Tag Archives: Death

Grief Revisited

Like a thief in the night
Grief slinks silently back into my life
Disturbing the peace I have fought so hard for
It is like a fractious child demanding attention
And as the mother with her child, I give in
And am taken back to the beginning
When days were so long and nights even longer.
When I thought there was no way out of this slough of despair
And I am once again immobilised by it.
But I have been here before
Many times since that April night
And I know I can climb out
And once again put grief back where it belongs
Until the next time.
Judith Baxter, Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Blogger and Friend

Yesterday I had a long talk with a neighbour,  His partner of 15 years literally dropped dead in a restaurant a couple of weeks ago.  He had suffered from heart problems since an early age and apparently had an enlarged heart.  The death was quick and painless for which my neighbour was very thankful.

Tekapo

Lake Tekapo where Natu died

Drew, the neighbour, put the link to the video of the funeral on my laptop and I heard him singing. Drew is an Opera singer and to hear him sing If You Go Away to the love of his life brought tears to my eyes.  I have heard many singers sing this song, but none with the feeling of Drew.

And then I went off to the Hospice for a few hours.  Here again, I was faced with death, but they were all expected deaths, none so sudden as Natu’s.

So of course, all this and particularly the Hospice brought back that day in 2015 when my Late Love, The Architect, died.

But today is another day.  Nothing changes; the grief for both of my loves lies just below the surface, ready to spring to life at any time.  But I am stronger than I was and can face the days without either of my loves.

“Where you used to be there, is a hole in the world,
which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime
and falling into at night.
I miss you like hell.”
Edna StVincent Millay.

Thanks for reading.  Today I am back to being my usual cheerful self.  As we say “PollyAnna is alive and well and living in Wellington, New Zealand.”

 

I Don’t Cry At Funerals

I suppose it is because I was at a funeral yesterday and I was thinking of death and funerals, when this came to me in the shower this morning.  Real stream of consciousness writing.

*******

“I don’t cry at funerals,” she said to herself.  But she must have spoken it aloud as her son gently squeezed her shoulder in comfort.

It seemed that she had been to so many funerals.  She had seen friends some buried and others taken off to the crematorium.  Her young husband had died several years ago and though she had loved him, she didn’t cry even at his funeral.

But here she was watching the young men of the family lift her Grandmother’s casket and walk it out of the church.  And here she was crying.

She thought of that wonderful old lady.  She had been there for her since her mother had been taken away to hospital screaming about ghosts and terrors.  It was she who had taken the young girl into her home.  She was not really the Grandmother; just an older, caring neighbour who saw that the young girl had nobody to care for her.  She told the Social Services people that she was the grandmother.  And they, being overloaded with work and too many children to be cared for, accepted that she was whom she said she was.

The peace and quiet, the loving and caring of this new life totally enveloped the young girl so that memories of her mother, the noise and constant barrage of voices as her mother argued with unknown and unseen imaginary people began to fade and she wished/hoped she could live with Grandmother forever.

She had never known her mother’s family nor indeed her father’s.  There had just been the two of them for as long as she could remember.  And for a long time, all was well.  But then her mother started to abuse people in the street and shops where they bought their groceries. She had constant usually abusive, conversations with imaginary foes often in the early hours of the morning.

For several years, the girl hated going to bed knowing that in a few hours the noise would start and her mother would end up screaming.  And often she would awaken to find her mother standing over her yelling at her.

As her mother became worse, she couldn’t concentrate and found herself avoiding school as she stayed home to be with her mother.  Many times, her mother didn’t recognise her and would abuse her.  The final straw was when her mother picked up a kitchen knife and threatened to remove the girl’s tongue so that she wouldn’t argue with her anymore.

In total fright, the young girl fled to the house next door.  It was very early in the morning but the older woman was up having heard the noise, the screaming, and shouting. She took the young girl into her arms and sat her down in a comfortable chair while she called for an ambulance.  And from that time she had lived with Grandma.

But now, so many years later, she was at Grandma’s funeral.  And she wept openly as the coffin passed her in the church.  “Goodbye Grandma, ” she said “Thank you for loving me for so long.  I shall miss you.”

There is no end.  There is no beginning.
There is only the infinite passion of life.
Frederico Fellini.

Note – There’s a review of a new book  I received from my daughter.  It’s The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe.  Set in Stockholm it’s a must read.  Click here to read it.

 

The Streets of London

“So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind “

This is the chorus from Ralph McTell’s song The Streets of London”.  Do you know it.  Click here to hear him sing this song.

This is one of those songs that remind us just how lucky we are.  Oh we all have something about which to complain but unless one is battling a life threatening or terminating illness, put alongside those who are homeless and without any hope that things will improve, they really are minor.

If you follow my blog you will know that, until I came to live with my partner (the Architect), Thursday was always Mary Potter Hospice day.  Once a week I volunteered and helped serve lunch to the patients or should we now call them clients?

