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My darling boy,

At the beginning of January this year you, my firstborn, my son, my precious  child, turned twenty one. All parents will tell you that it is unbelievable to them how  quickly their children become adults. And you Rudi, have had to grow up rather more quickly than was planned.

We waited for you. It is the greatest irony and surprise for a couple  when having tried to avoid pregnancy for many years one cannot conceive straight away, and the months of waiting lent me a tiny insight into  the agony that many go through desperately trying to have a child. But after  18 months, there it was; the elusive blue line on the pregnancy test. And the second one, and the third. Untold joy and jubilation for Mr and Mrs J.

So we started the preparations. We knew very few people with young children so had to  seek guidance from books and department stores and midwives. There was no internet then! Your godmother Susan decorated your nursery with me just weeks before your birth with an incredibly complicated elephant stencil. The stepladder creaked under our not unimpressive combined weight. (You and me that is not me and Susan!!) But I wanted everything to be perfect for your long awaited arrival.

At Christmas the promise of your arrival felt so very precious, an answer to fervent prayers, a perfect and wondrous gift.

Then, on new year’s day, in the evening, the first pains began. I wondered if I really would be able to deliver you. And I wondered what you would look like and if you would be a little boy or girl. It was freezing that night and as we made our way into St Thomas’ hospital where I  had qualified as a nurse a few years earlier, we saw the fountain outside  sculpturally and beautifully frozen as if specially for the occasion.

The labour was punctuated by a series of surreal mishaps. The entenox cylinder ran out time after time…and not from overuse either. The pillow support on the bed collapsed mid contraction. Our thermos, filled with ice chips shattered into a thousand fragments.

And then, early in the morning you emerged , dark haired and miraculous. We could not take our eyes off you. You were nine and a half pounds and as I glanced round the ward I couldn’t believe how big you looked compared to the other babies. You had visitors queuing up to meet you that evening. Grandpa flew down from Scotland that very day unable to wait to meet you. Grandma came too. Their first grandchild. You were named for your grandpas, Rudi and Bela.

You were a contented baby who slept through the night early on and would happily gurgle in your cot when you woke in the mornings. We called you Prince Rudi.

And what a gorgeous boy you were, smiling and mischievous, a lover of stories and dressing up. Indeed on one memorable and steaming hot day 3 small boys, you,  Freddie and Oscar disappeared for just a little too long whilst the Mummies drank tea in the garden. You reappeared  stripped naked having adorned each other with colourful permanent markers in an enthusiastic if somewhat inaccurate interpretation of Buzz Lightyear. Even your nether regions were coloured in. The marks remained for weeks. Just so you know, I still have the photos.

And you were kind, even as a small boy, lightsabers notwithstanding. You took the vulnerable  under your wing.

You loved sport too. Football and skiing. Poor boy, your Dad and I didn’t understand the first thing about the former let alone the off side rule. But you…you know everything there is to know. It’ s your Mastermind subject. And it didn’t take long for you to become the best skier in the family. You and Dad shared a passion;  a broad and eclectic taste in music and it is part of him that will remain in you through the music itself. You also shared a twinkling ,silly and naughty sense of humour! And a dazzling smile. And a deep deep love for that Labrador of ours, Monty.

Rudi, I am so proud to be your Mum. You have grown up to be kind. You care tenderly for Natasha and me. You still love sport. You still like dressing up.  You are more handsome than you have any right to be. You have won your place at uni and you have won Beth’s heart as well I think. You may wing it sometimes but somehow you always pull it out of the bag and I have not the slightest doubt that you will soar like an eagle.

I will pray for you and be there for you as long as I live.

Dad  was proud too. He would be now.

 

 

 

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50, (or A Grateful Heart Part 2)

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Resilience: “ the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”  (Google Dictionary)

I have not written for a while for a number reasons. It has been 18 months since Angus died. I  wondered if I should give up the blog and try and leave some of this journey behind, avoiding too much introspective naval gazing. It is not always socially acceptable in this British culture of ours to bare your soul. But then,  I realise that I am not your stereotypical British stoic. It’s not surprising really given the Hungarian and Irish blood coursing through my veins. We are a family of cryers and it takes very little to generate a quiver in our collective bottom lips. Angus, with his Latvian heritage joined in unashamedly with the rest of us. So while I value courage, stoicism is not for me. It is a pretence  that all is well with the world and, of course, that is a lie. If  we lie to our friends then it undermines the value of friendship. To write is a way of  expressing, externalising and sharing aspects of this onward journey.

So where to start…

In September Rudi and Natasha left West Street to start the next chapter of their lives at Northumbria and Nottingham Trent Universities, both studying Business Studies. It was so exciting and yet just so devastating . Prior to their start I talked lightly of it to those who asked, those who wisely anticipated the new hole it would leave.

“Yes, yes, it will be fine.” I said, ” This is what is supposed to happen. They need this new chapter in their lives. It will be great. I’ll be fine. It will be nice to have a bit of peace and quiet!”

Yeah. Right. Delusion and denial….the heart trying to protect itself. In reality it has been another year of huge  adjustment for all three of us.

I am so proud of Rudi and Tasha. I know Angus would be too. They have not only adjusted, but bloomed. They have made friends, learned how to look after themselves, discovered new influences and interests, opened their minds, developed new tastes. They eat many….many VEGETABLES now. They want to be HEALTHY…..

“Why isn’t there any healthy food in the fridge mum?”

Who knew? Rudi goes to ART GALLERIES and listens to PODCASTS! Tasha organises her  life with military precision, and I suspect, those of many of her friends.  She loves good food, both in restaurants and at home.  Between them they have visited or are planning visits to Austria, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam and Rhodes. They  have self  funded their holidays too. They ‘phone, FaceTime or text me every few days and we meet often. They are both in relationships with mature, kind, generous people who, as in the best relationships, make them fuller, wiser and more loving versions of themselves. Beth and Jake give Rudi and Tasha some of the love, reassurance and validation that was so deeply lost when Angus died.

Monty and I were all set to muddle along together after the children left. But in all the chaos of the university shopping  and  applying for student grants and moving them in, we failed to see that Monty wasn’t well. He had not been right since Angus’ death, he was listless, drinking loads of water, but the vet and I put it down to grief for his beloved master. However, when he started wee-ing every night he had more tests and eventually he was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease caused by a tumour on is adrenal gland. At that point it did just seem a bit unfair.  To cut a long story short, ( and to avoid a shaggy dog story….sorry…I love a pun), after much deliberation we took him to Dick White’s extraordinary veterinary hospital in Newmarket where he had surgery to remove the tumour, which as far as they can tell, is benign. He has made a wonderful recovery and rediscovered his joie de vivre. Tasha, with her customary pragmatism made me laugh when she said:

“It’s just as well Monty didn’t die or the operation  would have been a complete waste of money”

She is her father’s daughter.

I know we are so fortunate to have been able to afford medical care for Monty,  and the irony of his receiving significantly superior care to that available to many people of the world is certainly not lost on me. But somehow the prospect of losing Monty was just too great to bear. He is a luxury item and extremely high maintenance. Insurance….yes we had it….no they did not pay for the op…..don’t ask.

