Seven Years

Seven Years

It is incomprehensible to me that it is now seven years since we said goodbye to Leah. During these seven years, my sense of grief and loss has evolved, but has never gone away and I certainly don’t expect it to.

The first few years after Leah died the pain of grieving was immense and very intense. It was frequently overwhelming. At times, when the painful feelings of grief and loss were acute, I wondered how it was possible to keep on living – or even just to continue breathing.

With time, my sense of grief and loss has mellowed somewhat. Most days I can live with the sadness without feeling overwhelmed by it. However, there are occasions when something (usually unexpected) rips open the wound of grief and once again I feel totally overwhelmed. A few weeks ago I was attempting to do some paperwork during my working day, when without thinking I clicked on a link to a song in a group chat on my phone. Immediately one of Leah’s favourite songs began to play. I was completely undone. No matter how hard I tried I could not regain my composure. I did not want to cause distress to anyone who might enter the room that I was in so I went outside for a walk. Fortunately, it was raining heavily so my tears were disguised and I just kept on walking until I felt calm enough to return to my duties. Thankfully, episodes like that are now infrequent. Most of the time I can live with the sadness of Leah’s absence without feeling overwhelmed with emotion.

Recently I opened an old Bible that I no longer use. In it, I discovered two little bookmarks from Leah that I had forgotten about. One of these she had made for me when she was younger:

The other one she had brought me back from camp when she was about 10 years old.

These bookmarks made me smile as I reflected on how Leah had invested in my life and also into the lives of others.

It made me wonder how I’m investing in other people’s lives? What will they remember from my encounters with them? Will they feel encouraged and blessed – or not?

2020 was a very challenging year for most people in so many ways. We continue to face significant restrictions in our daily lives due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s so easy for us to become negative and disheartened. However, negativity and “glass half empty” thinking doesn’t help anyone – neither the speaker nor the hearer.

I recently read a quote from Tracie Miles book Unsinkable Faith

“It is usually our thoughts, not our circumstances, that cause us to sink. This is such an important truth to tuck into our minds. Mark it down: What we think becomes who we are.”

This is so true. How we think and what we focus on are so important. At the start of the first lockdown, I signed up for a free online prayer course created by 24-7 Prayer. It was run over 8 sessions and I found it very helpful. Handouts to expand on the material within the course were made available. One of the handouts that I found especially helpful was the one on “Breath Prayer”. I now find this a really helpful way to refocus my thoughts during the day. I subsequently discovered this website which gives some really good suggestions for breath prayers:

One of the breath prayers that I find especially helful at present is based on Exodus 33:14 :

“My Presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.”

I find it so helpful to remind myself that no matter what happens in life, that God has promised to be with me and that He gives me rest in my soul.

Guest Post – crashing waves

Guest Post – crashing waves

The words used in this blog post to describe grief are so beautiful and so true, I just had to reblog it……

LIFE AS A WIDOWER

A friend emailed me this morning after reading something he thought I might like to see.

‘Now in my defence,’ he began, ‘I never send you stuff like this, but I stumbled on it this morning and thought of you.’

I appreciated his caution; some days I’m just not in the mood to think or talk about grief. But then once in a while I read something that I feel compelled to share, mainly because I think it might just help someone else. I know from experience that a few words written in the right order and delivered at the right time can make all the difference. I for one have many people to thank for the words and time they have shared with me.

This following piece is guest post of sorts. Four years ago a young man, whom I know nothing about, took to the internet to try to find…

View original post 595 more words

Bank Holiday Blues

Bank Holiday Blues

Today was a Bank Holiday in Northern Ireland. Bank Holidays, like Sundays, can be very painful, because they are family days.

Sundays used to be my favourite day of the week, now they’re the most difficult, the day when the empty chair is at it’s most conspicuous.

I concentrated on keeping myself busy today, trying to do housework and sort through stuff, choking back the tears.

When Leah and I came back from Bristol, there was only enough of the new house ready for her and I to move in. Then on Christmas Eve, the rest of the family joined us, but there wasn’t any time to move all of our belongings from the old house to the new house.

Three days later, Leah was admitted to hospital and subsequently died, so nothing ever got sorted. We just fetched items from the other house when we needed them – if we even remembered what we had!

To be honest, I find it very painful to go into our old house now, too many memories. To make it easier for me, Horace goes up and fills a box of stuff from the old house and brings it down for me to sort.

Some stuff goes in the bin (or the fire), some goes to the Charity Shop and some gets kept. The trouble is, everything has a memory  attached to it.

Today while sorting, I found pages of Leah’s homework, along with a long list of who she was buying Christmas presents for in 2012 and the consent form that she signed when she was having her eggs harvested in 2013.

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Nearly makes me think that the gypsies have the right idea – when one of them dies they usually burn their wagon.

After my Mum died I couldn’t face clearing out her house, so my husband went and did it in my place. I appreciated him doing that so much. I really think that sorting through somebody’s possessions after they’ve died is one of the most painful things ever.