All these patients were battling terminal illness but in the years that I volunteered there,  I only met one person who was rude and ungrateful for the care he was receiving from the dedicated staff.  Of course, it was understood by everyone why he was like this at the time.  And his charming wife told us that he was never rude before coming into the Hospice.  Apparently he was a gregarious, lovely fellow who was finding it difficult to come to terms with what was happening to him.

And then recently, I experienced the other side of the service the hospice offers.  My partner, dying from a brain tumour, was transferred to Te Omanga Hospice close to where we live.  And what an amazing place that it.  The love, care and attention showered upon us both was absolutely unbelievable.  Nothing was too much trouble for any of the staff.  Cups of tea in the early hours of the morning, a friendly ear to listen when it all became to much for me, food brought to me even though I didn’t want to eat and in all an outpouring of love to help me when the inevitable time came for the Architect to leave this world.

And when that day came, the love was showered on our families.

So if today in your travels, you come across an abrupt, grumpy person, give them a smile.  We don’t know what demons they are battling in their lives and maybe a smile will help them.

“If you’re reading this…
Congratulations, you’re alive.
If that’s not something to smile about,
then I don’t know what is.”
Chad Sugg, –  Monsters Under Your Head

The Inevitable

“There is a land of the living
and a land of the dead,
And the bridge is love.”
from The Bridge of San Luis Rey
by Thornton Wilder

imageRip Jon Alastair Craig
1941 – 2015

It doesn’t seem possible that just 8 weeks ago we were enjoying life and making plans for another trip. But now, what became inevitable, has happened.

After only one round of chemotherapy it became apparent that this invader in the Architect’s head was stronger than any modern medicine.  My darling lived only another five weeks.

Surprisingly, he was in no pain except at the very end. The consultants and staff in Wellington Regional Hospital were fantastic. Initially the consultants thought that this could be fought with large doses of chemotherapy, but it became apparent after only one round that this was not to be.  So that he was not alone I slept at the hospital in his room with him for the 17 nights leading up to the transfer to the hospice.

The last 10 days of his life were spent at Te Omanga Hospice close to home.  What a lovely place, set in beautiful calm grounds and staffed by such an amazing, caring, loving group of people.  Again I stayed with him and I too was cared for by this incredible group of people. I cannot thank them enough.

Then quietly and peacefully on Sunday August 16 the Magic Carpet Ride came to an abrupt end. My second love died.

imageWe had only two years together, but what a fabulous two years.  Thank you thank you for sharing this time with me my love.

And now they are playing our song – Shall we dance?

“To live in lives you leave behind
Is not to die.”
Judith Baxter, Blogger & friend 1938 –

Writing 101: Serially Lost

Day 4 and the challenge is

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. and
Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

I have tried writing a serial before.  It was about two women and their hats and their adventures.  I really enjoyed that.  But now we are asked to write about a loss and then to make this the first in a three post series,

So what to write about?  Apart from the great loss in my life, the next loss was that of my darling companion Miss Lotte. It was a beautiful summer day; I had just had lunch and was sitting down to a cup of tea and a new magazine when I heard this horrendous sound of someone in great pain.  I looked around and found my darling little Tibetan spaniel writhing on the ground.  She had been lying in the sun and once before she had been affected by the heat.  At that time the vet told me to pick her up and speak to her quietly so she would know all was well.  I did that but I could see we were in great trouble.  So I wrapped her in her blanket and drove to my vet.  Apparently she was very near death – he didn’t know if she had eaten anything poisonous, unlikely as she was confined to our garden, or whether she had suffered a heart attack.

I left Miss Lotte at the vets and spent a miserable afternoon without my loving companion.  But I was allowed to pick her up some hours later.  She was to be kept quiet, no walks just rest and hopefully all would be well.

Lotte sleeping after her trip to the vets.

Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for Lotte and me.  She had to be put to sleep a few days later,  She suffered another major heart attack one evening and I had to take her to the emergency vet, where I was told that the best thing I could do for my darling was to let her go.  How sad that was.  But although she had a very short life it had been a happy and full life with me, my friends and grandsons who all loved her.

So I said goodbye to my friend.  And farewelled her with the words I used when my husband died –

“Soar high; Fly free; Breathe easy”

LotteLotte Baxter
Loving friend
Faithful companion
2006-2013
RIP

A Hard Decision

Lotte at back door2

Lotte Baxter
Loving friend
Faithful companion
2006-2013
RIP

My darling, beautiful little girl was gently put to sleep late last night.  Her big, brave heart could no longer keep her alive; it was almost stopped.  And so I made the very hard decision to let her go.

I held her as the vet injected her, told her how much I loved her and those beautiful eyes looked at me one last time then she quietly slipped away.

Now through my tears, I console myself with the fact that though she had only a short life, she had a happy one.

So now my love using the same words I used on  my late husband’s memorial cards

“Soar high; Fly free; Breathe easy”

Lotte in bed

So goodbye and thank you for sharing your life with me.  You will be greatly missed my special friend.