As for me….I am muddling on. A friend of mine who lost her husband some years ago warned me that this second year of grieving is, in some ways,  easier and in others, much more difficult  than the first and she was right. The first year was driven by a kind of determination to keep going, to complete the huge number of tasks following the death of a spouse, to be a good mother. The sadness was to be expected. People flocked around us. But this year has been quieter. The children gone. Some people falling away as life goes on….understandably.  One cannot wear one’s sadness quite so openly…it just isn’t appropriate. I wouldn’t want to burden my friends and family more than I already do. And it is boring…I bore myself with it. But believe me that sadness remains, relentlessly clinging like a greasy dust, contaminating every moment of every day. It is like living parallel lives, the one in which you appear normal and laugh and function pretty well, and the one in your head which thinks constantly about what is lost. I do not cry all the time now and there are many many relatively happy moments brought by kind, loving generous people.

But there is an inevitable loneliness and isolation to it all. The price of love is grief. I find myself gazing at elderly couples, hand in hand and envy them. I deeply miss the life that Angus and I shared and mourn the present and future lost to us: the daily conversations , the jokes and memories we shared. What would he think of the world of Brexit and Trump? The world moves on unstoppably. I will soon be older that Angus was when he died….the two years between us extinguished and I will continue to grow older while he will remain forever 50. I have cleared out his wardrobes and his office with lovely people to support me. I have to say he was a TERRIBLE hoarder! He kept every item of clothing he had pretty much ever owned. He kept every appliance AND ITS BOX even when they were defunct. There were treasures too….his wedding speech written neatly on little postcards…a menu from our honeymoon. I have kept a few bits…and a pair or two of the hotel slippers.

My confidence and sense of identity wax and wain. For so long I was Angus’ wife. Sometimes it makes me oversensitive about the things people say and do. I see a shadow of disapproval or judgement about my choices or an unwelcome offer of advice, where perhaps there is none. I call it the soft underbelly of grief . Most of the time I give myself a good talking too and a day or two later gain a little perspective on the matter. But the unpredictability and uncertainty of grief are a constant challenge. And vulnerability is where the devil finds work.

I am so busy with the everyday stuff. The pink jobs, the blue jobs, and , it seems, everyone else jobs as well. Only people who live alone, who parent alone understand the relentlessness of these daily tasks. The bulb that goes, the tap that breaks, another bill, another wash, another meal. Angus did so much in our lives and I know I was lucky. And I know I have a great deal of help….both paid and unpaid which I deeply appreciate. And so many people are so much worse off. But still. It is hard and I get so tired.

So what helps? How do I cope? I have developed a number of strategies and resources that keep me going.

FAITH: I wish I could say I am as faithful to my God as HE has been to me but there have been times of real challenge where I still struggle to understand why this has happened to us. I know all the Christian theology around this but it is hard. The bible is full of stories of extremely challenging lives and people calling out to God. But it is so hard when the prayers of others for healing are heard and answered …

”Praise God!” they say.

Don’t get me wrong …it IS wonderful but why not us? I am blessed with a wonderful church family and small home group as well as close Christian friends and so I continue to try to live the life, read the bible, pray, go to church and TRUST that all will indeed be well in the end. God works all things. ALL THINGS. For good. We are very blessed in so many rich ways and I am trying my very best to be truly THANKFUL for these blessings every day.

WORK: Work is good. It grounds, rewards,  inspires and motivates me. It is good to offer help to others. It is good to try and make a difference. On the whole I am able to cope with our clients, cancer and all, except when a situation is just too similar to ours. But my colleagues, special people, support me. I don’t tell people my story unless they ask and you would be surprised how few people one meets, both at work and in life, actually ask many questions. Perhaps people aren’t all as nosey as I am.

PROJECTS: I have a number of projects planned for the house which, after 17 years of family life, is in need of some tender loving care. To start with I am extending and renewing our kitchen, something we were planning before Angus’ death. I want to provide a space where friends and family can gather, share food, life and love.

I have commissioned a headstone for Angus’ grave. It will say that he was:

“ A Gentle Man and a Gentleman”.

Basically sums him up don’t you think?

FUN AT FIFTY: I turned fifty in February and I have had special times with the aforementioned  dear friends and family. The icing on the cake will be a special trip to Thailand with Rudi and Natasha in December. When I was forty Angus took us to Africa to fulfil a dream I had. Memories were made…I floated above the Serengeti in a hot air balloon at dawn. What a gift. Angus wasn’t that keen on going to Africa. But oh my he fell in love with it. He took about a million photos. He would have loved Thailand too. So my gift to myself and the children is to create an adventure for us and to make new and equally special memories that will glue us together.

FRIENDSHIP: F and F mean everything.

MEANINGFUL MOMENTS: A friend has a son who plans to name his own son…one day…after Angus. Other friends are naming their new Labrador puppy…GUS. So appropriate. I went to the wedding of our bridesmaid. It was really beautiful. These things honour Angus and remind me that he is not forgotten.

WRITING: I have just completed a Certificate in Creative Writing which was demanding but wonderful too. I met some amazing people and learned a lot. Like most things the more you learn the more you understand about how little you know. This year I am planning a couple of short courses and to make time write other things for myself.

DIET. EXERCISE. AND ALL THAT STUFF. Don’t do enough but try to anyway.

THE POWER OF WORDS: Reading (stuff about grief and other stuff.) Films. Plays. Radio. TV.  They give me distraction, stories and a wider understanding of the world.

Yesterday I listened to  Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of facebook and a heroine of mine, talking on Desert Island Discs  about her life, including the recent loss of Dave, her husband and father to their two children, to a heart attack aged 48. She has written a wonderful book about building resilience after loss called ‘OPTION B’. Her words, both on the radio and in the book remind us that all of us experience loss in life, that we can survive it, that it makes time to find a new normal and that its ok to talk about it and to cry and to be sad. I salute her resilience.

As for me…. a friend of mine has a great saying about our efforts in this earthly life:

“We do our s****y best”

Not an elegant or indeed inoffensive phrase but pretty good at summing up  stuff for me just now.

For those who pray:

Please continue to pray for us. For faith, resilience, courage and, in the fullness of time, joy.

 

 

 

 

Grace

 

 

This is a little story about hope. A Christmas story. It is for all of you who have held us all in the last 18 months. Thank you.

Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues- John Stott

Caro has worn anonymity comfortably for some time. It has usurped both her brightness and her brokenness with the ordinary. She is a women of a certain age, with sagging jowls and a thickening waist: unremarkable. She does not mind being invisible; it allows her to move through the world watchful but unnoticed in comfortable shoes. People are polite to her in a respectful but disinterested way. They do not see her.

Despite meeting her several times, and the uncomfortable intimacy of physical examination and plans to mutilate her body, Mr. Thompson, the consultant glances down at his papers to remind himself of her name. Mrs. Henry. How can the smooth skinned Mr. Thompson, be wise enough to know things; to operate on her?