I will be glad to get to my work tomorrow for a ‘break’. Work is the one area of my life that is more or less still the same as it was before Leah’s illness and death. There’s a comfort in that.

I loved my job before Leah took ill and thankfully I still love it.

The demands of my work and the busyness, provide a very welcome distraction for a few hours, three days per week.

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A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

The view from Leah's grave this morning
The view from Leah’s grave this morning

I know that our daughter isn’t in her grave.

The Bible says ” absent from the body and present with the Lord.2 Corinthians 5:8

However, I find a comfort in going to the Cemetery.

It is a peaceful place in which to grieve and remember Leah, away from other distractions.

Sometimes the conversations I have there bring comfort too.

This morning as I watered the flowers on Leah’s grave, another woman stopped to speak to me:

“Is that your daughter? She’s beautiful? So young too.”

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We talked for a while. She told me about burying her two sons as young adults, due to a progressive genetic disorder. Turns out she’s a nurse too.

We cried and we hugged.

There can be comfort and blessing in the sharing.

The Bear Hat

The Bear Hat

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People who have lost a loved one often talk about trying to preserve the “smell” of the person who has died. Because Leah was immuno compromised her clothing and bedding had to be laundered frequently.

On her way to the hospital on Friday 27th December ’13 Leah vomited profusely therefore everything she was wearing that day had to be washed. Almost the only item of Leah’s that has survived unwashed is her wee bear hat with ears.

Bristol has the most amazing flagship Primark store and Leah and I managed a few sneaky clandestine visits there – Leah LOVED Primark. We usually went in the evening just before closing when it was really quiet, to reduce the risk to Leah’s very weak immune system.

She carried alcohol gel to cleanse her hands every time she touched something. We went up and down the floors in the lift – always making sure we were in it alone – so that Leah wouldn’t have to touch the rails of the escalators! Such a tightrope that we had to walk between trying to meet her physical needs and her social/emotional needs! Prolonged enforced isolation is incredibly difficult for anyone, but I think it’s especially difficult for adolescents.

On one of these visits Leah bought this hat for herself and also bought a similar one for another teenage girl, who had chemo hair loss, that she had made friends with in Bristol.

When my children were babies I always loved them in hats and suits with ears. This is Leah when she was three weeks old.

 

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I keep Leah’s bear hat in my bedroom and every day I press it to my face and inhale deeply.
It brings me comfort to smell Leah’s familiar smell.

Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken Fried Rice

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Chicken fried rice – it was Leah’s favourite dish. When she got an A in her 11+ she went with one of her best friends from school and her friend’s parents to the local Chinese Restaurant in Ballykelly to celebrate and had chicken fried rice.
When she had her bone marrow transplant she had severe mucositis and became unable even to tolerate nasogastric feeds and was fed directly into her bloodstream via TPN. Leah couldn’t wait till she would be well enough to eat her favourite foods again.
Weeks after her transplant the day finally came and she was allowed out of hospital to SAMs House for a few hours in between doses of intravenous medication.

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I was dispatched to the local Co-op supermarket for the fixings for chicken fried rice. Leah was so appreciative and said it was one of the tastiest meals she ever had. Several weeks later before we left Bristol, the embargo on take away food was lifted and Leah enjoyed chicken fried rice from the Chinese take away near SAMs House as well.
Tonight my eldest daughter asked me to make her chicken fried rice and my heart sank, knowing how emotional this would be. I love each of my children and want to nurture them, so of course I said yes. It’s hard to cook through a veil of tears.
When it was cooked we all had some. My eldest said it was lovely.
It’s another ‘first’ – another milestone along the way – another remembrance of Leah.

The Book

The Book

 

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me, with words of encouragement, regarding publishing my writings.

Producing and marketing a book of sufficient quality to sell to strangers as well as friends would require a lot of work and self discipline.

I need to grieve first.

A lot has happened in this past year that I have yet to process.

I returned to counselling yesterday.

I have written in notebooks all my life as a way of coping with difficult situations, but never before have I shown these writings to anyone, not even to my husband.

Since Leah became critically ill and died I have found an incredible release in being able to write on this page from the depths of my heart and receive such loving responses from my readers – frankly I have been overwhelmed in a very positive way by this.

Publishing a book about the Journey that Leah and I have been on this past year would expose my innermost thoughts and the life of my family to a much wider audience than just those on our Facebook page or those who access this blog.

Not only me but our whole extended family including Leah’s boyfriend Nic would need to be emotionally strong enough to cope with the exposure and vulnerability that publishing a book would inevitably bring.

In many ways this blog could be a “test run” for how we all would cope with so many other people knowing so much of what has gone on behind closed doors.

It hasn’t just been MY journey and if/when the time comes to publish a book then careful consideration would need to be given to the perceptions and sensitivities of others who have been intimately involved in this journey.

We all, in our own way, have to find meaning in suffering.

Mine is not an angry “Why has this happened to me Lord?” but a weak and tearful “Lord please show me how You want to use this awful experience in my life in a way that glorifies You and somehow helps others.”

If God’s purpose in all of this is the publishing of a book then He will give me the strength & wisdom to do so when the time is right.