One year. 10.30am on the 30th of August 2020. One whole year since you’ve been gone. How can that be, when it feels like just yesterday. One whole year without my darling Rich. I never thought I would survive without him, at the beginning I thought I was going to die from a broken heart, it hurt so much. I have done things in the last year that I never thought I would be able to do and I've achieved more than I gave myself credit for. Widowhood pushes you in directions you don't choose but some of these things help you to grow as a person. But I miss him every day. And I know I’m not alone in missing him, many people miss him, he was loved by so many, his parents, his family, his friends. He meant so much to so many.
Time has warped this last year. And it’s all still so raw and so real. It feels like just no time since I held him in my arms as he took his last breath. Every second of that last morning is etched in my memory. Those last few weeks are etched in my mind, the fear, the pain, the unknown, the adrenaline, the endless phone calls to the hospice, the doctors’ visits, helping him do everything as he became unable to do anything, day by day getting weaker and with that, getting quieter too. Slowly fading. Then the infection which made him delirious, the pain and with it the heartbreak as he gradually lost his grip on what was happening. Looking back at it now, it is obvious what was happening, but at the time, in that moment on that Sunday morning, he was not meant to die, not yet, he still had a few weeks in him. Or so I believed. So when he took his last breath, it was a total shock, I truly believed he had a few more weeks to live.
I had never dialled 999 before, that was my first time. ‘Is the patient breathing?’ They asked. He’s struggling to, I said. I’ll never forget that feeling while waiting for the paramedics to arrive, total fear, holding my breath. Once they arrived, they took control of the situation and gave Rich some morphine for the pain. They were with us for an hour before Rich took his last breath while I held him.
I miss hearing your voice in the house, I miss hearing you laugh at something silly on your phone. I miss your hugs, your big arm embrace and holding me tight without letting me go. I miss your goodnight kiss, your morning hugs. I miss picking up my phone to send you a message to let you know something funny that’s just happened, to share a funny story of what the dog did. I miss having you to come home to at the end of the day. I miss sitting in silence with you in the evening, watching the box. I miss talking to you about things that matter, things of significance, just like I miss fooling around and talking rubbish with you. I miss going for walks with you and the dog, in our wellies, across the fields. I miss holding you tight and breathing you in. I miss your cooking, especially after you discovered Gousto and you started to really enjoy cooking! I miss your optimism and positivity, always looking for the good in every situation, refusing to let the hardship you were experiencing drag you down. I miss your kindness, your ability to find goodness in everyone. I even miss your loud bright shirts that you loved wearing. I miss hanging out together. I miss our little trips away. I miss the way you used to talk to the dog as if she was a human being, with full proper conversations. I miss your company and just knowing that you are there and that you have my back. I miss you reading to me. I miss you being around. I miss your incredible strength. I miss your support for me in my dark hours, and your gentle but strong presence when I became unwell. I miss all the unimportant everyday things that seemed so uneventful at the time yet are so significant and meaningful. I miss seeing you every day. I miss the children we were not able to have…
I miss YOU.
The heart can’t let all the grief in at once. That’s why it drips it in, bit by bit, slowly allowing bits of grief in. If it let it all in at once you wouldn’t survive, it would totally break you, so instead the heart protects you from the pain by making you feel numb, so life is just about manageable. This is why it takes time to grieve. If you had told me a year ago that I would survive as a widow I wouldn’t have believed you. There’s no way I would have been able to survive without Rich. And yet, here I am, a year on and I’m still here, getting from one day to the next. What has helped in this year? Friends and family have helped, by being there. By being present. So THANK YOU! By going for walks, lots and lots of wonderful and sometimes tearful walks, both alone and with friends. Going back to teaching and having a routine has helped. Spending lots of time in my studio has also helped a lot, I have had some very creative moments that have helped to channel the grief. I have had successful exhibitions and am preparing for a couple of big shows in London next month, so the studio has been a good place to be. And of course there’s Lola the dog. She has literally got me out of bed every morning and out of the house. She’s been a perfect companion.
But recently, this summer, there have also been lots of ‘this time last year’ moments. August was much warmer and sunnier last year, we spent most of the time sitting outside, with Rich sitting on a mountain of cushions to keep him comfortable. Playing scrabble, talking, being present together. Hugging. This time last year I knew Rich didn’t have much time left but I simply couldn’t get my head around the idea of life without him. How was that even possible, a life without my soul mate? How insane and impossible that would be. When Rich died, a part of me died too. I have a huge hole in my heart, in my life. A hole that will always be there, where Rich used to be.
I founds this poem by A.A. Milne which is beautiful and feels right to share here.
“Where am I going? I don't quite know
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow- Up on a hill where the pine-trees blow- Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know. Where am I going? The clouds sail by, Little ones, baby ones, over the sky. Where am I going? The shadows pass, Little ones, baby ones, over the grass. If you were a cloud, and sailed up there, You'd sail on the water as blue as air. And you'd see me here in the fields and say: "Doesn't the sky look green today?" Where am I going? The high rooks call: "It's awful fun to be born at all. Where am I going? The ring-doves coo: "We do have beautiful things to do." If you were a bird, and lived on high, You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by, You'd say to the wind when it took you away: "That's where I wanted to go today!" Where am I going? I don't quite know. What does it matter where people go? Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow- Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.
Cherish those you love and hold them tight, especially your soul mate.
Ps. The photo of Rich and Lola is one of my favourite of them both, the other one was taken in 2014 on holiday in Spain watching the sunset. A very happy time.