Happy new year?

I am hearing a lot that people can’t wait for 2018 to be over and that 2019 has to be a better year for us all.
There has been a huge amount of sadness in 2018 so I can see where people are coming from. I have said many times myself that I’ll be glad to see the back of this year.
But as new year fast approaches, I can hand on heart say I am not ready to leave 2018 behind me.
If I were to write a review of 2018, on paper there are many wonderful moments that made it a great year.
Firstly I moved to be with the love of my life, to start a huge new chapter for the boy and I, to become a family.
I started a new job, a job I enjoy that has taught me a huge amount.
Rob asked me to marry him, and this is without doubt the best moment of 2018. It confirmed to me what I already knew, that this was the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with and I was so excited for our future together.
I said yes to the dress!! I mean how exciting is that?!?
There was so much family time this year. I’d of preferred to have had this time under better circumstances but I was grateful for the time we had together. Seeing family who travelled as far as the other side of the world to be here with us when we all needed it most was so special.
We made so much progress on the house we are so lucky to call home. 
And I found happiness with family and friends at a time where it felt like there could be none.
I am so grateful to have had a year where so many wonderful things happened.
There are some days when I am sure I can be forgiven for forgetting the positives in amongst all the sadness that I feel. But writing this down helps me to see that there is always good.
New year is always a time for reflection, and I’ve never really been a fan in honesty. I’m sure we all stop and think about the positive and negative moments of the year. I am sure we all look back at the resolutions we made and wish we’d stuck with them, wish that we’d made more time for family, for friends or for fun or that we’d just done more of what we wanted to do. 
We all see a new year as a new start, a time to make much needed changes and have new focuses.
Believe me when I say I have plenty of those. Plenty of new hobbies to try, resolutions I’ll try to stick with and plans to keep.
But right now I am not ready to say goodbye 2018. And it’s for simple reasons.
I can’t let go of this year that changed my whole life. I can’t say goodbye again, because that’s how it feels. Like I’m having to say goodbye to Mum all over again. As if walking in to 2019 is going to actually change that she’s not here sounds ridiculous but it is exactly how I feel.
I am not ready to say ‘My Mum died last year’ it makes it sound like such a long time since she was here with us. 
And I know that I’m not ready to accept that so much has changed in such a small amount of time. 
I have no powers to make time stop though, so I’ll face 2019 with hope. Hope that it is going to be a better year, hope that with time things continue to get a little easier, hope that my resolutions work out and hope that future is brighter.

The C word

And then just like that, All those plans that you have made vanish. Some may say that life gets in the way but to me that makes it sound like an inconvenience to me.

Life should never be seen like this and this Summer has shown me this in a way I wish it hadn’t. In a way so painful that it is not fair.

When I took that call from my Mum, I think I already knew why she was calling and what she was going to say. I don’t know why but I can remember saying to her at the time that I knew she had cancer. In fact I’d had a conversation that morning with my friend. I’d said to her then that I felt that Mum was ill, really ill. I even mentioned the C word to her, convinced that that was the news awaiting us. Now I’d usually be the queen of positivity but it just felt all wrong.

It still hit me like a train, I didn’t think that was actually a ‘thing’ but believe me it very much is. It’s a train that is showing no signs of slowing down, it just hits you over and over again until you feel like you can’t breathe. You can feel the world around you slowing to a stop, because right now, in this moment, you know that life will never quite be the same again. No matter what the outcome turns out to be.

Mum and Dad came over that day to see us, we didn’t tell F, just left him to play. We talked about it a little bit, I called my Brother and Mum contacted one of her sisters. We almost made light of it, joked about her wearing a wig and that sort of thing. And just for a minute you tell yourself that it’ll all be ok because she is here and she is not unwell so it can’t possibly be right. Then you remember that she only had the scan 4 hours ago and they’d been able to confirm the worst almost immediately, in fact they were so sure they put her back in for a second look.

And this is how you spend the next few weeks, waiting and hoping and then feeling nothing but despair. Life kind of continues as normal, but it is always there, niggling at you. I speak to Mum daily to check if she’s heard anything, if she is feeling anything she didn’t feel before, if maybe she does feel that she has this cancer inside of her and that it is all true, or just hoping that they’ve called and told her it was a mistake. The waiting for more news is terrible, you’re given a rough ‘You’ll be seen in a week’ and 2 weeks later the wait continues.

We were away camping when Mum finally saw someone, who was unable to tell her much without the obvious biopsy. So we begin the next long wait. We’d only been away for 5 days but we visited Mum when we got back and she’d lost so much weight. She was really beginning to look as ill as we feared she was. She was in fairly good spirits though and it was lovely to sit and talk to her while the men all disappeared to the pub (Rob asked my Dad if he could marry me but that’s a whole other story!) She was not able to hide from the pain and discomfort she was in. Watching her struggle to even sit up straight in her chair was not nice to see. You wish with everything you have to be able to take the pain away.

A few days and a few falls later and Mum is in hospital. You feel a sense of relief because surely that means that you’ll start getting some much needed answers and a day turns in to a week which turns in to two and you feel no closer.

But you visit every day, sometimes driving to collect Dad and then back to the hospital and back to drop Dad before going home, and you feel like you need to be a superhero to keep going. There are times I’ve driven down the M6 and had no recollection of doing so. You go to work, race home, go for a visit, race home and so it continues. And you do it because you want to, I wanted to see her every day and you keep going because what she is going through is so much bigger than you. The thoughts and worries don’t actually go away, but you do begin to think that she will be ok. Because surely if she wasn’t they’d be doing something by now right?

Eventually the biopsy took place and Mum was finally home after the best part of a month. The waiting continued though and it seemed to have no end. Life slowed down a little though in this time and we could all breathe a little easier. Mum was home, she was comfortable in her home if not in her body. She had a hospital bed and chairs to help her move around.

Dad was playing the superhero with such finesse that it put iron man to shame. He looked after her with such love and compassion, nothing was too much for him. He cooked and cleaned, made soup, did the shopping, he was a thoroughly modern man! I was in awe of the way he dealt with it all and remained his usual chipper self. I’m not sure I’d of coped so well.