The surgery is scheduled for the 24th of December. That way she can be squeezed in before the Christmas break; before Mr. Thomson jets off to his skiing holiday in Aspen. She doesn’t mind. When she is admitted the nurses call her Caroline, her childhood name, which leaves her feeling oddly slighted. Entrusting herself to these strangers who do not know her frightens and disconcerts her.

The surgery goes as planned. Nil by mouth; premed; anaesthetic room; recovery; back to the ward. Dry mouth; wooziness; pain; sickness ; dizziness; and a lingering fog.

That night she shifts through the gossamer layers of consciousness. When she wakes she senses the lights from the Christmas trees and the squeak of crepe soles on linoleum and the murmur of low voices and the whirrs and beeps of the IV pumps; the plastic mattress and pillows crinkle and crunch as she shifts uncomfortably within cardboard sheets; the scent of cleanliness, despite the unseen presence of a gazillion superbugs.

Presently she hears the grandfather clock chiming midnight. Two familiar angels are sitting on her bed conversing, their downy wings twitching and fluttering expressively.

They glance over and stop talking.

“Ah! You are awake! Praise God!” says the elfin blond with the twinkly blue eyes and the dazzling smile. And Caro feels the warmth of the sun on her face.

“Yes about time Caro. It is Christmas Eve and there are places to go and people to see,” says the other with a wry gleam in her clear grey eyes.

Caro is bemused at the incongruity of clocks and angels and hospitals. But it is Christmas after all. So she nods and gets out of bed like an excited child and she patters after them in her hospital gown and bony bare feet.

At once they are outside in the still cold night and translucent hands take hold of Caro’s. Rhythmic beats of powerful unfurled wings lift her towards an enormous pale and cratered moon and stars shining across miles and millennia. And she looks down at London, at St Thomas’ hospital, the curling silver ribbon of the Thames, the handsome spires of Westminster, at the gleaming Shard and the Gherkin. And then, at the speed of light they whoosh to another time, another place.

The same moon and stars, one shining brightly, brightly set this scene too. The air is warm and the sights before her arid and timeless. There, far beneath is an inn and she can hear the babble of journeyed people at rest and replete. Behind the inn is a humble building. And she can hear the braying and neighing, the shuffling and bleating there too. And as they swoop down she smells the straw and the lanolin; the manure and the oats. And then she catches the sweet sweet murmurs of an infant nuzzling newly at a mother’s breast.

They move down into the barn, and behold, in a manger, nestled in hay, a newborn baby wrapped like a present. Hand in hand a young man and woman look wondrously upon their child.

“Caro the world has been waiting in the darkness. The light has come.” Says the second angel.

‘’ Yes” Caro says. “ I have been waiting for so long”

The moment is brief and endless.

“Time to go “says the first angel laughter trickling through her voice.

As they take flight there is a blaze of light and a cacophony of heavenly sound as a throng of angels terrifies shepherds and sheep in a nearby field. And in the far far distance three men mounted on discontented camels seek their bearings in the inky night sky.

Slowly, slowly the fog is lifting. Mind and body are heavy in the inhospitable bed. Crusty eyes creak open in unbearable white light. But there…there are Bella and Sofia. Grey Fatigue and worry carve lines and hollows in beloved faces.

“ Oh my love. You are back with us” Says Bella, a shiny smile lighting her words.

“ Caro. Happy Christmas! “ Says Sofia, warm and safe as a fortress.

Caro rests in familial swaddle and divine, earthly and angelic love; and in being known and greeted by her own dear name.

A feather or two float unnoticed in the morning light.

 

 

A Grateful Heart- Part 1-Reflection

 

The will of God will not take you where the grace of God cannot keep you-author unknown

Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues -John Stott

 

Somebody asked me recently whether I was ‘moving on’.

But I don’t really think there is a moving from loss on this scale. Or any loss for that matter. People who believe that lack experience or imagination. Indeed the person in question then went on to ask if I had started dating yet, comparing her own divorce with my bereavement. Digging herself further and further into the mire,  she then confided that she could see me having not only one, but possibly two more significant relationships during my lifetime.

I was stumped for words; I really was. I am afraid I brand her now with the ultimate condemnation:

“she means well….”

But then who am I to scoff at any person who shows concern , albeit rather cack handed, misguided concern. I may not be moving on but I do like to think I…we…are moving forward inch by agonising inch. The thing is though, that even when you are pretending everything is alright, when you are talking, working, laughing, planning, eating, drinking, trying to be normal, it is as if there is this HUGE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. This enormous refrain in every moment of every day which says HE IS GONE…… he is gone….. he is gone. A powerful image that has come to me and been shared with me again and again is one of loss  as the amputation of a limb. And with grief comes a backpack full of expected and unexpected burdens and challenges and it drags you down and slows you down and discourages you and saps the hope, and dulls the shine of life. And it drains your energy and your resilience. And one needs to learn to walk again.

Sometimes I think I should go around with a large W stamped to my forehead a bit like the mourning clothes or black armbands of yesteryear. There is still something so very difficult about telling people who don’t know that I am a widow. It burdens them with an unexpected responsibility to respond appropriately and causes my own emotions  to swell and spill over and although it shouldn’t be, the whole thing is so uncomfortable. Especially with people I don’t know. Some people just don’t know what to say and move the subject abruptly and clumsily on. It is as if the scale of this loss might contaminate the ordinary contentment of their own lives. Yet for the most part people are very kind. Especially those who have walked this walk. And most people have had some experience of suffering. And let’s not forget that the world is full of poverty, disasters, deprivation, war, death, injury and illness. None of us are immune and I ,for one, know that there are so many people treading  a harder road than I am.

I believe that it is in exercising choice in the response to challenges that we  can move forward. Angus himself had a difficult start in life. His own beloved father died of cancer when he was fourteen and tragically his sister died a few years later in her early twenties. Yet Angus was always a man full of positivity and joy of life.

Being thankful for the good things around us in the past, present and future helps focus the mind on hope. I have so very much to be thankful for. Friends and strangers  who walk alongside in so so many ways. Friendships that have been shaped and shifted and refined by the journey. A roof over my head, work, holidays, food. So much richness. And I am thankful despite the fact that its sweetness is bitterly tainted and soured by the loss of the one with whom I shared it all. But God is good and faithful and He will work all things for good. I keep hearing:

‘Be still and know that I am God’

It is hard being still. Business and distraction are far easier.

As  we live through the season when it all went terribly wrong and we approach the anniversary of Angus’ death ( how CAN it be nearly a year?) this astonishing autumn and winter demonstrate the eternal cycle of the seasons and the beauty that lurks even in apparent death and decay,  before new life emerges bold and green in the fresh shoots of spring.

As a wise lady quoted to me recently:

‘Go on living until you feel alive again’

Angus lives not only in eternal peace now but also  through the memories of those who love him and through his children.

