Love lost, read and found
Here is a piece I wrote on the 1st anniversary of Katherine’s passing which I wrote to help raise funds for St Raphael’s Hospice who cared for Katherine in her final days. Please click here if you would like to donate and support.
Losing Kath (The first year)
It always feels like good timing in having a visit from friends. The gesture is always much appreciated and in the guise of moral support, very much needed. To also occasionally be told I am doing a good job with the girls and that Katherine would be proud of me, feels like a pat on an open wound that is strangely comforting though it aches just the same. I guess the girls are doing ok now that nearly a year has passed and some of the dust is starting to settle.
But there is a form of sadness present in Aimee and Imogen that I can’t really lift and I am not sure that they themselves have realised. Perhaps Aimee has, though being a deep thinker and emotionally reserved child, she has kept her sadness silent.
Imogen was showing signs of coping the least. In the beginning she was the one who would cry out loud for mummy and wake up in the nights screaming for her and come to my bed looking for the cuddle from me that her mother would normally give her. Now as the months have passed by, she is a child missing the love found in holding her mother’s hand, and just like I feel myself, sometimes I still see a little girl lost who doesn’t quite understand what has happened to her, but having to come to terms with it just the same.
I am in a limbo world it feels, I think any time now my life will revert back to normal, but I know it’s not true and Kath’s not coming back and the thought has my stomach in knots like the horror of it all is going to swallow me up. There is a silent scream always inside of me that I fight to keep contained and only in my writing do I find any release for it. In her memory an incredible amount of money was raised last year for St Raphael’s Hospice and then early this year for The Royal Marsden Hospital. The money raised in her memory was amazing and was keeping me going somehow but since the donations have stopped and the visits slowed down, the daunting feeling of how alone I am in this is started to become all I can think of.
I feel like I have been at the epicentre of a huge explosion and have been scattered to smithereens in every direction, and now that the blast is starting to die down in my ears, I don’t know which way to turn to first in order to start collecting the remaining pieces…
Imogen is growing up all the time and I worry about her forgetting mum a lot.
It was Kath’s main fear that that would happen and her words really haunt me.
I often ask Imogen to tell me something she can remember of her Mother and she kind of struggles. She was only just 4 when Kath died and the terrible truth is that mum will be a very hazy memory before very long.
I hate the idea that Kath won’t be there for her or indeed for Aimee or Hannah.
I hate it even more because I know I am still too caught up and distracted all the time, ‘I am lost in thought and still back at your bedside watching you slip away and not being able to do anything about it. I am still there sobbing my heart out with my face on your chest as your eyes closed for the last time, and I am angry! I miss your eyes looking at me!’
Now I am thinking of how the girls are missing out on so much tenderness because I am angry all the time or because I am rushed and stressed out not coping with the daily routines. I drop the girls late to school which is becoming more and more a regular occurrence. Today I got them to school a full 15 minutes late and had to park on a yellow line to get closer to the school to save a few extra minutes. I am resorting to doing this a lot now! Once again I am stressed and can hardly catch my breath for the knot in my chest. I told them they had to run to the gates quickly while I watch them from my vehicle. It was cold today and blustery and as they ran towards the gates holding hands I pictured Katherine in between them holding both their hands being on time leisurely walking to school and her absence hit me hard realising the tragic sadness the girls are having to go through, why can’t I find this kind of time, tenderness and devotion that their mother would. As they ran on, Imogen tripped over and hurt her knee and cried whilst Aimee tried to console her and get her up and into the gates, a complete stranger of a kind woman came to her attention, I saw Imogen’s head jerk upwards as she gasped for breath in her cries, and then they both ran into the school grounds and left me crying from afar in the unfairness of the situation and the glaring failings and limitations of my efforts to be both father and mother and bread winner all at the same time.
I have so many things I want to write about. I had wanted to write to record this terrible chapter in our lives but until now I was too raw and couldn’t seem to find the inspiration to do so thinking it would burden people to have to read such things when I can barely bring myself to openly talk about Kath in any real detail as it is.
It’s a horrible feeling, I know it makes most people uncomfortable and puts them in a situation of not knowing what to say or how to get out of the awkwardness.