In herself mum had her good and bad days, and she never showed any anger towards the waiting, the same can’t be said for me I’m afraid. Sometimes it was an overwhelming rage. I hated the fact that Mum had just become a number, She is not a number, she is my Mum. But the logical part of my brain tells me that this is how it is and we can’t change it and we must just wait.

Our birthdays soon arrived and it certainly didn’t feel like a time to celebrate, but I had arranged for a wedding dress shop to bring some dresses to Mum’s house so she could help me choose between them. I knew how important it was to her that she was part of this process and it meant the world to me that she was able to see this and know that I was engaged.
It was a difficult day, despite the happy moment of saying yes to the dress. It was what no one said that hung in the air. Knowing that this might be the only time my Mum got to see me in a wedding dress was utterly heart-breaking, and I can’t say that this thought ever left my mind, and in fact it’s very much still there now. Sometimes I think about how hard it will be to put that dress on, tainted almost. But then I remind myself just how special it was to have Mum’s approval of something so hugely important to us both.

The other hugely noticeable thing was how much Mum appeared to be struggling now, Her speech was slow and appeared difficult. She was eating even less than previous, less than half a meal a day and she was beginning to need more and more sleep. It was clear that something needed to happen. She couldn’t be left like this.

Over the next few days Mum really took a turn for the worse. I’d seen her on Sunday and by Tuesday the change was obvious. She was now struggling to be awake, her hands were unable to hold on to things like her phone or a drink and she seemed to be becoming a little confused and disorientated.
Macmillan nurses had been helping Mum and Dad for a while now, they’d been in to see them at home and at the hospital and were a huge help in getting Mum the things she needed to be able to come home and be comfortable. So when they came in again after our birthday weekend and on seeing Mum decided that it would be worth admitting her to Myton Hospice we were on-board. They suggested that Mum just needed a week, it would offer some respite to Dad and would allow the hospice to make some changes to Mum’s medication which they hoped would make her more comfortable but also improve some of the symptoms she was experiencing.

It wasn’t until she was taken in on Thursday 26thJuly that I realised what was actually happening. Myton hospice as far as I was aware is where people go to die. How could we be sending her here? Were we admitting defeat, giving up? That is certainly how it felt. But again you give yourself a good talking to and realise that this is the best thing for Mum and they’ve said a week so that’s what it’ll be. Plus she’d fallen again at home this morning so this was safer.

We saw Mum at the hospice the following day, Dad, Finley and I. It was a place where we instantly felt at home, it was cosy and the staff were all friendly. They were very honest and open and were horrified to hear that Mum had yet to even see a consultant about any results or the next steps.
They also seemed to agree that once her medication was sorted, she’d be able to come home. So I certainly began to feel that this was a good move for Mum and for us all.

Those first few days were difficult, Mum was so upset and disorientated. I found it very hard to watch her like this, but I told myself it would pass, it was temporary. This was just short term. But it made it no easier, watching her shout out in her sleep, calling out to people who were not there and gasping for breath.

It was that first day where I had the most clear ‘vision’. I’ve not talked about this too much but as I was standing over Mum about to say goodbye for the day, someone walked in the room and stood next to me. Now there was no one there, but it was as clear as day. I could not see the person but their presence was overwhelming. I didn’t feel scared, in fact I really didn’t feel anything. I decided it was my imagination and that was that. Until Mum suddenly took notice and began talking to this ‘person’ next to me. What she said made no sense at all but the recognition on her face told me all I needed to know to confirm that I was not imagining this in anyway. She might have been away with the fairies temporarily but she certainly knew who she was talking to and seemed to take some comfort from this.

Just a few days later and Mum was back, she was brighter, had the full use of her hands back and was eating slightly more. The hospice had been fantastic with Mum but with us as well. She had a stream of visitors and F and I visited daily and it fast became a home away from home. F had won over all the staff and volunteers and often earnt himself a cheeky little biscuit or 2! The staff had chased up Mum’s results and arranged for us to meet with a consultant on her behalf. We hoped we’d finally get some answers. Once again though we hit a brick wall. As Mum could not attend he really couldn’t tell us very much. Another appointment was scheduled a few days later with the oncologist. Myton agreed that Mum was not well enough to attend but wrote to the consultant giving permission from them and Mum for us to attend.

On the day, we spoke to Mum to see what she’d like us to ask, and as determined as ever, Mum wrote her own lists of questions to ask. The consultant was helpful and at least gave us some answers to some of our questions. It is just a shame they were not the ones we were hoping for.
He started by showing us the scan that Mum had, the tumor was obvious, even to my untrained eye. He explained that at this point there was no treatment that could be done, although he said if Mum was strong enough he could do a course of radiotherapy but this would be for pain management only. He met with Mum at Myton and spent a lot of time with her going over the results. He was extremely patient with Mum and between him and Myton they promised that they would manage her pain levels better.

It was on this day that a nurse from Myton took me to one side and told me that if Rob and I were serious about having a wedding style blessing with Mum there we needed to do it that week as they were no longer sure she’d be with us within the week. Now you feel like this news should floor you, but you nod and say ‘yep ok’ and get on with your day. Now I don’t know if this is because you think it must be utter nonsense, or if maybe acknowledging it means it is more likely to be true or if it is just a case that you have to carry on regardless of what they tell you because you are fighting every single day already to just get through. Who knows what it is but I just had to keep on, make a plan, get busy. And that’s what I did. By the following day the wedding blessing was all organised for the Thursday.

I’d made no mention of this to Mum until the plan was in place. Part of me worried about her reaction. Would she feel like we’d given up, that there was no hope for her? I was so relieved when Mum seemed to be genuinely excited, but i am under no illusion that this was mainly thanks to a surprise visit from her Sister from New zealand!

Mum had arranged with the team at Myton to have a bath, not just any bath but a fancy Jacuzzi style bath and to have her nails done in preparation! We’d had orders for which top she wanted to wear and she needed her Dior perfume.