Part 2 coming soon. About how the children are getting on at uni, the incontinent dog in the night-time and travels with my family and other animals (dear friends).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

We had not planned that you would arrive quite so soon after your brother. He only started walking weeks before you were born. But Rudi’s conception had taken some time so we decided to crack on. And microscopically you appeared in an instant and started growing and forming miraculously inside me. I remember being quite nauseous in the early stages. And Rudi mimicking me as I retched in the mornings. It was quite unnerving.You were due to be born the same day as your cousin Bella. My father, outrageous as ever in his  inimitable Hungarian accent said to the 4 of us:

‘Vot?…. did you hev an orgy?’

He was so delighted that two more grandchildren were preparing to join Rudi.

Pregnancy was harder second time round with a toddler (well, crawler) to look after. Moreover I seem destined to have enormous babies. Rudi was 9 and a half pounds and as I approached the end of the pregnancy I was sporting a hefty and sizeable bump. Bella was born rather unexpectedly some 5 weeks early and by the time you appeared just one day after your due date I felt like I had been waiting for ever.

The morning of the day you were born Daddy and the midwife plotted to ensure your arrival in order to fit in with their own plans that week. Daddy was due to go away on an important business trip and the midwife had holiday plans.  I was encouraged to walk up  and downstairs and sure enough things started moving that afternoon. Rudi was swept away by his devoted Godmother while Daddy and the MW ordered chinese takeaway and chatted enthusiastically. The contractions accelerated rapidly. I was instructed to continue tramping breathlessly up and downstairs. Eventually I decided to interrupt there jolly little party to announce  sharply that :

“I THINK THE BABY IS COMING!”

Looking somewhat put out by the interruption MW looked rather sceptical and Daddy looked cheerful and smug. However MW and I had a little plan which Daddy was not expecting. I had wanted a home birth and Daddy had been persuaded to compromise,    agreeing that I could deliver you on a MW led “birthing centre”in Tooting. Very SW London yummy mummy darling.

Anyway when it came to it, she and I  unanimously and wordlessly agreed that I was going no-where. As she ran the bath and prepared her equipment (we had a birthing pack ‘just in case’) A bewildered and confused Daddy looked on accusingly, too polite to argue that THIS WAS  SO NOT THE PLAN!

Anyway, he busied himself with ‘washing up’  while I hauled myself into the tub and huffed and puffed and things moved along  swiftly. Indeed there was no time to call the  required second midwife. Daddy was summoned and arrived just at the right moment to watch you glide (all 9 pounds 10 ounces of you ) into the world and lifted you out of the water into his arms. He was the first to hold you, to gaze into your eyes and a love affair began. Despite being completely bald you were very pretty.  As I lay spent in the water, I cleared my throat to ask the gender. I was told to take a look . So convinced was I that I was to have another boy that I actually believed I saw a little tiny willie! It was suggested I look again…..and I was overjoyed to see my daughter, a perfect little sister for my darling Rudi. Afterwards we climbed into bed  with you and drank champagne and phoned everybody. It was a magical day. Rudi met you the day after and was very chuffed that you had kindly bought with you a Little Tyke’s Cozy Coupe for him; a vehicle with which he had become familiar and indeed obsessed at toddler clubs across the borough, to the extent that once he had secured sole occupancy he would remain in situ all afternoon. Possession is nine tenths of the law!

Daddy was incredibly proud to have delivered you HIMSELF and dined out on the story for decades. He called you Bubby. When you were a baby you sucked your thumb, bum shuffled, and looked like an angel . We soon discovered how mischievous, independent, stubborn and determined you could be. Traits inherited primarily from your father! Unlike your  brother who had slept through the night from 9 weeks, you would wake up at night for years and on many  occasions  I woke to find a little blond person standing inches from my face waiting to be escorted back to bed. Heart hammering I would lie awake for ages.

We were very fortunate that Daddy was able to be around so much when you were little. It makes up just the tiniest bit for having lost him so prematurely. We had some wonderful times together. At home, abroad, with family and with friends. His enthusiasm for sharing himself, his passions, his energy, for captaining his little family, for providing for us, was boundless. I don’t think he could believe his luck. We were living the dream.

I know how much you loved Daddy in return. His golden girl and his princess. How wonderful to adore and be adored in a lifetime. When Daddy was ill, both you and Rudi re-payed that love in full. You were generous, patient, kind and you eased the burden and horror of those days. You watched films with him, accompanied him to his chemo appointments, went shopping with him and hugged and kissed him.  It was so hard and both Daddy and I were amazed by your courage and maturity. You were brave enough to be there for him and for me when he lay dying.  Since his death we 3 have drawn close and I love that you are not afraid to talk about Daddy, about our memories and to visit his grave. And to laugh and shed tears. You have shown astonishing resilience and I am so PROUD of you. As you enter the next chapter of your life, at Nottingham Trent University I have no doubt that you will attain great success in all that you do there and beyond.

When Daddy was a child, his Aunt Angela said that he would either become a train robber or Prime Minister. His life took him down a different path but I wouldn’t put those occupations past you. You are your father’s daughter.

We cannot pretend that Daddy has not gone. But his essence lives on in the precious genetic inheritance that dwells in each and every cell of your body, in our memories, and in our hearts. His values and beliefs will continue to influence every decision and action you take. Our family friendships will keep his memory alive and sustain and nourish us in the days, weeks and months ahead. We will miss him forever, especially on special occasions but we will honour his memory in living our lives his way. The Angus way.

I believe we will see him again in heaven.

Daddy would say that you and Rudi were his greatest legacy. And he would be right.

Happy Birthday my darling girl. May you be blessed always.

Love Mum xx

Anniversary

 

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

 

When we were very young!

 June 1 1991

In the dynamic landscape of grief neither sky nor sea nor land remain constant. A myriad of emotions flood the psyche in waves which threaten to engulf any pretence of peace and joy at any given moment. The sky  fills instantly with foreboding clouds, whipping up the winds of despair and hopelessness. The sands of confidence and belief in the future shift and sink beneath tentative feet. The fog dims clarity of vision and judgement. There are not so much good days and bad days as good minutes and bad minutes. Everything is so unpredictable. We are journeying without an obvious destination. And 6 months in, the truth of Angus’ death has bedded in as has the loss of our future plans together. And it almost feels worse than at the beginning. There is so much I want to tell him. It is like a 30 year conversation has been brutally and permanently interrupted. Although …. I confess I do mutter to myself and him sometimes.

The time since his death has now overtaken the time between his cancer diagnosis and death. The anniversary of the day of his diagnosis looms like a sinister shadow. The 13th of July. Mercifully we will be away on holiday in Lanzarote. ( Angus and I used to call it Lanzagrotty although I don’t know why as it is perfectly lovely! )

At first I thought that one day of grief would be much like the next. Why would anniversaries be any different when EVERY day is drenched in poignancy? But the unexpected frequency and significance of particular days is not to be underestimated. Some of them can be anticipated and prepared for. They are obvious. Christmas, birthdays,  and wedding anniversaries. As many of you know it would have been our Silver wedding anniversary on the 1st of June. Rudi, Tasha and I were determined to celebrate a truly happy marriage and the blessing  of family life . We went to London, travelled up The Shard to peruse a sadly rather murky view, saw “Les Miserables”, and dined in Chinatown ; We sought to honour  Angus  doing things that he loved or would have loved. We celebrated a special day 25 years ago when two best friends chose each other in the presence Of God. Other people remembered too. Our darling best man, Patrick had our wedding video copied onto a DVD for me.

