Love lost, read and found
Who would have thought how so much could change in such a short span of time? On November 5th 2012 the short fuse that was lit back in Spring suddenly exploded at last in my face. It seems like the clock has lost any relevance as a measure between the passing of time, with every new week throwing up unpleasant and challenging circumstances! It is already a long distant memory it seems, since life seemed to be anything close to what I would call normal. Back then in the comfort of my complacent existence, I certainly could not have predicted what life would come to have in store for me in the immediate months to follow.
2012 was set to be an unforgettable year with its lasting impact sure to come from the spectacle of the queen’s diamond jubilee or an amazing home Olympics. But in January the wheels had begun to turn on what was an altogether bigger machine and once it had started it was relentless in moving through the gears and steam rolling us in its path. Fate from the beginning of 2012 changed the course of our lives once again and hit my wife and of course, me, with all it could throw at us, like it had forgotten the pummeling it had given us only just over a decade earlier. Here now were new horrors looming on the horizon firing in our direction, and everything that Katherine and I would have to come to terms with on a day by day basis, was soon about to unravel.
Back in April of 2012, we were given the news that Katherine’s complaints were not Irritable Bowel Syndrome as had been thought, but in fact as a result of two tumours and that she had stage 2 Bowel Cancer. Cancer? The ‘Big C’?
As we were being told of the news and the likely scenarios and operations she might need my composure started to fail and I went into shock. I started to sweat and then to get hot and light headed. Nausea then engulfed me and in an instant nurses had me on a bed with a pillow under my feet and a wet towel on my head whilst they insisted I sipped water. I fought to regain my composure and sprung from behind the curtain to make sure I was sat by Kath’s side while she was being told of the battles she would soon have to face. Holding her hand as tight as I could, there was nothing I could do to stop the moment our lives together was to be torpedoed!
Within a couple of days more was to come, and before we could process the information, this was diagnosis was upgraded to stage 3.
‘But hold on a minute, you’re going too fast and I can hardly comprehend what is being said! We were still trying to digest the devastating blow to our lives, what it would mean to our families and deciding how and what we would tell them’. Tough! Just another few days we were told it was too late and the cancer was actually stage 4 and therefore terminal!
Hearing the doctor tell my wife she was terminally ill was the bleakest moment of all. Those in the know I am sure can relate to such devastating news, the slow puncture in fate takes little time to deflate us of everything but hope. Once made aware of the seriousness of the situation we just found ourselves trying in vain to keep the water from slipping through our fingers whilst we tried desparately to understand why its life giving powers were seeping away in the first place.
In the moment before the whirlwind blurred everything, we were given an average 24 months life expectancy, with the chance of longer due to youth still being on our side. But as the winds started to swirl, this was quickly revised to 12 months and within weeks it was fine-tuned even further to 6 months. By September of 2012 we were advised optimistically that only 3 remained. Katherine was determined to see out one last Christmas with me and her girls and the doctor at the hospice agreed, she was well enough for this to be a certainty. Wrong! There was to be no welcoming light at the end of the tunnel, for us ever again. When we emerged from the dark on the other side, we were missing one! The one who held up the light!
Katherine passed away in the early hours of November 5th, by which time it had been barely seven months since they had first told us we had 2 years.
The fireworks as usual were quick to follow, but how did I become the Guy on the flames? Guy Fawkes Day’s new significance in my life; when most of what I had, went up in smoke! The day my precious Katherine slipped away, out of the reach of my grasp once and for all. What was once everything, now remembered at church with candle wax and a flame. It is not the first time in my life I have had this type of complacency kicked out of me, and you’d think I would not have forgotten the first time round, but here once again, fate decided that my routine, indeed the ground under my feet, needed another major shake up.
Seven months left of our wedded life and God given oaths. In finding Kath in my life, I found love. True Love! I chose to propose and then marry. I did not choose her to die or my marriage to end, but God chose to change that in me. He took me from being married to being widowed and I don’t understand why.
Before I could do anything about it at all, all I know about myself and my life disappeared in an instance. When the howling of the winds stopped all of a sudden, all that was left was for me to come crashing down and look at the pieces left of what was once our home.
The first night without Kath at home or indeed anywhere else, was like the many that followed after. I can’t find reason to list them all, so here is a taste; it is bedtime and I am trying to put the girls to bed and in stunned silence, find any words that will comfort them without ripping me open. I am bleeding out internally and trying to protect myself from anything and anyone that might prize me open, unintentionally, but fatally exposing my fractured heart. For a long time I had only fleeting moments where my tears did not run unchecked, and I tried to function fully in those moments.
I feel like I am broken inside, I know it. But I refuse to let myself show it. I struggle in vain trying to keep on the facade of a brave face to push away those who would hug me. I feared any moment of sympathy would rob me of my resolve and I would crumple, so with strategic gentle smiles I carefully kept well-wishers away.
I resent the passing of time and each step I am constantly forced to make in order to get on with each day, and to ensure that life and routines go on despite feeling that the reasons for doing so are no longer present. I know that this is the way of things and I must adapt, but I loathe it! I begrudge it bitterly, not having the time to reflect on what has been lost; the tragedy I must now live with and the fact that someone so special had life so cruelly taken from her and was wrenched away from her daughters and from her husband despite my efforts to cling on to her regardless.
Sometimes I just need everything to stop for a minute and just let me think. Let me have a bloody moment to take time to think! Is this too much to ask?