She was so chatty and bright all day, it will be a day I remember fondly. I was in Liverpool for the day with F and Rob and spent most of the day chatting via text to Mum. Her messages made sense and it had been a while since I could say that. She was happy and breezy and just like my Mum, I was so happy.

The following day we celebrated our wedding blessing with my parents, Robs, the children and 2 of my Aunties. Mum looked glowing, I even thought she was wearing a little make up and anyone who knew my Mum would tell you that she never wore make up! But it was just in fact a natural glow, it made the day even more special.
I had vowed that I would not cry, mainly because I’d paid good money for the make up I was wearing that day but also because I’d done enough of that. I didn’t want to remember any part of that day for sadness at all. So even when I felt overwhelmed with love for Rob, I couldn’t falter, this was  A NO CRY DAY!

It was a beautiful day, I am so glad we did it. I am so pleased that My parents were able to meet Robs, I am so glad that Mum was alert and able to enjoy herself and it could not have been more perfect.

Still in my lovely love bubble the following day I couldn’t wait to see Mum. We spent the morning chatting as if there was not a thing wrong with her. We were together for a good few hours before she began to struggle. I watched the colour drain from her face and her eyes get heavier and heavier. By the time Dad and Catherine arrived Mum could barely stay awake to say hello. They almost didn’t believe that she’d been so bright that morning, but I know she was and right now that was the best feeling in the world. It was enough to make me forget all the shit and just enjoy my Mum again. To feel like for a moment I didn’t have to worry anymore, she was still very much with us and that is where she would stay. And there was not a single part of me that didn’t believe that 100% in that moment.

Another Monday rolled round and another nurse is telling me to prepare for the worst this week. I wondered how many more times I’d have to listen to those words. How many more times I’d have to tell the family this before it became a reality. Or do I just ignore it because they’ve said it before and we are still here, Mum is still holding on. But in reality she was fading. She wasn’t awake much now and when she was she was finding it difficult to talk. Her food intake was down to nothing at all and even drinking was becoming more and more difficult for her. We questioned the Doctors as to why they weren’t putting her on a drip, why they weren’t feeding her. They explained that it would not help and could in fact make her feel worse. If they gave her fluids that fluid could build up where it shouldn’t because her poor body currently doesn’t know what to do with it and the same with food. Her body would hold on to it rather than absorbing it. The body is kind to us in these late stages the Doctor tells us, it stops feeling thirst or hunger because it doesn’t need either of those things. I almost want to laugh at this, what part of this is kind? No part of this whole process has been kind.
We discussed with the Doctor our concerns about how this could have taken so long to diagnose. The consultant said the bone cancer Mum has is secondary to Kidney cancer Mum had removed and needed no further treatment on in 2012. So that meant that for 6 years this cancer had been growing and causing difficulties for Mum. I can’t remember a time now where she didn’t struggle to walk and move around. She has been using a walking stick for many years and it was a contributing factor in her taking early retirement. The difficulty she had walking put pressure on her heart and caused this to be an ongoing issue.

Over the last 5 or 6 years she’d had various appointments, scans, x-rays, MRI’s and even a few diagnoses and some treatment. There was talk of a hip replacement when she was a little older as well. So in all this time and all these specialists and appointments how can this possibly be missed? I feel like I need to know why. I felt as though we’ve been robbed of time with Mum, time for her to have treatment and fight this. I told myself a lot at the time that actually we have had 5 or 6 years that maybe we wouldn’t have done, that her body has been fighting this for a long time, she has fought to walk, and fought to keep going every single day with no idea what was really going on.

It was clear to us all that this week was not going to be kind to Mum. You could no longer communicate for long periods with her and sometimes she was not aware that you were there, who had been or who was coming to visit. The Wednesday night was one that will stay with me forever. I think it was the first time I’d let Mum see how broken I was. I had spent so long pretending this wasn’t really happening, so long trying to remain positive and strong for her. I felt like she didn’t need to know how I felt as it wasn’t about me. This was about her and how she felt. And while she was struggling to stay upbeat, I felt I had to do that for her. I had to keep my emotions in, at least until I was in the car, or at home because she didn’t need to see it. But that day I couldn’t anymore. Maybe it was because I had friends with me rather than family and I didn’t feel the need to stay strong for them like I did for everyone else. And I lay my head on Mum and cried. I told her how much I loved her and that I knew she had to go. I even told her it was time, I told her to go to sleep. She told me she loved me, it was clear as day. But those were the last words she spoke to me. Which is of comfort to me but also absolutely breaks me. Even writing this now I am in absolute pieces. I am so glad that I had that moment with her. I do feel now that it was important for her to see and hear just how special she is to me and that more than anything in the world I loved her with everything I had.

We were all there every day now. Another Monday arrived and I felt like we’d won. Those nurses had been wrong every time they’d said to prepare for the worst. I felt like sticking to fingers up at them and telling them they were wrong! We spoke with her Doctors who said ‘Anytime now’ but that didn’t really mean much, we’d heard it before. I even said to Rob and some friends that Monday that I think its weeks yet. I’d even dared to say that ‘you wouldn’t put a dog through this, its not fair on her’ on more than one occasion and I swear I’d do anything to take that back now, as if taking it back would suddenly change the outcome.

Tuesday 21st August 6.50am, even when my phone rang at that time in the morning I didn’t really think this could be it. So I arranged for the girls to be collected by their Grandparents and hurried F to get dressed so we could head to the hospice. I packed a bag of anything I could find at that bleary eyed time of the day. Boxes of lego, reading book, Crisps, biscuits and drinks. That’ll do for now. We’d have loads of time to fill today. Rob was away with work but it was fine because I’d find someone who could collect F later. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the hospice any time soon and that was fine as I was right where I wanted and needed to be. I wasn’t going anywhere, I’d be there to see my Mum take her last breathe if that was what was going to happen. Not that I’d really thought this was about to happen.