There are other more subtle anniversaries that tumble one over the next unexpectedly  jangling nerves and emotions. The  monthly dates marking his diagnosis and his death. One month, two months and so on. Mother’s day, Father’s day.  There are the senses which can transport one instantly and powerfully into the heart of a a long forgotten memory. Smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing.   There are the ‘this time last years….’. Icebergs lurking in the mist.

Sometimes, our family grief blinds me to the grief of other people. I somehow forget that our friends miss him terribly too. I think people hide it from from me perhaps thinking that my sadness takes precedence over theirs. That their grief is less important. But I find it profoundly touching when people mourn with us. There is such thoughtfulness in the way others remember Angus. For example, the men of the Kings Cliffe pub cycle tour, started their journey at Angus’ grave in memory of the fact that he had founded the first of their annual outings. Thier gesture  was immensely moving.

Despite the dark storms there are rainbows and silver linings in the seascape. And also bouys, lighthouses, rocks, and lifeboats. And sunsets. Godly provision. And we are learning, very slowly, to navigate and survive the voyage. This involves each of us adjusting our roles (Angus was always very much the Captain of our ship!) and learning new skills. Sometimes this is tedious and irksome and sometimes it is laden with conflict. But often it also leaves a sense of accomplishment. Rudi has passed his driving test (Hallelujah!) and Tash takes hers at the end of July. Tash has finished her A level exams. Rudi is working with the roofers again. I am back at work part time where a great deal of change is taking place. It was very challenging at first not least because I was transported to a place where everything had been “OK” the last time I was there . Moreover, as I walk through the hospital there are 101 memories of his treatment and death in that place. Not all of them are tragic memories though. We did a fair bit of laughing  with the fabulous people who looked after him. Still, I have yet to venture onto the chemo day unit or the heamatology/oncology  ward. I would yearn to catch a glimpse of him there.

The work itself, looking after those who live with or beyond cancer, is not as emotionally charged as one might think. It is quite healing to care for others and prevents one becoming overly introspective. Looking out, not in. At least some of the time.I  also happen to work with some AMAZING people . They are what I call my Mac family (due to us working in a Macmillan Centre) and I LOVE them all.

There is a sense of calm just now after a couple of difficult months and I am very thankful.  We are looking forward to our summer, rain and all. Tasha will be celebrating her 18th birthday in August. We will celebrate in Angus’ most splendid, beautiful and prolific garden. Apart from Lanzarote we are also going to Croatia with Sophie and Gat together with their teens. Very spoilt to have TWO holidays. Rudi has also been to Amsterdam with his friends (!) and Tash is off to Barcelona soon with hers.

There will be some time to rest and reflect before uni for R an N in September. Obviously I have mixed feelings about their BOTH going and my living alone for the first time ever! Strictly speaking I will still have Monty who is bound to be a great comfort.

I have my own plans. Some of which I have already been executing in preparation for a new time of life. A few trips away. Theatre, books, concerts; a lovely retreat in the Cotswolds.  Some professional development. A little London tour catching up with old and long neglected friends. An undergraduate certificate in Creative Writing following a very absorbing introductory course. I have been reflecting on the impact of suffering in life from both a Christian and human perspective and would love to explore this as I develop my writing skills. The truth is that suffering bears fruit, and shapes us to be more compassionate and resilient beings. Suffering is part of the human condition and no-one is immune although some seem to bear a disproportionate load…and I am not talking about me. As to why God allows it, well theologians have been trying to work that one out for millennia. But Jesus knew about suffering and so  I choose not to struggle  against it.

Angus’ suffering is over. He is with God.

God remains my rock and my refuge and I strive to trust in His good and eternal purposes for all things. It is not always easy but I continue to be kept buoyant by a crew of great number, who  encourage and help me in the emotional, spiritual and practical tasks of life for which I give thanks to God and to each of you.

Blessings, Kate xx

 

Please continue to pray for us:

For strength and resources for new beginnings in September.

For rest and joy together this summer. For safety as we travel together and separately.

For safety as the children drive.

For faith and assurance that Angus lives with God in heaven where I will seem him again.

For the sunlight to continue to shine through the clouds and the certain and consistent belief that storms are soon calmed for the still waters to return.

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,a
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Psalm 23

 

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Angus’ Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate for breakfast

 

‘ I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.”    

  Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Friends. It is 3 long months since Angus died. I have deliberated long and hard as to whether to continue with the blog. In the beginning it was designed to be a means by which we could update our friends and family about what was happening to Angus and indeed it certainly served that purpose. However, for me it became more than a vehicle for sharing information. It became a way to record, reflect upon and share the experience of Angus’ illness and treatment for all of us in the fullness of  all its tribulations but also the blessings that it brought. Now I feel the need to continue as   Angus’ death impacts us daily in numerous and diverse ways and as we develop strategies to go on. It is a way in which I can try to organise and make sense of what is happening even though it is an impossible task. However I have no expectation that anyone continue to read it. It may have done its job for you.

Chocolate for breakfast I hear you ask? What is the meaning of that? Has she finally completely lost the plot in the midst of a menopausal grief quagmire?  Last week, one morning I found myself breakfasting on coffee and a delicious chocolate Easter egg  donated by a generous and thoughtful friend. Because I could. There was no one there to condemn and ridicule such indulgent behaviour. Although I could almost hear him say “I don’t know how you can eat chocolate at this time of the morning!” with a twinkle in his eye and a broad smile lighting up his beautiful face. Grief is dynamic and catches you unprepared. The feelings are complex and multidimensional. I know this from previous professional and personal experience albeit not on this scale. There is fear which feels so immediate, as if the ground has fallen away and you are free falling catastrophically . There is the enveloping cloud of sadness and yearning. There is punishing guilt about the what ifs and maybes and missed opportunities. There is preoccupation and resentment of the million tasks to be completed each day, labours and responsibilities once divided and shared now falling heavily on my shoulders. And the tasks that are the fallout after death. The phone calls when with cracking voice I inform strangers representing various agencies of the death, erasing  his existence from innumerable databases. And the administration of executing his will to ensure his wishes and plans are fulfilled and honoured. There are traces of him everywhere…. his handwriting catching me unaware. These myriad feelings are unpredictable, changeable and difficult to manage as they impact on what can be achieved at any given moment or day. It takes determination to overcome the inertia and fatigue that comes with this territory. Some days I would like to bury myself under the duvet. Other days I am more resilient….even cheerful. But there is the shame which taints the cheer. How can I smile….enjoy myself ….when he is gone?

