Farewell To The Bristol Trail

Farewell To The Bristol Trail

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Three days spent sheep spotting and I managed to see 19 Shaun’s out of a possible 70. My Sheep Spotter App tells me that I’ve walked 23 Kilometres in the process.

Not very impressive?

Could have done better.” I hear you say?

I disagree, this trip to Bristol was never intended to be a race, or a “Who can see the most Shaun’s?” competition.

It was about having a relaxing holiday with my two girls and about remembering Leah.

I feel that I’ve achieved both.

I’ve cried and I’ve laughed.

On our first morning, we had breakfast in the Courtyard of Wesley’s New Room – or “breakfast with John Wesley” as I referred to it on my Facebook page.

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I returned there later on my own. I entered the peaceful chapel, climbed the steps that lead to the place set aside for quiet prayer and there I sat and reflected.

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I remembered how I had sat in that same place in August 2013, with my heart breaking, because my daughter was so sick and I didn’t know how to cope. God had met with me there. I write about this here.

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My heart is broken now, only in a different kind of a way. I sat and read the same verses from Philippians 4:6-7 that I had read then. I felt the same hot salty tears flow down my cheeks.

I read from the prayers that were taped to the table beside the Bible. I was glad that there is a prayer especially for the bereaved. It is a comforting prayer.

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On Wednesday I had breakfast with K who lives in Bristol. Her friendship meant so much to Leah and I during our time here. It was so lovely to have this time with her.

During this rendezvous, I bumped into the Dad of a young man who had been second next door to Leah in the Transplant Unit in 2013. I had not been in contact with them since leaving Bristol. As soon as I spoke to him, his face told me the news that I didn’t want to hear – his lovely boy had died just before Leah on the 23rd December 2013. This was a very emotional moment.

Thursday morning I had another breakfast date – an extra special one. Valerie’s teenage son Jonathan had a bone marrow transplant in Bristol in the Summer of 2008. Like Leah, he loved Jesus. Like Leah, Jonathan went to live with his Heavenly Father just a few short months after returning home to Northern Ireland, following his bone marrow transplant.

Like me, Valerie is the mother of four children. She doesn’t live near me, but a mutual friend introduced us after Leah died. Like me, Valerie loves Bristol.

Amazingly, when I told Valerie my dates for visiting Bristol, we discovered that our visits would overlap!
I don’t actually believe in random coincidences – as Leah told us after she was diagnosed “Mummy, we have to see the bigger picture”. There was definitely a “bigger picture” going on here.

Valerie and I sat in the warm sunshine and compared our journeys, remembered our children, and talked about the God who gives us the strength to go on.

Then, because it’s Bristol, there had to be a Shaun.

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The rest of the day was spent with my girls, enjoying the Bristol sunshine and doing some sheep spotting.

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No trip to Bristol is complete without a visit to ZaZa Bazaar to eat. Their food is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! They are a buffet style “all-you-can-eat” restaurant serving food from all over the world. Rachel’s school friend Sally joined us for this one.

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Now we’re off to London for a few days, to stay with my sister.

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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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