So when I see Dad rushing towards me as I go to sign in at the hospice and he says those words ‘She’s gone’ the world stopped. I could feel it stop, I felt everything in that moment change forever. F seemed to have no idea what had just happened so I told him, I could see his little heart break and he cried, it was just for a moment though.

I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with this information, how was I supposed to process it? I just had an overwhelming need to see her, I had to be with her. Now you hear people say it all the time ‘They looked so peaceful’ and I’ll be honest I always thought it was a crock! But she did look peaceful, it’s more than just asleep though and it was clear she was gone no matter how much I wanted this not to be true. I sat beside her and cried and begged for her to come back to us. I told her I was wrong, I wasn’t ready for her to go so she just needed to come back to us.

I spent time with her before ringing my Brother and Rob. And then contacted some of my friends, Mum’s sisters were there and notifying family, I even called the registry office while Dad called some of their friends.
We all spent some time with Mum both alone and together. F was kept busy while we were in there. He had decided that we needed to remain positive as that is what Nanny would want. He and Catherine wrote a list of the things he loved about his Nanny, the things he enjoyed to do with her. He then joined us all in Mum’s room and read through his list. Together we came up with some more things to add to it. It felt like the most natural unnatural thing in the world, all sitting around Mum lying so peacefully. You could almost forget for a moment.

Eventually Myton said they needed to move Mum. Well I didn’t want them to move her, I didn’t want to leave her here. But I knew of course that I had to, I just wasn’t ready to go yet. They allowed us some more time but eventually we took to the family room so they could do the necessary.

Even now the staff treated her with such dignity and respect. She had a blanket and pillow with her that we wanted to keep hold of as they’d been made for her. I went through with the nurse to collect them and she spoke to Mum and told her she was just going to take them from her but that they’d get her another blanket to keep her warm. I was so pleased to have witnessed that, I needed to know that she was going to be well taken care of. They cleaned Mum and eventually moved her, I wanted to see her go, be with her on this journey but I know for the family it was too much. I honestly could have stayed with her, got in to the bed with her and held her forever and I’d never really understood it when people chose to spend time with their loved ones after they’d past. But it felt like the most natural thing in the world being with her and it felt like that was it now. No more time with my beautiful Mum. The nurse bought through the top Mum was wearing for us to take home and wash. I could smell my Mum on that top and could for a week or so after, I slept in it that night and it remains in my pillow case unwashed and will stay there, It bought me some real comfort over the first few days.

We left Myton all together that day and went for lunch. It almost didn’t feel like the right thing to do but in all honesty, we weren’t really sure what we were supposed to do. But at the restaurant it was really busy, the staff were running around like mad things and everyone was chatting away as if nothing had happened this morning. My world had stopped turning at not a single person seemed to care. The birds still sang and the sun still shone, people were doing their shopping or going to work and carrying on as if nothing had happened. How can life carry on around us when the world was stood still? I could not understand that, didn’t want to. But I needed to remind myself every second that she was my Mum, most people didn’t even know her so why would they feel like I do, why shouldn’t they laugh and joke and chat as if nothing happened when in fact it is just another Tuesday to them!

We went home and Catherine and F kept busy cooking while Dad and I let people know what had happened. The phone seemed to constantly ring. Everyone saying such lovely things about Mum and how sorry they are and it genuinely helps. I wanted to know that people were feeling it like I was, that I wasn’t alone. It was comforting to hear these things from people. I knew how amazing she was and I am glad other people knew that as well.

But then a really tough call came in, It was from the Donor organisation. We knew it was coming but it is not an ideal conversation to be having just a few hours after you’ve said goodbye. But I am pleased to say that Mum was able to donate her eyes. I just hope they can be of use to someone soon.

You kind of hit autopilot and just cruise along. Each day becomes about just getting through. You keep busy in the hope this will help. And I suppose to an extent it does but at times it feels like you are just putting off the pain and misery you feel. I stayed positive for Dad, and F bounced around trying to keep us all smiling. And now I come to recall this time, I find it very difficult to remember what happened. The day Mum died is etched in my mind in such scarily clear clarity but everything else is just a block of time. I know we visited the funeral home, registered her death, and collected some of her belongings from Myton hospice and I even went away to centre parcs for a week. But all of that just seemed like more waiting to me. Just as we had been waiting since May.

I struggled so much to process what was going on. Even now, almost 3 months later I can’t possibly accept that she has really gone. I play the last few days out over and over and wonder if I should have said this, or if I should have done that, maybe I should not have gone home, maybe I should have asked Rob to come back from his work trip. There are an awful lot of shoulda woulda coulda’s during that time and maybe they’ll always be there.
Losing a parent is like losing a part of you. My Mum was the core, everything I did was with her blessing, it’s her that I would seek comfort from, advice on the most important and the most sublime of things in life, her approval meant more to me than any other and to think that was gone, just like that was too hard to process.

And you’re aware that you are shutting down a little bit, maybe you’re pushing people away, bottling up those tears or being less patient than you normally would but it feels like it is beyond your control. You wake up in the morning and you already feel tired, you go through the motions, stick to a routine and plod on. And some days it seems a little easier and other days 10 times harder. Sometimes you find a reason to laugh or to smile and then this little part of you says ‘Stop doing that, you’re supposed to be sad’ as if smiling or laughing or having any kind of fun means that you can’t be grieving.

And everyone is great, really great. Friends keep calling and texting even if you don’t pick up, Rob was still there each day no matter how shut off I was and F was still remaining positive. Family still support you through their own grief and words of kindness drop through the door every day. But despite all that you still want to fall apart, tell the world to leave you alone, but you don’t. You get up and get on.

And then you plan the funeral, and you have to be quite mechanical about it all because the minute you let any emotion in, its game over. And you are sick of crying, sick of saying sorry to whoever is with you when the tears start to flow but sick of trying to hold it in. And you choose music, Mum had given us some ideas but then we wanted something significant to us, those left behind, something that came close to telling the world how we felt through music. We wrote the eulogy, and it’s then you realise that you needed more time with Mum so you could ask her more about her childhood, more about growing up and college and how she felt about Dad and getting married and what it was really like to be our Mum. But it’s too late. It’s not until they are no longer here that you realise just how much more you want to know about them.

but somehow it comes together and you finally understand how final this act is. And then the wait continues, a week of waiting for the day to arrive. You wait because people tell you it’ll feel easier after the funeral, so you hold on to that. Hope that they are right because you can’t cope with this feeling anymore.