But. That is not all. The miracle is that life is not without joy and blessings even now and I hope I can share the hope to which we cling as so clearly demonstrated in the  events that took place at Easter 2000 years ago commemorated rather tenuously by the new life symbolised by my choco/eggy breakfast. When Angus died I thought I would be angry with God despite His grace throughout the illness. Why had prayers for healing  not been answered? The age old question about why God allows suffering in the world. I am not alone in proclaiming my disappointments, pain, anger and sorrow to God. The Psalms provide many rich examples of  people raging, calling out to a God that does not seem to hear us. But actually God never promises us that earthly life will be without trials. What He does promise is that there is an eternal plan which promises only good things for us. And that He will be with us always. As a sermon I heard recently stated….there can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. Wise words.Pain and suffering are part of the human experience that Jesus chose to endure for us. This does not diminish the ferocity, loneliness and struggle of grief now.Or erase the memories forged in the dark days of diagnosis, illness and death.  But it does offer a foundation for, and certainty in, hope for the future and provision in the present.

I want to share with you what happened in those last days. Death and dying, and indeed suffering, remain deeply taboo subjects in our western culture where secularism replaces faith with the here and now and health, happiness, youth and wealth are the Holy Grail. Gyms are our new churches as we pursue long healthy lives. Of course there is nothing wrong in staying healthy as long as you remember that we will all die one day. We do not know with certainty when but it will happen. And there are lessons to learn and opportunities that arise from that knowledge both about its inevitability and about the process. I am sorry if I sound cynical and I know this is a difficult topic but a lifetime of nursing in this field colours ones views and priorities .

I guess that from the moment of Angus’ diagnosis we began to grieve and prepare for his death and I am grateful that we had that opportunity to plan and start saying goodbye. Moreover Angus knew deeply in his heart how loved and respected he was by his family, friends and colleagues…a gift not granted to all. Nevertheless his final illness was sudden and unexpected and his death left us reeling in shock and heartbreak. However, for Angus the process was relatively painless, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Events were very dramatic at the beginning. He collapsed following his admission to hospital as the infection took hold. His heart was struggling to maintain his blood pressure. Dr Mary and Nurse Caroline were there and looked after both Angus and me as a thousand others turned up to assess and organise the next steps. He was very frightened when he regained consciousness. He did not want to die….or certainly not yet. Nobody lied to him. He was seriously ill. But there was a plan and we arrived in the Critical Care Unit with hope in our hearts that this challenge could be overcome. Angus asked to be sedated as he needed to have 2 central lines inserted. We said what we hoped would be temporary goodbyes and then at Angus’ request our brave 18 year old son stayed with him as he went to sleep. He was intubated and surrounded by a plethora of beeping flashing whirring machinary trying to support life as his organs failed one by one, kidneys, heart and lungs. Day by day he became weaker. He was extubated and regained consciousness briefly at one point and talked fighting talk through the mists of sedation. He was not distressed.

The daily conversations with the Critical Care Term confirmed what we knew in our hearts. Angus was dying. Mercifully, he was completely unaware. The machines were removed and we waited. In the 2 days that followed there was a sense of serenity and peace . We surrounded him….Rudi, Tasha, me, his brother Gavin, my sister Sophie, my brother Imi. We spoke to him, read to him, played music, held his hands, kissed him and whispered our goodbyes. The team caring for him were wonderful, listening to and addressing our questions or concerns. Martyn our vicar visited as did members of the hospital chaplaincy team and prayed and comforted and accompanied us in our bewilderment and sadness. Some of the ward nurses visited to say goodbye and Michael who emptied the bins and knew Angus from the Heam/onc ward wept when he discovered us on Critical Care. I spent some very intimate moments with Angus alone at his bedside, his hand in mine, in the 2 nights prior to his death. Just hours before he died I awoke to a profound and I believe supernatural experience. The room was filled with a beautiful and masculine fragrance with no obvious source. It truly felt as if  Jesus was in the room with us. Hours later the nurse gently woke me to say Angus had died. I woke Sophie, Rudi and Tasha who were sleeping in the relatives accommodation and we drank tea and kissed him goodbye for the last time. As we drove home in the beautiful early morning awash with sadness but also relief that it was over, a  barn owl flew low across our path, another poignant and spiritually charged moment that felt profoundly given by God.

I am so sad to lose Angus but I am not sad to see the end of that disease and its hideous manifestations. Angus hated being ill and was a fearful and reluctant patient as anyone would be. I hope in time my thoughts will be less dominated by the trauma of his last months, days and hours and more by the treasure of the years spent together. I am determined also that this experience  will be reflected not only in sorrow, but in the way it has enriched us, our understanding, our compassion for others, our spiritual maturity. May the sorrow be translated and enhance my professional nursing practice as well as making each of us who have been touched a bit wiser, able to offer more to our fellow human beings and able to prioritise and live life more thoughtfully.

The days that followed were surreal. There was Christmas in Norfolk with my siblings and families filled with generosity, nourishment and love. Imi and Monique registered the death and Sophie and I, together with the teens planned the funeral with the most charming, gentlest, youngest of funeral directors called Tom. When he turned up we almost laughed. But it turns out he was born to do that job. Organising a funeral provides fertile ground for humour. There are choices about all sorts of things….burial or cremation, coffin, flowers, music, pall bearers and on and on. It is like organising a wedding in less than 2 weeks. Indeed with deep irony I recall I found myself referring to it as the wedding on more than one occasion. The following conversation had Sophie and I sniggering like teenagers and Tom looking somewhat unnerved. Forgive me if it is vulgar, distasteful or offensive. But, my goodness,one really does have to laugh when one gets the opportunity.

Tom: ” I am sorry to raise this now but have you thought that when your time comes whether you would like to be buried with Angus?”

Me: “Ok yes. Yes I would thank you Tom”

Tom: “So there are two ways of doing this. You can either be side by side or one on top of the other “:

Me:” Oh I’ll go on top I think. Probably more environmentally friendly ”

(Soph and I guffaw, Tom makes a note and avoids eye contact.)

 

The funeral itself was a memorable and wonderful tribute and farewell to a man that had made an impression on so many lives. Martyn and Philip, Rectors of St George’s and Kings Cliffe churches respectively worked together without agenda or ego to ensure Angus could have a private burial service in Kings Cliffe and a thanksgiving memorial service at St Georges. Monty accompanied us to Kings Cliffe church behind Angus as he left West Street for the last time. The sun shone brightly as we said goodbye and buried him in the cemetery overlooking the village he loved and called home. It is a lovely place and we visit often.

In the afternoon we were overwhelmed by the huge numbers of people who had come to celebrate Angus’ life. It was comforting and touched our hearts. The service was so fitting. Martyn knew Angus well and he was very clearly present and at the heart of the service. His words of faith and encouragement were read out by Martyn so that Angus’ plan of speaking them in church one day was realised. The children put together a beautiful slideshow of photographs which was accompanied by Michael Jackson singing ‘Smile’ because Angus was always smiling. It was one of his most attractive qualities, that warm broad smile. Patrick, Angus’ longest standing friend spoke of the formation and importance of their precious lifelong friendship and Sophie spoke of living life the ‘Angus Way’ …that is full of humour, optimism, enthusiasm, thriftiness, naughtiness, loyalty, affection, faith and decency. I challenge you all to seize the opportunity of embracing life as Angus did.