Recently at last, I have had bits of my memory coming back to me about the whole period. I realise now how we never really got to address the fact that she was dying because we were too caught up all the time in trying to cope with each new day. I never really even got to talk to her about her or my feelings or on planning what comes next or even giving her the reassurances she might have wanted. It must be the worst thing ever having to face the fact that you are dying and leaving your kids and loved ones behind, especially when they are so young and going to so obviously need you.
I find I am no longer crying for myself, but crying a lot thinking about all the things she must have been going through and emotions she must have been dealing with and all the things she was saying to me without me realising it was really the end.
I think people only think of what the widow is going through and their loss, but all I care about is her loss and all of her fears and worries she was feeling about.
Now here I am in the aftermath of her passing and asking how are you supposed to act when someone dies? I am going through the motions trying to honour her memory and stay loyal to her which feels easy as at times I don’t seem to recognise the people left behind.
Kath talked to me about the future, about her wishes to have her father’s ashes buried in grave with her. We both agreed that it was fitting that our daughter Jessica’s ashes should lay with her and it gave us both some comfort and tears of sadness to discuss such things.
I was initially uncomfortable with the idea of her father’s ashes being placed with her thinking later her mother would want to follow and that if it came to that, that it would end up becoming her family’s grave instead of ‘our’ grave. Upon telling Katherine about this concern, she replied in a way that was so typical of her beautiful self but unintentionally pierced my heart so deeply that I can’t ever imagine it will ever recover and it makes me weep like a broken soul whenever I even think of it.
She told me that I was still young and that I will probably sooner or later find love and remarry and that she wanted me to be happy and that whenever that happened I would probably not feel the same as I would probably want to be laid to rest in a grave with that wife, and so I should not feel burdened about my concerns if it ever came to that.
I can’t tell you how much it kills me to think that she having to think of such things, that she had to contemplate me moving on and possibly finding love with another, and that her kids would grow up without her, or that Imogen would most probably forget her, these thoughts she was having really burden me so heavily.
The week just before she died, the two of us had a support session at St Raphael’s Hospice where she was staying, with Father David who then counselled me for a few sessions further upon her passing. He was asking how I felt about Kath coming in to the hospice, bearing in mind that at that stage her admittance was only for symptom control, and that she was supposed to last until well after Christmas at least. I replied breaking down that I felt I was losing her and that her coming to the hospice felt like another stage closer. He then reassured me that it was symptom control only and for a few days only. I told him that it hurt me that more and more Kath wanted or needed to be at the hospital or hospice as it was where she felt not so helpless and alone and there she felt looked after. He then asked Katherine how she felt about the same thing and she said she was withdrawing more and more from the family and from me, as she prepared herself for her life in heaven. The priest Father David Camilleri was blown away by that and later he referred to it at during her funeral service.
Everyone told me, ‘don’t worry she will make Christmas’ but everyone was wrong and she died within 10 days having been given a few months. I don’t think we really properly got to say goodbye nor did she even get to say goodbye to the girls neither.
Perhaps I should have carried on with the counselling that the Hospice offered. But this is therapeutic just the same, despite it being just too big for anyone to have to carry. I don’t suppose it even matters if anyone ever reads this, it just helps to off load it anyway.
My problem is my daughters have lost their mother, the love of my life passed away,
my best friend died in my arms, and my wife is no longer here to help me through it.
Thank God during this tragedy we had the Hospital and the Hospice. It is cold and blustery every day to those dying of Cancer and though I hated having my wife have to stay there even a minute, I am glad they existed when we needed them. They were there holding our hands when it mattered with the kind of time, tenderness and devotion to care that is so typical of a mother. No wonder that Katherine near the end was happy to be in their care.
What hurts more than anything else in the world, is knowing as a husband how little there was that I could do to help her. When, if ever this moment of hopelessness comes to your family, thank the donations and kindness of the people who help ensure your hospice is there. Thank you St Raphael’s and thanks to you all.
Please donate and help the Hospice to be there providing this care to whoever has the misfortune to need it. Thank you.