During this time I began a journal, somewhere I could write to Mum and tell her how I was feeling, talk to her and hopefully eventually share the good as well as the bad. I found it really helpful putting pen to paper. It was our place. I’d beg her to come back to us, tell her how much I loved her and shared the journey we were on without her. Even now I try to write to her once a week at least. 

In this week I found myself doing things but having no recollection of doing them. Driving to places and not remembering the journey, talking to people and having no idea what we’d talked about, I’d take F to school and then come home and forget where he was, I’d go to the gym but old ladies were talking about going to see their Mum’s and the selfish part of grief makes you think ‘why do they have their Mum at their age and I don’t?’ And then I’d feel guilty even thinking like that. 
I’ve never really experienced guilt in any form, but my god now it was overwhelming. I felt guilty for being sad, guilty for being happy, guilty for crying but guilty for not crying, I’d feel guilty for not doing something round the house or when I couldn’t face normal things, I’d feel guilty about letting people down, about not being able to manage work. I even felt guilty getting a sick note from the doctors for gods sake! I felt like nothing I did would ease this guilt. And there were times where I felt guilty about being alive! Nothing but time seemed to bring an end to those feelings.

We’d decided to go and see Mum on the Friday before the funeral. It was something I vowed I’d never do, but now I was faced with it I had to go, I needed to see her face one more time. Needed to say goodbye to her properly. I’d been told to expect the worst so I think I was surprised to find it easier than I expected. But I knew immediately that Mum wasn’t there anymore, she didn’t look peaceful, she looked uncomfortable. I just needed to go. The funeral home came in and re-positioned Mum and I went back to say my goodbyes. This time she did look peaceful and I left there feeling like I’d done what I came to do and I felt a little more ready to face the funeral. 

Now I’ve heard people describe funerals as being a beautiful send off and I just thought people were being nice, but Mums really was beautiful. She had such a huge turn out. Although as we followed Mum in I didn’t notice anyone except for my friends husband weirdly. I could not have told you who was there and who wasn’t. It was only when we sat down that I was even aware of my family sat behind us. I held on to my Dad as if my life depended on it and held F while he sobbed. I have to say I was so pleased to see him finally cry, it worried me how ok he was being. 
The service went by so quickly and hearing the eulogy bought to life by the celebrant and hearing people cry and laugh along with us bought it to life. I cried so much that day that it hurt, but the wake bought some happier moments. A time to talk and share stories and meet some of Mums old school friends and work colleagues. Time for family to laugh and love. As funerals go we could not have asked for more. I think Mum would have been happy to.

And then it feels like the healing process has to start. There are calls to make, things to organise and people to notify. And it keeps me occupied and my mind busy which is no bad thing. But inside i still feel like the world is not turning as it was before. 
I begin to smile a bit more and ache a little less on the good days, but the bad days are just as hard. But i smile again because I feel like that’s what’s expected of me and I feel like it’s the only way to make it through the darkness.

There are times where all I want to do is call you, I’d even be happy to come to Myton every day again if it meant I could see you again, even just for a minute. 

I miss your smile and your laugh, I miss those blue eyes of yours and I realise that I took all those things for granted. I never really took the time to appreciate all the wonderful things that made you you. And it breaks my heart still, each day. Most days I don’t cry but others it’s unstoppable, and if I can hold it in, in bubbles under the surface until I let myself go.

It’s made me realise that it is ok to feel sad, it’s ok to breakdown and not be ok, I just have to take each day as it comes and lean on those around me. I need to allow myself time to grieve and learn how to live without you.

It’s also made me realise how important family is. How I need to take more time for all my family, Rob, F and the girls and my Dad. I need to talk to them more about what they want in the future, how they are feeling and have some of those really difficult conversations about funerals and wishes when the time comes. It’s certainly not an easy thing to discuss but we didn’t have that chance with Mum and I now know how important it is to know these things.

I want to spend more time making memories and documenting family life. And I think Mum would be happy to know that I’ve been able to find some sort of lesson in all of this crappiness!!! 

I want to thank all the amazing people I have in my life. I am sure I’d not be getting through any of this without you all. 

I am also very aware that I am just at the beginning of the grieving process even now, I’ll never be the person I was before but I hope that once I learn to live this new life, I will find a way of accepting that you’re not here anymore.



Please revoke my membership


I have become a member of a club. I didn’t ask to be a member, I wouldn’t ever choose to be a member and it’s not a membership I’d want to gift to anyone else.

And the thing is, at the time I didn’t realise that I was part of this club. I didn’t know it was even a thing.

But my first group meeting is via Facebook when I post about Mum passing away. Suddenly all these other people who have lost parents step up and tell you that they know what I am going through, that they are right there with me. And it’s both comforting and heart-breaking at the same time.
Comforting to know I am not alone and that there is hope that life will have a sense of normality about it in the years to come. It is heart-breaking to think of all these people I have known for such a long time have been here and continue to live through this and I either didn’t know, or didn’t realise the enormity of what they had experienced.

Because until it happened, I had no idea just how huge it is to lose a parent. How every part of my life has been touched by it. The constant ripple effect after this huge stone is dropped in to the puddle that is my world keeps on going.

And then I think about all the times where I should have said more to someone in this situation. I wonder if I have ever offered enough comfort to someone else. I mean I know now that there is no comfort. There are no words that people can say that will help make sense of the chaos I feel but I do know that the kindness people showed me and the genuine sadness displayed made me realise that there is always some positives and that it meant that my Mum had touched people’s lives or had some impact on them. And that is special enough. But I still wonder if I came anywhere near offering that to my friends, my colleagues and even my family.
And then my second meeting was a Christmas memorial service at the crematorium Mum’s service was at. I didn’t give it much thought beforehand if I am honest. We were going and that was that. But I arrived and there are so many people there. And then I began to recognise faces in the crowds. It takes a while to register why they are here. But then I remember that they are here for the exact same reason that I am. Be it Mum or Dad, Wife or Husband, Sister or Brother, their child, their friend. Someone who meant the whole world to them is no longer here.