We were thrilled to collect donations amounting to £3000 to donate to the Cancer Services charity at Peterborough hospital, as Angus had wished.

So what now you ask? How are we coping? Well as I have suggested it is hard. Very hard. Harder than perhaps it seems on the outside sometimes. But….we are surviving. When I talk of God’s provision and his faithful presence  I see it clearly and often. The thing about grief is that it is often the little things that floor one. In the early days I was unable to locate our car insurance documents…a challenge which seemed huge and irrationally overwhelming at the time. No sooner did I pray but they emerged in the unlikeliest of places. This has happened again and again. I found our wedding video after we had mislaid it for years. A treasure I am yet to watch again. I am not quite ready yet….Provision is also in the people that have literally enfolded us in care and kindness. The love of Jesus Christ demonstrated by my church family, my blood family and so many friends . Prayers, flowers, practical tasks, man jobs, hospitality, company and help with chores, outings, lunches, phone calls, emails, sorting, dog walks, advice, a listening ear and sharing tears…the list goes on and on. My manager and colleagues have supported me in my absence and as I plan to return to work next week. After receiving so much care it will be good to give to others again. A step forward. Books, ever my resource for understanding human experience and seeking refuge have helped me explore and shape my new and unwanted existance with words and phrases penned by people who are familiar with this brave new world. Many have been welcome and timely gifts.  And Angus, reaches from beyond death to furnish us with such happy memories, financial provision for the future, and a legacy of faith and fun that inform my choices now and for the future.

He lives on also in the children. They have inherited both physical and spiritual aspects of his being enabling him to live on with us. Rudi’s dazzling smile, charm and humour. Tasha’s practicality, her even temper and determined  work ethic. They make me proud as they would him.Tasha is working hard for her A levels and plans to go to study business studies a Nottingham Trent University. Rudi will take his place at Northumbria university also studying business studies. He has been lucky enough to do some work experience in London in a number of areas due to the efforts of his aunt and godparents.

We continue to make plans. We enjoyed a lovely holiday together in Dubai in February which enabled us to rest and regroup. Having things to look forward to helps to get us through the darker days and the drudgery. Spring is here filled with fresh growth and light. I have enrolled for evening classes in Creative Writing in Cambridge starting in May as Angus encouraged me to do.

So if you are able to continue praying; it is early days.

Give thanks for Angus’ life and for his legacies, material and spiritual.

Give thanks for friendship demonstrated in a thousand ways to meet our needs.

For a continued sense of God’s presence for all of us who grieve his loss.

For a continued resilience based in the hope of the resurrection .

For wisdom and guidance in decision making.

For resilience and resources  as each of us prepares for more change. Me returning to work, and for the children and me as they prepare to leave for university in September and I for living alone for the first time ever.

A final thought to make  you smile. Everywhere, in our house are reminders of Angus and his life and personality. While this is comforting it is also painful and poignant. However he still makes me smile. Ever thrifty, Angus liked nothing more than a freebie, especially if it came f from a hotel. The toiletries regularly populated our shower regardless of quality …..I am sure some of it was washing up liquid decanted into stupid little bottles from which said substance could not be extracted. So….. I went to his wardrobe to find something. Clearly Angus has not recycled a single item of clothing since 1980. In amongst the dense piles of clothing, items that carry the shape and scent and essence of him I found not one, not two but…..wait for it…. 20 pairs of towelling slippers adopted from hotels. Now if these were comfortable and Angus did not own two pairs of greatly superior slippers I would have understood….. but it did make me smile. I should not mock….his thrift has provided for our future. I can hear him chuntering….’who has turned the heating up?’ …..’who has left the lights on?”. Don’t worry my love. I am becoming quite thrifty myself.

So now we have a choice. Angus would not want his death to cast a shadow of bitterness, regret and stagnancy over our lives. We cannot forget him. Indeed we must actively remember him safe in the knowledge that he is in heaven with God. One day we will see him again  but now we must go on. We will never forget him, stop grieving and missing him  but we choose to continue to lead meaningful, fruitful lives  here on earth without him as he would surely endorse.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us and continues to do so. You can’t know what a difference it makes. To Sophie, Imi, and all my family including some very special friends….you are our scaffolding. I thank you.

So until next time…..

My love to you,

Kate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell and Thanksgiving

We are saying goodbye to Angus on Friday 8th of January.

A Thanksgiving Service for Angus will be held on Friday 8th January and we would love to welcome all those who knew him and would like to pay their respects.

2.30pm

St George’s Church
St Mary’s Street
Stamford PE9 2DL

(We will be having a private burial service at King’s Cliffe Church in the morning.)

There is a car park on Wharf Road in Stamford which is less than 5 minutes walk to the church. For those taking the train from London, you can change at Peterborough for a Stamford train or take a taxi from Peterborough station (approximately 25 mins) – there are taxis at the station or call Goldstar Cabs on 01733 310777

After the service we welcome everyone to The Haycock Hotel, Wansford PE8 6JA which is approximately a 15-20 minute drive from the church. We ask those driving to please offer lifts where possible and taxis can booked through ABC Taxis on 01780 755550 or Ace taxis on 01780 767676.

A variety of accommodation is available locally including at the Haycock Hotel. Recommendations can be found on TripAdvisor.

Family flowers only. Donations in memory of Angus can be made to the Cancer Services Charitable Fund at Peterborough City Hospital care of the funeral director’s. For details please contact EM Dorman, funeral directors on 01572 823976. Or email edward.dorman@btconnect.com.

Stop all the clocks

Friends. This will be brief and to the point for I have no energy for more.  Many of you may already have heard the news.  Last Thursday Angus was admitted to Peterborough with signs of infection. Very quickly the infection took hold and he collapsed and transferred to the critical care unit.  Despite numerous interventions to save him he continued to deteriorate. On Saturday we discussed the situation with the consultant and a joint decision was made to withdraw all aggressive interventions. He was dying. Rudi, Tasha, my sister Sophie, brother Imi and Angus’ brother Gavin sat with him. We talked to him, told him we loved him, shared memories, kissed him and held his hand. Martyn, rector at church, visited daily and prayed over him as did many members of the hospital chaplaincy team. Many of our village friends met in Kings Cliffe Church yesterday evening to pray for us led by Philip the rector here. Angus was beautifully cared for by the critical care team and for most of the last 3 days was unconscious, peaceful and very comfortable. I was able to sleep in the room with him at night while Soph and the kids doubled up in the relatives’ accommodation.

So friends, he finally departed this world at about 5.30 this morning. I was asleep by his side. We are broken hearted, exhausted and can’t quite believe he has gone.  I am so sad he couldn’t celebrate Christmas with us all.  And the future looks so unfamiliar without him after nearly 30 years together.  But I am relieved that he no longer has to face all the enormous challenges that the leukaemia brought.  And  I truly believe he is with The Lord forever and that I will see him again.

Jesus said:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. “

( John 14:1-3 )

I will keep you informed of funeral arrangements.  Please do keep Rudi, Natasha, me and all the family in your prayers. Thank you for walking beside us and surrounding us with so much love. We have been astonished and humbled by it. And I know that the 3 of us will continue to be cared for by our family and friends and that is such a comfort as it would be for Angus.

