Tuesday, 11 August 2009

So that's that

A whole year has passed.
When it started, I couldn't imagine how I would make it to the next hour, let alone survive an entire year.
Yet here I am, at the start of a new year without R. I am now allowed to transition to half-mourning and start edging my black dresses with grey or mauve.

Marking the passing of time affected me much more than I imagined it would, so I am lucky in that I was able to take the last week off and be entirely self-indulgent.

Yes, there were many, many tears. My own mixed with those of his sister who came to share these few days with me.
But even the tears are starting to take on a healing quality. A safe means of relieving pressure or a way of resetting my mood when it sets off on a downward spiral. They are no longer an end in themselves or simply a way to block out the pain.

Yes, there was that gut-wrenching moment when I realised that, however well I may have survived and for all I may have achieved over the past year, I really wasn't going to get the prize I wanted.
He wasn't going to come back.
Not ever.

Yes, we talked and talked about the past, what we have lost and how much we miss him. But we also spent a lot of time with our eyes to the future - that place in which he is a memory, rather than a tangible part.

S now finds herself on the cusp of a new life as well; her daughter is about to start her second year at university, while her son has just done his GCSEs and will shortly be learning to drive. The children no longer need her detailed attention, and Mum's taxi will soon be in less constant demand. So she also is able to see the new broader horizon, full of possibilities for taking up new interests, changing job or moving house. We agreed that the thought of this open-ended future is scary and exhilarating at the same time, but we are both interested to see where it will take us.

And we worked off some of our emotions.
S is very much a city girl. She is normally immaculately dressed and beautifully made-up. After four days of weeding, digging, planting, chopping down trees, taking things to the tip and miles of walking, she was delighted one afternoon to look in the mirror and see her unbrushed hair, dirty face and muddy jeans and to feel those slightly aching and hitherto largely unused muscles. There is also something very satisfying about a celebratory meal at the end of a good day working outside.

With all this, in our own quiet way, we marked the passing of a life worth celebrating. I smiled as I opened the bottle of champagne. R always delighted in teaching young friends and family members how to do this, as he felt it was one of those life skills that everyone needs, like how to change a tyre or eat an oyster without pulling a face.
Or indeed how to fall asleep elegantly!


  1. J, i am glad you got through this milestone and that you had R's sister with you to share memories with. your writing of this year milestone is beautiful and poignant.

    there is a lovely symmetry to the photo you've chosen to share. two friends flaked out, teaching all of us the art of relaxation. thank you for sharing.

    i continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. as always, peace.

  2. J,
    Thank you for sharing your marking of this significant time. You continue to inspire me.

    On a totally different note, my eldest son has been in Wales for the past two days as part of once-in-a-lifetime trip with his grandparents and Aunt. He loves your country! He's disappointed that he has to leave tomorrow and he tells me that we'll have to travel back to Wales one day so I can experience it. He said he saw the most beautiful beach in the world today! When we do make it back, perhaps we can get together!

    Wishing you peace as you begin year two.

  3. J - I'm so happy that you had S, along with her company, tears, memories and laughter. We are so used to being rewarded for good behaviour or accomplishing something, that is does seem bizarre (to us at least) that we don't get them back after a year or two doesn't it! I guess the reward is that we did have (and I think still do have the love) such a special closeness and marriage, and those memories. We are also graced with the gift of empathy, and the pride in accomplishing things that we never thought we could. We also progress from living 5 minutes at a time, to a day at a time, to a week at a time, then one day, we find that we can plan to visit friends abroad in say, 10 months' time. In the start - we cannot think ahead more than 5 minutes ... it is blank ... because we cannot yet grasp a future without our husband in it. That said, I think that the lessons I learned from Cliff, the ability I have to know what he would say, advise etc means that, I still have his influence with me in the future. You are right - it is scarey ... but kind of exciting to me in a scarey way (like a mo-fo rollercoaster that you are terrified of!)

    Loved the pic - why do dogs insist on laying so that you can never put your two feet down comfortably, thus ending up in R's very elegant pose :-) LOL

    I loved this post J. Firstly because it assured me that you are okay! (am so clucky!) Secondly because it reassures me that I too can get through that dreaded landmark. I need to follow your lead and choose my companion wisely for the day (and there happens to be a nice bottle of bubbly in the fridge ;-) already, so having read your post, I will save it for January 6th 2010.

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for being you

    WELL DONE :-)

    hugs xxx

  4. @ WomanNShadows: Thank you for your good wishes. I love the photograph too - it always makes me laugh, and I envy the way they could both suddenly crash out like that, as though someone had removed the batteries. I actually have very few recent photographs of R, and the older ones are non-digital. He was always behind the camera, and I had only had my little snappy digital camera for a couple of months when he died, so I have endless pics of chickens and vegetables or ghastly snaps of me, but practically none of him. Hindsight, eh.

    @ Debbie: Thank you for dropping in.
    I wonder where the beach your son visited is. Practically the whole Welsh coastline is wonderful, but I have visited some truly spectacular stretches of it. And yes, you absolutely must come and visit when (not if!) he brings you back here.

    @ Boo: I am glad you are starting to look forward as well as back. As you say, he will always be with you in your heart and in your head - a small voice advising you which road or decision to take. (Although I confess I have even started to 'argue' with R - I tell him that I know he would have done something in a particular way, but I'm going to do it my way regardless. Hmm. I'm not sure if that sounds entirely sane!)

    And LOL about the dog position. I always say that dogs are only ever in two places. One is somewhere you can't see them, getting up to no good, and the other is right under your feet!

  5. This is a beautiful, reflective post. I like how you recall that a year ago you could not even imagine facing the future. But here it has come and you have survived, grown and now reached the point of being able to look ahead with new eyes less clouded by sorrow. The words you used to describe this transition, "eyes to the future" and "cusp of a new life" are hopeful and encouraging. Thank you for sharing your journey and your day.

  6. Thank you WitM. I think we are all changed so much by this journey we are making. How can it be any other way? Now I just want to concentrate on making him proud of me - it's all I can do.