So we join together, seeking some comfort in this room full of sadness. A room so significant to us all. And I tried so hard to be strong, to keep it together but it was impossible, there was just too much sadness around me and inside me. I couldn’t look at anyone because I knew I’d crumble. But I could hear the sound of gentle sobbing around me and the Christmas carols didn’t help. And as I was completely unprepared for the evening, my poor scarf became a giant handkerchief.


But I don’t want to be a member, I’d like to leave now. And there is a part of me that feels some resentment towards other members. And I honestly believe this is because grieving is such a selfish act. No one else can possibly feel how I do or truly understand what I am are going through. So being in a room with all these other people’s grief makes me feel angry. And yes I am very aware this makes me sound like a terrible person and believe me when I tell you that the guilt I feel is enormous (See previous post in regards to the ongoing guilt!) but that’s the truth, I can’t change it no matter how much I would like to. All I can do is hope that it fades….. and bloody quickly!
The third meeting took place in the Myton hospice car park on a windy but thankfully dry December evening. This meeting felt a little different. It felt like a community bought together by something special. Yes we were all here to remember a loved one, but we were all linked by something more than our loss. A connection that goes a little deeper, Myton itself. Because it is the last place most of our loved ones were with us. And this means that this place and these people, those that helped us and those that cared for those we have lost will remain in our heart forever. And we know our members will grow over the years and we will welcome them with a comforting silence, a knowing smile or a gentle touch of acknowledgement because we are connected.
My forth meeting was a little different. It was in the card aisle in Tesco. Faced with cards to Mum and Dad it just hit me. I didn’t see it coming, but I was paralysed, I just stood there looking at every single one of them, sobbing. Torturing myself. The tears were uncontrollable and people just went on with their shopping, ignoring this hysterical woman in the aisle at Tesco. Until a hand reached out and offered gentle reassurance in the form of a slight arm squeeze. And I knew right then that this Lady, this kind Lady, she knew exactly why I was crying. She was a member too I’m sure of it. We didn’t speak and in fact all that happened is I cried more, but right there in that moment it was exactly what I needed. Like an addict needs a sponsor. I needed another member to see me, to reassure me and to remind me I am far from alone.



Its then I saw the importance of ‘The Club’. Yes I’d rather not be in it, I’d rather not attend the meetings but I now know the support this group offers will be never-ending. Their understanding and sympathy will remain because they will, like me, need that support forever. I just hope that one day I can offer that kindness and support to someone else because it meant the absolute world to me.

The most wonderful time of year

Now anyone who knows me will tell you I am a little bit Christmas obsessed. I drag Buble out of hibernation earlier than he is used to, I watch my first Christmas film in October … Ok September, I Christmas shop from January and plan a diary full of fabulous Christmas themed activities to please all.

In reality this means that I forget what I have bought so doubling up occurs, over buying always happens, and then I am convinced I bought wrapping paper and cards in the sale last year but I either lost it or it never actually happened, so I panic that I have neither and buy all over again (Sometimes I then find the stuff I DID buy in the sale!)

It also means Buble is put back in to early hibernation. I know he isn’t ready, He hasn’t even collected enough food supplies to see him through the summer, but if I have to skip through his rendition of Silent night one more time I might strangle myself with tinsel.
Then there’s the Christmas movies which are beginning to get a little tired, no one seems to be able to make a good Christmas film like they used to. And there’ll never be a santa as good as Richard Attenborough.

Then the diary fills up with ‘Fun Christmas’ activities that leaves you with cold sweats, mild heart palpitations and a wish to hide away until the 1st January at the least. And even a colour coded diary on the noticeboard in the kitchen isn’t enough of a reminder to stop you from double and triple booking yourself. But it’s the panic of fitting in all the wrapping and card writing and the normal day to day ‘stuff’ that makes me feel a little faint.

And DO NOT get me started on the bloody elf. 7 years later and I have no more inspiration and my need to sleep is greater than the need to find an elf activity!! Little shits!

But there’s the moments where I wish I could hit the pause button. So I could embrace the Christmas film while enjoying a festive drink or lovingly wrapping some presents. Have a day in our Pj’s writing Christmas cards and eating mince pies. To take the time to dance around a beautiful Christmas tree to Mr Buble. To really stop and see all the pretty lights decorating houses street after street. To make more time for family and friends and to simply enjoy this wonderful time.


So this Christmas, the wrapping started in November and the aim is to have it all finished by mid-December.

I will not be writing cards (So glad I spent so long making my own cards this year!!) unless you have a gift from me. Gift = card. This might be slightly influenced by the fact I now have 5 names to sign off in the cards, maybe I should commission a stamp for next year.

I will allocate one evening a week to watch the classic Christmas films, The Holiday, Love actually and the Family Stone at the very least. I’ll also be open minded to the many Christmas film appearing on Netflix currently. I have already been pleasantly surprised by Kurt Russell’s attempt at Santa.

We will find an evening to be wowed by the pretty lights, even if Rob does think I am mad!

And I am genuinely excited for all the fun we have booked in. I am excited to see friends that I have not dedicated enough time too lately, I am looking forward to cosy evenings with my family, and I am going to enjoy making new traditions and weekends full of fun that make the working week seem a little easier.

                 

Because I have come to see that what I love most about Christmas is the build-up and the sense of excitement it brings with it. I feel like a kid at actual Christmas from about the 20th November.

I will raise my glass to the festive season and accept that some points are going to be harder than I could ever imagine but I will not let Christmas go, I will hold on to all that I love about it and all that Mum loved about it. And maybe next year I’ll utilise the clever little Christmas journal I have bought this year so I never over buy again!! 