In my grief there is an untapped rage and I struggle to contain it. It is a wildly possessive thing and even those who mean well feel its full force and I can’t help it. It feels like everyone and every gesture, each visit and every question are stripping me of more and more tiny bits of ‘My precious Katherine’ and in that mindset all I could do was lash out at those stealing what I keep treasured, whether they come offering help, love, sympathy or just pity!
Now, in control of such emotions, I just miss talking about her at all. I guess people didn’t have the patience to put up with my running away, and by the time I turned around to fight, I found that people had grown tired of talking about her at all. Well I know that really is not fair or even true. I know people don’t want to cause me more hurt or burden me so. But their silence burdens me more!
Still I try hard all the time to avoid becoming emotional in front of people, especially my girls and my family as I know how hard this makes things for them and how powerless they feel as a consequence. Finding escape and any comfort from this, came from unlikely sources and far outside of my most immediate circle. But as the days and weeks kept passing, I saw everything going on like I am looking out through a curtain from a distance, but rarely as if I myself was in the same room. I was consumed for ages and I felt bad for everyone around me as I know I couldn’t focus on them and must have come across as being removed. The only thing I found I could do that was of any help, was to remove myself from usual everyday situations and make more of an effort to go out or engage others and the less familiar, this helped briefly to engage me and give me a focus and feel connected at least in a positive way, all be it just momentary.
Work and my income have been hit by my circumstances and part of me doesn’t care! But being self-employed I know it is important for me to adjust and find a system to re-focus on work without impacting heavily on my girls. I am doing everything possible to avoid the girls being affected by sudden and sweeping changes in their lives since the loss of their mother. In Kath’s place I sacrifice work to do every school run and pick up.
Hannah turned 14 whilst her mother was in the Hospice. Katherine had been supposed to come home on that day but was later declared not really well enough to come home for the occasion but she insisted we celebrate just the same and have tea and cake without her at home, with all the other members of our extended family. This was a loss to what we called home. Later that evening we had tea and cake more intimately with Katherine at the Hospice. She gave each of her daughter’s hair a good brushing to the standard that in her absence at home, I was failing to meet. Then our daughters posed innocently with their mother and had photos taken together. At that moment in time we had no knowledge that the photo taken of Hannah with her mother on her 14th birthday would turn out to be the last photo of Katherine that would ever be taken. Just three days later we lost Katherine from our lives completely.
Hannah for a long while did not really outwardly show any impact from the loss of her mother and continued pretty much as normal much to my discomfort but relief just the same. Part of me suspected she was trying to stay strong for me. But if I am truthful I would have probably preferred to see what was going on in her mind. I think now she has the tools to speak more openly without fear of the world’s sympathy coming down crushingly on her.
Aimee back then and being just 9 was much more immediately concerned by the loss of her mother. She is so much more direct and open and whatever is on her mind she asks of me. I find this refreshing even if at times what she asks can inflict pain. Still I wish others would be so open. To begin with she constantly needed much cuddling and reassuring that life would be okay. Her concerns help me more than they do her. She has settled down now a bit and seems to be coming to terms with what has happened to her.
Imogen perhaps being the youngest is the most affected of her sisters. She was for ages miserable in everything and not liked having anyone do any of the day to day things that she would associate as the role of her mother’s. This has been really difficult for me in tasks like brushing her hair or dressing her each day. Until just very recently, she has been moaning in just about everything. She often woke in the night crying for mum and ended up coming to my bed and to sleep in her empty place. One morning I could not face her tears and complaints anymore as I brushed the knots from her hair and in an instant decided to cut her hair to shoulder length to remove all of the knots that her mother was so much more able to manage than I was. Now in the absence of mum, she is quick to latch on to the hand of any woman hoping to find the dedication there that she has lost. I have to be careful who I let come into her life, if they are unlikely to be there for very long. The heart of a five year old is a very precious and fragile thing.
Now Kath is gone but her memory and flame lit on November the 5th, still shine ever so brightly. Losing Kath from my world won’t sink in, I am angry even though I was lucky to have her. I am hurting inside, I am lost once more in my life and for as long as it takes, I am having to burn. At times I feel cast out in the wilderness searching for the unknown. I don’t know what I look for in life, I never have, but when it speaks to me, I listen! Once in my life, I found meaning in life and was lucky to hear her. Now in her silence I find I am deafened, I can’t hear in my ears no matter how loud my heart aches and still wants to listen.
Sometimes I want to ask ‘who’ took ‘me’ from ‘married’ to ‘widowed’? Sometimes I want to talk to those who aren’t there. It is a burden I know, and one not easy for others to talk about it with me. Perhaps they might find it easier for me to talk to a counselor, but why should I talk to a stranger who knows nothing of me? What would he share of Katherine with me?
I ask myself if God is here with me and if in him, I have grounds to even believe. But I do believe. It is easier to believe in him than in many others of flesh who for no reason I see missing from me.
It gives me as much comfort to think of Katherine in heaven as it does pain to think her missing from me. So I can’t help thinking, why would God take her from me?
In the absence of anyone else I use my own coping mechanism; I picture if on my wedding day I might have missed God’s whisper in my soul, “Kevin, Katherine is a very, very special angel and her road is going to be long and hard. I give her to you because I know you will be strong enough for her, when the time comes that she will need you to be. This is part of your journey!”
Now that part of my journey is over, it is me who’s road feels like it is long and hard and needing someone to help keep me strong. But then I don’t need question, ‘Why was she taken from me?’ Instead I give thanks to God for choosing me.