 per cent of the time kind of a mindset. Col is my past, my present and my future and most importantly he is completely part of the girls’ lives. Perhaps this makes people uncomfortable but it is my way and from the research I have done on my children’s behalf I believe it is the best way to answer their, sometimes, barrage of daddy questions, ease their worries about death and keep his memory alive. To make his death, or any death in fact, a taboo subject will just make them feel death is a dark secret, his death is and his life are not part of them. Making it difficult to talk about him will make them feel different to others and down the line I believe it will make them anxious about a rather large subject that they need to talk through to understand.
When something so huge as the death of a partner, and the father or mother of your child or children, happens to you the perspective it gives you can feel like a gift if you can make yourself see the rather inadequate silver lining to the death cloud over your life. With my new perspecitve I am learning to face the world and its judgements and remember there is only one person I would take real criticism on on how I am bringing up my children and every decision I make for those girls I make with my knowledge of his opinions at the forefront of my mind. I believe I knew Col’s way and how he felt about the world better than most so I am making our lives as in tune with the way he lived his as possible. And I talk about him and his life and his way with my girls so they will hopefully understand where I am coming from when they are old enough. I may be right or wrong but this is my way. Others who will follow me in this journey may choose to do things differently, they will find their own way through, and others ahead of me in their loss are likely doing it their way. We all make mistakes but they are our mistakes to make. If I can sleep at night because I believe Col wouldn’t be judging me on how I am bringing up his children then I am happy. It is his judgement I try to put into my decision-making processes and so others can think what they like but I follow my heart on this. I don’t judge this person who made their sweeping statement of me. As one widow friend said when I told her of the whole upset I should be happy that she is so clueless as to how all this feels because why would I want anyone to suffer all this heartache. If she had come close to it she may not have said her piece so bluntly. Perhaps my reaction will make her think more before she speaks next time but I hold no malice. I think she meant well. Perhaps next time I am held up in judgement for my life and my actions I should learn to smile, remember the words of the Henry Scott Holland poem copied into this post and move on because in my heart I feel I am doing the right things the right way most of the time. And I will learn by my mistakes. Judge me if you will but keep it to yourself until you are walking in similar shoes to mine.
Three years this Wednesday and still learning.
I don’t know what it’s like to lose my dad. Thankfully mine is still here. So I don’t know what it’s like to grow up without one but everyday I just watch my daughters to get a taste of what it must be like. To see them look out at the world and see that world as different to their own can be heartbreaking. When Evie lies in bed at night asking “why does Tess have a daddy and I don’t?” or when she says “it makes me sad that daddy isn’t here but Erin says I can share hers” – well it makes me shatter into tiny little pieces while I cuddle her and kiss her and try to make up for all those cuddles and kisses she misses getting from him. When Isla conjures up her tall tales about what her and daddy used to do together before he died it’s equally shattering. For Christmas I made each of the girls a baby book heavily featuring as many pics as I could of Daddy. This was quite a task when it came to Isla because he died when she was only weeks old. Now she goes to sleep every night kissing every fuzzy daddy pic I’ve cobbled together in her wee book and she tells me about each picture: “In this one daddy has just finished reading me my story – see there that’s the story book beside him on the sofa – and that’s me in my buggy waving to daddy, you can’t see him because he’s faraway – and that’s me and Evie on daddy’s knee and he’s just fed us our milk.” Every photo has a narrative elaborated by Isla who bases it very loosely on the truth she sees within the image in front of her. This week I found a Flip camera that Col and I bought when Evie was tiny, before we upgraded to iphones that had video on them. There are 54 short videos on it. The majority of them are of Evie in her stream of firsts: Her first smiles, her first bounce in the door bouncer, her first rollover and her first sweet potato feed. Col’s hands, Col’s voice and the back of his head appear but few of his face and his smile. I wish I had had the forsight to nudge the camera his direction a few more times just so we would have had more of him to remember. When I showed Evie and Isla the clips Evie was so excited and poor Isla was excited for her too. And then she said, where are the clips of me and daddy? I have none. Not one. Gutting. She’ll have to continue to elaborate on the few still images we have of her and him instead. Here is my favourite though. It’s the one that brought on the tears, of course. And it’s the one that makes me ache to give my girls back the daddy that adored them so that they wouldn’t have to grow up without him.
*Video being tricksy so trying to convert it to play
It’s easier for me to get my head around the energy of Colin being sucked up into the powerful wonder of nature. Standing at the top of Ben A’an on our wedding anniversary, on ‘our hill’ and the place where his ashes are scattered, amongst the swirling, misty clouds, it wasn’t hard to feel him close to me. A whisper in the wind brought back another time. A time when a chilly September sun shone upon us as we sheltered from the gusty wind behind some rocks, eating ham sandwiches, swigging diet coke and reading our books while watching the other hill climbers take in the view we’d already soaked up before settling down to lie shoulder to shoulder. Aptly Col was reading Nigel Tranter and of course it was a ridiculously large book to have had in our already stappit rucksack…but that was ‘just him’. Now back in 2014, standing there on our sixth wedding anniversary, with Cameron a wee bit off because he’s giving me some space to just be, I could imagine col’s voice as a posh whisper in the misty swirl just saying, ‘I’m here, I’ll always be here sweetheart’. The view that greeted Cameron and I was non existent Continue reading “No Place Like Home”