We will head to Norfolk for Christmas as planned to be together and to share happy memories together.

Angus was a wonderful exuberant, enthusiastic, joyful, darling man loved by so many people and I know that he will leave a big hole in the lives of many.

With love and wishing you every blessing for Christmas and 2016

Grace

” For when I am weak, then I am strong “

2 Corinthians 12:10  The Holy Bible NIV.

We have a little secret. A guilty indulgent family pleasure . For the benefit of our non British friends,” I am a celebrity get me out of here ” is an annual television programme lasting 3 weeks, in which random ‘celebrities’  are selected to take part in a game show set in the Australian jungle where they endure a number of trials and hardships, most of them involving contact with or the ingestion of a variety of animal life. Like gladiators, their fates and activities are decided by the votes of a heartless viewing public.  One cannot argue that this is culturally or intellectually stimulating or valuable in any way. However, the fascination lies in how each individual copes with the pressures and the relationships which form between the contestants. This year there was a competitor named Lady Colin Campbell of whom nobody seems ever to have heard. She appeared to be a  verbally vicious , manipulative and cruel women who used her ample intelligence to harm others for no apparent reason. She created much division and heartache with her behaviour and was, for a short time, the talk of the tabloid press. She started me thinking about the influence of behaviour. About grace and what it means. In daily language the word ‘grace’ seems to mean behaving with dignity, decorum, integrity, decency and consistency in every situation. Gracious behaviour shows respect to others as well as understanding and compassion. Needless to say a title, inherited or otherwise,  does not automatically result in ladylike or gracious behaviour. As for celebrity culture….well I better not start sharing my opinions on that subject….. but I will say this; high regard should be earned through the combination of God given talent, character, effort and achievement. That is all!

The last few weeks have been very difficult for us all. It has taken time to absorb the disappointment following the recurrence of the leukaemia, the postponement of the transplant and the decision to pursue more aggressive and toxic treatment. Nevertheless, we were blessed with two weeks of relative freedom before the treatment started in earnest and managed to get away for a day or two to Norfolk with our slipper friends, Mr and Mrs C. It was  a restorative time away from hospital appointments. I will confess it also felt surreal as Angus was feeling so much better, and we both knew that he is so seriously ill. A week ago Angus was admitted back in to hospital to continue with the new regime of chemotherapy. It was very hard to prepare for this admission when he was feeling well. However, once again the nursing staff saved the day! They welcomed him like royalty and showed him exceptional kindness at every step. On Sunday when we visited with Sophie ( my sister ) and her husband Gat, bearing pizza, the nurses allowed us to sit in the pink sitting room on the ward so that Angus wouldn’t have to eat in his bedroom. When we arrived there was a sign on the door which read:

Angus’ fan club

Members only

Meeting 6th December 1pm -2pm

Every member of our medical team seems to demonstrate ‘grace’ at every opportunity. Nothing is too much trouble, no concern to small. Dr Nagumantry, A’s consultant pursued every possible avenue to secure funding for Angus to receive a drug named Ponatinib which could potentially target the genetic mutation which is causing the leukaemia. After the NHS declined to fund it, Dr N approached the drug company and persuaded them to supply the drug on compassionate grounds. Their only requirement is that Angus’ case be written up for the research press, a small price to pay if it is a step towards helping others in this situation. Caroline, our specialist (and special) nurse patiently explains things to us as often as we need in order to absorb the information. And she seeks us out during outpatient appointments to see how we are doing. Dipti, the psychologist has worked wonders in helping Angus manage the claustrophobia and anxiety which has manifested itself since diagnosis. And grace continues to be embodied by  you, our friends and supporters, in thoughtful ways too numerous to mention but which touch our hearts. Not for the first time I will say that we continue to be astounded, humbled and touched by the tender support we receive. Acquaintances and friendships have supplied foundations on which  have been built ever more  flourishing and meaningful relationships, all impediments and barriers  broken down so completely. And our marriage has blossomed in the surprisingly fertile ground of this awful illness. God’s grace witnessed at work most powerfully.

I have started listening to our church’s sermon series on healing, and grappling with difficult concepts; that God does not always heal physically, that healing is bigger than the physical and is inextricably linked with forgiveness, that there is an eternal plan, if not an immediate one. Martyn Taylor, rector of St George’s brought to our attention in his sermon “Strength in weakness”, that God never abandons us and supplies us with all we need to face unimaginable trials. And that most amazingly of all God can work through terrible situations and not always by solving them in the most obvious way. Theologians have applied themselves over centuries to define the concept of Divine Grace and I will certainly be unable to offer a simple definition here. What we know and have experienced though is God’s grace through his provision of strength and scripture, of prayers answered, encouragement given and abundant blessings. This week we have been given a very strong sense of God’s love for us as Psalm 139 was brought to us no fewer than 4 times…..my very favourite psalm.

So …..God’s words to the apostle Paul as he struggled with his own ‘thorn in the flesh’

” My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”

2 Corinthians 12 verse 9.

resonate and speak truth to us. And most especially now as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Saviour.

So Angus is home. He is tired and weak , cannot sleep, is experiencing various side effects and is deeply discouraged by feeling so lousy.  We are preparing for Christmas which we will spend with Sophie, Imi and families in a house Sophie has rented in Norfolk. God willing. Even Monty the arthritic hound is coming! Talking of which Monty’s tablets have worked magic and he is a new dog! Bouncing and skittish as the puppy he once was. Poor Rudi has had to shave off his beard….Macdonald’s have a policy after all. He has his driving test on the 31st January. Tash works hard at school and at her job in River island and has just applied to her university choices. I am mainly spending my time driving everyone around and probably driving everyone crazy too! But driving is quiet time and I get to marvel at nature’s bounty. Trees that are divine sculptures and an astonishing sunrise stained purple and blue across the vast December sky. Berries that are jewels in the hedgerows and stars sparkling far away and long ago in an infinite universe.

 

Please pray:

Despite the silver linings and opportunities this is so difficult. So persistently challenging. The fear and exhaustion are constant and relentless. We need God’s grace and His Holy Spirit to strengthen and sustain us. Please pray for Him to fill us with these gifts.

For patience and unity within the family.

Please continue to pray for healing. A miracle!  That the Potatinib would be like a blessed bullet endowed with divine power targeting the genetically mutant stem cells.

That the chemotherapy would also be immediately and enduringly effective achieving remission leading to a successful transplant.

That we would be able to celebrate Christmas uninterrupted by complications of disease or treatment. For rest and rejoicing at that time.

For peace and freedom from fear and anxiety.

For Rudi to be prepared and able to pass his driving test.

For forgiveness in moments of despair and despondency.

Give thanks for blessings, laughter, wonderful professionals and available treatment.

Give thanks for friendship and its rich fruits. And for gracious friends.

 

We wish you all a joyful and blessed Christmas and New Year!

 

With fondest love and thanks from

Kate and Angus. xxxxxxxxx