Friday, 31 July 2009

Marking the date

As I've mentioned before, R rather inconveniently left me with two anniversary dates - the one on which he effectively died and the other, 'official' date when the machines were switched off at the hospital.

The first was his niece's 18th birthday. The family were on holiday in Turkey at the time. (It would be nice to think that the Universe arranged it so that they could get home in time to be with him at the end, but then if it is so bloody clever or well-disposed towards me, it could just as easily have prevented him from dying altogether and wasting such a good life.)

So we pretend that it didn't really happen like that for his niece's sake.
In any case, Sunday is the day of our village Summer walk. We have two organised walks every year; the first on New Year's Day, which is about the best cure for the excesses of the night before I have ever tried! The other is supposed to be around Midsummer's Day, but as that generally coincides with silaging, it always ends up being in late July / early August.

R was still here for last year's Summer walk, and it was a beautiful day. We walked across a section of the moor that neither of us had visited before, the sun shone all afternoon and it was the last time he ever spoke to some of the people there.

So that is what I shall do on Sunday. It beats sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. And if I shed a few tears, I can always blame them on the onions I have been asked to prepare for the barbecue to be held at the village hall afterwards.

For the 'official' date, I really wasn't sure what to do. Several people offered to be with me. At first, they all received the same answer; if it will help them to be here, in the place he loved or at his graveside, then come. But don't come just to look after me.

As the day approaches, however, my resolve has weakened and I have gratefully accepted his sister's offer to come up and stay.

I feel we ought to mark the passing of the year in some way, but I really can't think what to do.
Today I was 'talking' online to a friend whose brother died two days before R, and she was having similar problems deciding what to do. As she put it, "He no doubt would have liked us to ride a chopper motorbike, naked, up Cardigan High Street, with a huge spliff on the go and 'Born to be Wild' blaring out...but I'm not sure that would be appropriate. So I might just light a candle in the polytunnel and contemplate summat or other."

That's really where I am too. I don't want to be where I am, so it doesn't quite seem right having any sort of celebration, but it also feels wrong to let the day go by unmarked.
Probably we will just raise a glass to him and laugh and cry in equal measure as I do on so many other days.


  1. i'm glad you accepted your sister's offer. it has only been 6 months, last weekend, and his birthday and our wedding anniversary is coming up. i will face all of these alone. i'm not sure what i will do with myself but reading your words shows me that others are as unsure as i am.

    i hope you and your sister will be able to laugh a bit more than you cry. i will be thinking of you. as always, peace.

  2. J - my heart goes out to you ... and I am glad that your sister in law will be there to give you some hugs and just sit with you, share a drink or two or more ... and just be there with you.

    It was our wedding anniversary 10 days ago, and I managed to sleep for a solid 24 hours. Escapism, denial, yes all of that. But it let me cope!

    Try to think of your happy memories and wrap yourself up in them ... consider all that you have accomplished and how far you have come and how proud he would be of you.

    If not, just be how you feel, it's ok, you're totally allowed J. Scream if you need to.

    Thinking of you lots
    Boo xx

  3. The walks your village have sound lovely and it seems fitting to go on the one on Sunday. If tears come, I hope you won't blame them on the onions and still let them flow. I hate that we try to control and cover up our grief for the sake of others (making them less uncomfortable). People need to have respect for the fact that feelings of loss continue after the first weeks and months and are especially significant on anniversary dates.

    I love the image of riding naked on a motorcycle through town with "Born to be Wild" blaring! I also totally get what you mean about not wanting to really celebrate but not wanting to let the day go unmarked either. I do believe that our loved ones are with us always in spirit and that they would not want us to suffer more than we already are. So a day of peace for ourselves (perhaps some quiet reflection) and doing something meaningful to me is what I have tried to do. I enjoy making a nice meal and "sharing" it with my boys and their Dad on his birthday. Your blog has inspired me to start baking bread again and that might be something I'll undertake this year - to spend the anniversary afternoon or birthday baking a beautiful loaf of bread, during which I'll have some time to think of good memories.

    It is very challenging to walk the path between living and grieving and you seem to be doing an amazing job of it. I wish you well over the next days.

  4. J - thinking of you today. Expect you are on the walk right now. xx

  5. I hope today went well for you! On my first "anniversary", I was home recovering from surgery so I light a candle next to his ashes and listened to The Who's Baba O'Reilly, which was one of his favorite songs. it seemed fitting but not really how I wanted to mark the date.

    The summer walk sounds great and I bet the moors are beautiful. What a great way to remember!

    Take care! Lynette

  6. @ WomanNShadows: I am so sorry you have to face these milestones on your own, but I hope your Marine gives you the strength to get through them. My R wasn't a monument sort of person, so there is no physical memorial I can build that would do him justice. All I can do is keep on living as best I can. R loved life, and he would hate the thought of me withdrawing from it. So I make myself do these things, even though I really want to stay at home. But when I get out there I normally enjoy myself. I see this as his true legacy to me.

    @ Boo: Thanks as always for your support and caring. I have been tempted on many an occasion to just go to bed and sleep for a week, but the various little critters who depend on me always drag me out of bed. I do admit to a couple of occasions when I just risked the foxes and didn't lock them up so I wouldn't have to get up in the morning, but one of the things about living in a tiny community is that everyone notices the drawn curtains...

    @ WitM: I cried before and after, but didn't have a lot of time to cry on the walk, as you can see from the next post!
    I think you are so right about the time of quiet reflection. I don't know whether the feeling of our loved ones being there "in spirit" means anything in reality, but I definitely feel R's presence or trace memory or whatever it is with me when I have to go through particularly difficult moments.
    And I am so glad you are going to start baking bread again. For me it is one of those activities that are perfect in every respect: you take a bunch of unpromising ingredients and turn them into something wonderful, you get a great upper body work-out and the end result tastes great. What's not to like?!

    @ Lynette: Thanks for dropping in. Baba O'Reilly is a great song, but nothing really seems good enough to mark the person we loved so much, does it?
    I sometimes wonder what R would have done if I had been the one who had died. And I suspect that he would simply have walked up a hill and drunk a lot of wine, so I have come to terms with doing that myself!

  7. Well, you get through it, and no other anniversary can be quite so hard again.

    For me, I found it was the agony of wondering what the day would be like which was harder than the day itself. But neither of those were easy.

    Finally, as you've said before, it's just a day, like many others. But it's one you'll be glad to put behind you.

    I've always felt there is bitter-sweet in achievement like this, but it's achievement, all the same. Best wishes to Wales, and spirits up.