Whatever you are doing this Christmas time, make sure you find some time to appreciate that all the stress and pressure we put ourselves under is worth it to spend that precious time with those we hold close.

Merry Christmas!!



How to successfully survive family life in 2 easy step

1Realisation 

You realise that the washing basket will never be empty. This lends itself nicely to the ironing basket, same rule applies.

You realise that your lie in days are behind you, this also goes for having a whole evening to yourself before 8.30pm…. or later if you’re really lucky!

You also realise that the house will never look like a show home even after bedtime.

You learn that you’ll always be called on for food and drink requests, constantly, ALL THE DAMN TIME! And you will never have enough food in the house to keep them topped up to an acceptable level.

You realise that your new role as referee doesn’t come with a striped t-shirt or a whistle but that you really should invest in both.

You realise that the song you’ve been humming on and off for 5 years is from ‘In the night garden’ which would be ok if you’d watched it in the last 8 years!

You also realise that for as much fun as the idea of a day out, a holiday or any other significant occasion it brings with it its own kind of stress. And that includes just leaving the house for half an hour!

You realise that a car is never going to be big enough for a family of 5, even a car that is the same size as a coach would still allow room for arguments on who sits where, who is taking up the most room and which toy belongs to which child because you can FORGET sharing!

Most importantly, a new realisation for me, pudding is EVERYTHING!


2. Acceptance

You accept the ever growing washing pile as a sign of good days. Days filled with hard work and fun. You accept that actually ironing really is the biggest waste of time so you cross that off your list and decide that actually washing is quite an easy task. In fact it is the easiest job in my opinion, but if someone could do the putting away, that’d be great!

      You accept that a lie in and early bedtimes are a thing of the past but you accept that it’s not forever and you’ll soon be dragging them out of bed or pleading with them to spend some time with you. So embrace the long days, the extra time with these small people while they are still small.

      One day you accept the house you call home together will be clean and rather empty feeling. You’ll also learn how to get slime out of carpets and playdoh unlodged from plug holes.

      You accept that they need to be fed ALL THE DAMN TIME and be grateful that they can ask and that you can afford to forfill their requests. You’ll also accept that they will find your stash and you’ll gladly share that as well!

       You’ll accept the role of referee gladly, even without the accessories, because it’s normal and you’ll be glad that they haven’t yet killed each other so you’re actually quite good at this new role.

        You’ll accept that damn song in your head because it was probably the last time you remember snuggling up together on the sofa before bed for much needed cuddles, that didn’t come with a whole heap of protesting.

        You’ll accept that the stress you feel now when going out as a family is temporary, again it won’t be long before your time is your own and you’ll actually have so much free time that you’ll be able to fill that time with stressing about where they are and what they are doing.

        You’ll accept that maybe you have to sit in the back between children at war – see referee point –  while another sits in your shotgun seat taking control of the music choices because one day they’ll be off driving themselves and again your stress levels will increase for the above reasons.

         And you’ll accept that pudding is EVERYTHING because frankly it is!!

So as a parent do you have any other realisations and acceptance moments? I can’t be alone

Tyntesfield


Tyntesfield was a half-way point from home to our campsite and came highly recommended. It was an ideal stop off for a picnic and somewhere to walk off the car journey and of course let the children run off some steam.


I hadn’t done much research in to what was on offer as it was mainly a stopping point. I knew though when we arrived to find a huge carpark that it was going to be a big place and it did not disappoint!

The grounds were immense, I certainly wasn’t expecting to not be able to see the house on our approach! I knew then it was going to be good. 


The house is massive and we visited at a good time as they are in the process of updating all the fire alarm systems. This allowed for them to share some great history on the property, show how the work is being done and what they have had to do in order to protect the building and its contents. The children really enjoyed looking for facts, finding clues and trying on firefighter hats from throughout history… Ok not just the kids!

                             

The tour finishes with most beautiful church I have ever seen. The whole place was filled with history, to the point you could just imagine exactly what it must have been like when it was used as a home. The decoration and furnishing was grand but elegant and I think it was by far one of my favourite houses to date.

As it was a quick stop we didn’t have time to explore all the grounds had to offer but it certainly seemed to cater for those who like the outdoors and a good walk. I’d like to return once all the work is completed just to see the difference and to explore some of the areas we couldn’t access well.



Tintagel Castle

When we booked to go to Devon camping, one of my conditions after seeing how close we were, was that we must go to Tintagel castle. All the pictures online and the guide book were beautiful.
Now it would be very unfair to say I was disappointed because I am sure if the sun was shining, it would have been perfect. But in the rain it was just a little bit like hard work. It was raining enough to need rain coats but still too warm to wear them while climbing approximately 34,876 steps (It’s not THAT many btw I just like to exaggerate slightly) the views, while still impressive were not what we had hoped for and thanks to the bad weather we had earlier in the year, the steps down to the beach had been badly damaged and were in the process of being fixed so it did mean we couldn’t explore that which was a real shame as even on the grey day it still looked lovely.

I must point out that English Heritage had made it clear on their website that work was going on and that access to the beach was not possible so at least we were prepared for this.

I was not prepared for the amount of walking involved though, but maybe this just seemed so much harder in the rain as it made the pathways and steps very slippery. It was also hugely popular so negotiating some of the stairs was a slow process, but this is probably good given how slippery it was.

The children seemed to enjoy the day. They were able to find stuff to climb on, and as we have already established this really is their only day out criteria. They handled the walking fairly well too, I think I moaned more than they did.

The highlight for us all was reaching the top and posing with the new King Arthur statue. There was something very special about it.

I am not sure if I would be in a hurry to go back, although I’d love to see the difference a bit of sunshine makes to the place, I’d imagine on a good day it would be overflowing with people, making getting around even trickier. At £24.70 for family entry, I do think it is good value. There is plenty to see and do if the weather was better and eating a picnic high up overlooking the sea does sound rather lovely.