I Will Not Die

Have you discovered Dawna Markova?   According to Amazon.com  “Dawna Markova Ph.D. is internationally known for her ground-breaking work in helping people learn with passion and live purposefully. She is former research affiliate of the Organizational Learning Center at MIT, and her previous books include The Open Mind, No Enemies Within, An Unused Intelligence, How Your Child is Smart, and Learning Unlimited.”

I first came across her when I read her poem “I will not die” shortly after my husband died and when death and dying were at the forefront of my mind.  I have since purchased the book and have read some others of hers.

The poem was written in the 1980s when Markova was facing a life-threatening illness, and appears in the book of the same name.  Click here to read an excerpt.

I really love this poem.  It says so much to me and about me.  I hope you enjoy it too.

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Butterfly

Photo - Ed Dear



Just Another Thursday

“Death crept quietly into the room
Where once there was laughter, talk and tears
Now it is no more
Silence reigns
Death has replaced life.”
Judith Baxter 1938 –

It was just another Thursday for me and for many others.  But for one family at least, it was not.  I arrived at the hospice to be told that a patient had died.

I had got to know this particular patient over three weeks that he had been in the Hospice.  A cheerful youngish man (difficult to say just how old he was – maybe 40) he was a joy to speak to and was always surrounded by his wife and family.  I do not know this man’s name.  Only first names are used at the hospice, but I was cheered by him on Thursdays when I saw him.

He had obviously come to terms with his life ending but I don’t think his wife and family will have yet.

So for his wife and family I offer this poem from David Harkins (replacing the pronoun she with he):

“You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all that she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared…………
…………Or you can do what she’d want:
Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
David Harkins 1959 – Silloth, Cumbria, UK
Read the full poem here

Rainbow

My rainbow

And I will share my rainbow with them.

More Than The Spoken Words Can Tell

For you are beautiful, and I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

It’s 7.30am; I am sitting at the computer in tears.  They have just played Roger Whittaker singing The Last Farewell on the Radio.  I have written before about music and how it takes us back to another time and place in our lives.

I seem to go to many funerals these days.  My friends are mostly my age and so it is to be expected.  But this song immediately takes me back to the most moving and beautiful funeral that I have attended.  I have no recollection of my husband’s funeral although I am told by family and friends that it was beautiful and moving.

My husband’s closest friend died after a long fight over several years.  I saw him a few days before he died and we talked about Bob (my dashing not-so-young Scotsman) and of the fun the four of us had over many years.  And even though the death was not unexpected it was still hard, particularly for his wife who was lost without his guiding hand that had been there for more than 40 years.

His family had been involved as undertakers for many years and although the business was no longer in the family’s hands the funeral was conducted in that chapel.  I was given the supreme compliment of being asked to read a poem at the funeral.  My husband of course, would have been asked if he had been alive. The poem was Death is Nothing At All by Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

So on this lovely summer day here in Wellington, I am once again reminded that life is transitory and we must make the most of each and every day.

“…Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other that we are still……
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.”

Click here for the full poem.

Yesterday – A day Without a Post

On Monday evening I received the news that a good friend had died.  It was not altogether unexpected as he had been in and out of hospital quite a lot in recent months and always came out cheerful and looking ready to continue with his place in the world.  But not this time.

And yesterday I spent time with the widow.  How that brought back those early hours and days when my husband died.  And even though I have been there, in that self same situation,there was no way I could really understand just what she was going through.  We have to come to terms with the death of somebody so loved, and so close , each in our own way.

I phoned early in the morning and got the answerphone and it brought this poem by Michael Laskey to mind.

“After he died he went on speaking
On the ansaphone: he’d apologize
For being out and ask us to leave
Our names and messages after the tone.
At first we couldn’t, we just hung up, ….”
From Life After Death by Michael Laskey
English poet. 1944 –

How often in the months following my husband’s death did I find something that was so full of him that it brought a fresh wave of grief and tears?  A slip of paper on which he had written himself a note, a card I had given him on a celebration day that he had used as a bookmark, his notebook with his writing, his Cross pen that always went everywhere with him.

It is always the little things that undo us.  We think we are strong and coping and then something small happens and we are right back into that trough of despair that we thought we were climbing out of.

So what could I do to help?  I cooked a fillet of beef so that it could be there for when people call in to express their condolences.  I remember my daughter-in-law saying how much she appreciated those gifts of ready prepared food in the days and weeks following my husband’s death.

It was too soon to exchange remembrances of her husband and so I could only sit with her and hold her when the tears came.

I found that those friends who just came and sat with me, speaking only if I wanted them to, were those that helped most at that time.

So I shall go back today to see what I can do, if anything, to help.  And sit with her while she processes what has happened in her mind and somehow gets herself ready to face the months and years ahead.  There will be time for memories to surface and for laughter to accompany most of them in the months ahead.  But for now I shall just be with her.