Returning to Bristol

Returning to Bristol

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Download Sheep Spotter App ~ done

Flight checkin online ~ done

Hotel checkin online ~ done

Passports in handbag ~ done

Packing ~ half done

Tomorrow my two daughters and I are flying to Bristol to do the Shaun The Sheep Trail in memory of Leah.

When Leah was in Bristol having her bone marrow transplant in 2013 there were eighty 6 foot high Gromit sculptures dotted around the town.

Leah managed a sneaky trip off the ward to see a small number of them before they were all gathered up and auctioned off in aid of Bristol Children’s Hospital.

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L-R Miriam, Rachel, myself and Leah

Before we left Bristol they had announced that they would be doing it all again in 2015, but this time using Shaun the Sheep sculptures.

Leah and I talked about it and agreed that we would just have to return for this event. She looked forward to coming back as a tourist rather than as a patient.

Much of Leah’s time in Bristol was spent in isolation, feeling very unwell. My outgoing, fun loving daughter found this very hard going.

We even discussed with her sisters about this plan to return in 2015 and see Shaun the Sheep. They were definitely up for it too.

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So, after Leah died, we talked about it and decided to go ahead with the plans, as part of our way of remembering her.

Now that it’s here I’m both excited and terrified.

Excited at the prospect of returning to the City where Leah and I spent 14 weeks and laid down some very precious memories. Leah wasn’t acutely ill all of that time, often times we traced the rainbows through the rain.

Terrified that it will all be too much for me emotionally.

Excited at the prospect of having a holiday with my two lovely daughters in a City that I absolutely fell in love with, despite the tragic reason that took me there in the first place.

At times in recent weeks I have asked myself “Vicky, why are you doing this? Why are you returning to Bristol?”

I have known since Leah died that I would return there for a visit, but I can’t quite explain why. It just feels right. Bristol was such an important part of our journey.

When I was with my counsellor a few days ago I asked her “Why am I doing this?” she’s very good, she always helps me, she replied “You know that you’re doing the right thing, but some things only make sense when you’ve done them and can look back at them.” I thought that was quite a good answer.

As with some other things that I’ve done since Leah died, which have been emotionally very difficult, I feel like we are honouring Leah’s memory and continuing her legacy within our family.

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling, trust the process and hope and pray that everything works out.

I came across this F-E-A-R acronym recently and I like it:

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A Different Kind of Christmas

A Different Kind of Christmas

I did it.

I went back to work part-time on the 1st September ’14 and I have somehow managed to make it through to the 22nd December with no sick leave, no unplanned absences.

I feel good about that.

Every morning, I spend time reading and praying, seeking God for the strength to face each day – He never disappoints me.

Every morning, during the 20-30 minute drive to work, I have cried and sobbed. It’s my release, my way of coping with a broken heart.

Thankfully, as soon as I stop crying, dry my eyes, blow my nose and smile, no one ever seems to know that I’ve been crying.

I absolutely love my job. I love working with babies and very young children. I love the promise of hope and a future represented by each little child.

Work has been a wonderful distraction from grieving for a few hours a day, a few days each week. Some days, when it’s time to go home, my heart sinks, knowing that at the exit door I will once again pick up the mantle of grief and loss that I have skilfully blocked from my mind while focussing on my work commitments.

I thank God for my job. It is truly a blessing to enjoy one’s work as much as I do. I really wondered after Leah died if I could ever enjoy anything again.

There have been days when I have felt so overwhelmed with grief on my way to work, that I wondered how I could possibly do my job effectively, but somehow, as soon as I slipped into “work mode”, I felt like a different person for a few hours.

Now, however, I have ahead of me a planned absence of three weeks. Three weeks to cover the anniversary of when Leah was admitted to ICU, her birthday, her death and her funeral.

Several people have asked me how we plan to spend these anniversaries – so far we haven’t made any plans.

I actually find it too painful to think about, much less discuss.

I wish that I could just hibernate and wake up in the month of February.

We only managed to make plans for Christmas Day because our eldest daughter insisted on discussing it.

I’ve just been coping by concentrating on getting through each day and trying not to think about the next day.

Last Sunday at church our student minister was speaking about Mary’s reaction to being informed of her “unplanned pregnancy” by an angel during her engagement to Joseph – Mary’s response was

Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.Luke 1:38

Part of the Christmas story is how Mary humbly and unquestioningly accepted God’s will for her life.

This is certainly a challenge for me as I face what Mark Schultz calls a

DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS

Snow is falling Christmas Eve
Lights are coming on up and down the street
The sound of carols fills the air
And people rushing home, families everywhere

Putting candles in the windows
Lights upon the tree
But there’s no laughter in this house
Not like there used to be
There’s just a million little memories
That remind me you’re not here
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year

In the evening fires glow
Dancing underneath the mistletoe
A letter left from Santa Claus
Won’t be the same this year in this house because

There’s one less place set at the table
One less gift under the tree
And a brand new way to take their place inside of me
I’m unwrapping all these memories
Fighting back the tears
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year

There’s voices in the driveway
Families right outside the door
And we’ll try to make this Christmas like the ones we’ve had before
As we gather round the table, I see joy on every face
And I realize what’s still alive is the legacy you made

It’s time to put the candles in the windows, the lights upon the tree
It’s time to fill this house with laughter like it used to be
Just because you’re up in heaven, doesn’t mean you’re not near
It’s just a different kind of Christmas
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year