The walk from the main road to the castle and back again was hard going before you’ve even got to the 73,124 (see … exaggerating again!) steps. If you have any issues with your mobility, I would not recommend at all.
The town itself is very quaint and very Cornwall so we obviously had to indulge in a scone! Jam then cream by the way. I won’t ask how you like yours because my way is the right way 😉

Charlcote Park

We woke to a super sunny Sunday and as Charlecote house is only 40 minutes from us it was an easy choice to make. I had been a few times as a child so knew the children would appreciate the space it had to offer if nothing else.
I’d never been in to the house on any of my visits so was excited to get inside. The children were tasked with spotting all the toy deer’s in the house, they then had to report back to the guide to tell him how many they found before being rewarded with a sticker. This meant Rob and I could take in the house and all it had to offer.
The Capability Brown parklands did not disappoint and the addition of the deer made for an interesting walk. We were able to get very close to a herd of the hiding from the sun under some trees. This was until a guide came over and warned us to stay back as they were getting agitated… From where I was stood they seemed to be a little on the randy side but hey I’m no deer expert!

I think my favourite part was being able to climb up to the gate house to watch the bells go off. Once the children knew the bell was not going to deafen them they loved it too. Plus the view it offered of the house and gardens were definitely worth it.

At £21 for a family ticket, this is great value. Between the house, grounds and various walks available you could make a full day of your visit. We took some outdoor toys as well knowing that there would be room to play.

I have decided I’d like to visit again at Christmas as I have heard it’s pretty spectacular at that time of year.

Rob was also very pleased to pick up a fern to make a start on our fern inspired garden!

Baddesley Clinton

Or now affectionately known as our new home.
I have always fancied a house with a moat, It suits my slightly anti-social side perfectly but also says look at me and bad-ass house… IT HAS A MOAT!!
The house itself for a NT property is fairly low key which just adds to its charm. Don’t get me wrong though, the inside is grand with its fancy fireplaces and wood paneled rooms but it has a cosy, homely feel about it. Rob certainly looked at home in front of a grand fireplace with a full wall tapestry as a backdrop.


We both agreed it was somewhere we could happily live. Now if anyone has some money they’d like to donate to our new home purchase, at least a couple of million should help!
The gardens were simple and suited the property. The wooded area offered plenty of places for the children to play and explore. It was caterpillars hanging from the trees that captured their interest here. The mass of friendly ducks also made for a fun picnic, who knew that they’d like wotsits so much.

The history of the house is really interesting, especially the gruesome tale of murder, including a blood stained floor, just make sure you get a guide to give you the whole story as it is enough to give you nightmares!

At £31.50 for a family ticket, I feel it was a little on the pricey side for what is available but by using our passes, I am glad we visited. Packwood house is very close by and if we hadn’t have had a holiday to pack for we probably would have done both. They also provide a map for those who would like to walk from one to the other. I hope we will return to do the walk next time.

Rock pooling

This was a jar idea. One I wasn’t too sure we’d be able to do. I honestly can’t remember seeing anyone rock pool in years so thought it may be a thing of the past. But maybe it was more a case of not looking in the right places.
Woolacoombe beach is perfect for any budding rock pooler.
Once the sandcastles were built and the sandwiches demolished, fully kitted out with buckets and nets we headed off.
The climbing of rocks was fun and F was in his element, so much so he was basically a blur in the distance. I probably should have been more concerned but that’s not really the kind of parent I am …. The occasional shout of ‘All ok F?’ is enough to satisfy us both. The girls on the other hand, being the occasional delicate flowers that all children can be from time to time were a little more reserved. I’d like to say I was as fearless as F but I’d be lying. These rocks are not kind on little feet so they are certainly not kind to my super-wide – size 7- can’t fit in the small crack feet! But I have to admit to feeling like superwoman when I had to help the girls across the tough terrain of woolacoombe rock pools!
It is fascinating seeing the various pools of water, some small and some big, some of them shallow and others very deep, but there was certainly a disappointing lack of life in them. Undeterred we carried on looking.
When I spotted 3 legs of what I soon realised was a star fish I was over the moon!!!  Now a good parent would delight in calling their children over to share and let them fetch it out… But not me!!! I couldn’t wait to lift if out and put it in my bucket with a sense of pride or total smugness to then show off, I mean allow the kids to marvel at my awesomeness.. Ok the awesomeness of nature!

So Karma saw her opportunity and took instant effect….. What I actually pulled out was actually a 3 legged dead star fish! FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!

Well ya know what Karma??? The kids loved it so na na na na narrrrrr!!!!


I mean what could actually be more exciting than a dead, 3 legged starfish?? Well nothing it would seem. That’s me, SUPERMUM! Even if only very short lived.

To summarise, a lovely beach for Rock pooling but I think next time we’d try the pools first thing as I think they’d been cleared out by the time we got there.



Our second rock pooling adventure came thanks to the National trust. Northcott mouth is free to enter as it is a beach, but it is maintained by the National Trust. They do ask that Non-members make a donation to use the car park.
This is possibly one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in the UK. It was breath-taking. To access the beach you do have to negotiate rocks. It is not a pebbly beach, this are like boulders! So the access is limited to those with very good mobility (And core strength!) and I am amazed even now that I made it to the sand in one piece.
Now I love nothing more than hearing the waves crashing when I am by the sea so this was paradise for me, and a huge number of surfers! I could sit there all day listening to that sound!
The rock pools were fantastic. It was basically one huge pool with the occasional seaweed and algae covered rocks to climb over. It was much easier on the feet and far easier for the children to explore at their own speed. It was also easier to find the treasures they were so desperate for. E and S set about removing snails from every rock they could find until their buckets were overflowing – this did lead to some fun in watching just how far and how quickly these little guys could escape the bucket. F and Rob took this very seriously and were pulling up ricks and hoping for gold, it didn’t disappoint. F was over the moon with his very long and thankfully very thin eel and the shrimp he found.
Typically, we’d been told the weather wasn’t going to be great the day we visited so we just bought a snack and a drink and very little else. Of course the sun shone for us and it was possibly the nicest day we had. Facilities at the beach were non-existent so we had to call our day to an end. 

But I cannot recommend this beach more. It is worth a visit and I would most certainly go back again.