Love lost, read and found
Telling the story of my wife’s demise continues to keep proving quite taxing. Reliving each day in such close detail helps bring it all back, before I think to realise in full what it is that it will bring back. It does help me get in touch with emotions that might of otherwise be buried or even forgotten, for them only to resurface and bite me later and possibly doing me more harm.
I write because I choose to confront, to stand up and fight, after so long of just running away. On many an occasion and even in recent times I often feel like I have lost my resolve to continue and think about giving up this blog.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know why I am telling this story anymore or what it is that drives me to write and continue to explore these themes any more, or even what it is that I am telling or who do I think I am telling it to! But knowing I started and got this far I am stuck in the middle in a kind of no man’s land and either I choose to go on or I choose to go back and both thoughts are as enticingly exhausting as the other, but one thing for sure, I cannot rest here nor find such rest so far away from anywhere.
I thought my journey might help me answer unasked questions I had of myself. But if this have proven true, it has also helped me find unanswered questions that I had never previously anticipated and never thought I had of everyone else. Each new thought I explore has me making choices as to how much I open up and how much I let people in and this is difficult in a sense, because no matter how open and honestly it may seem like I write about mt feelings, part of me and what I feel, I still keep so very guarded. Time has allowed me to heal in part and take ownership of the set of circumstances that engulfed me but as I choose to explore each new one of these thoughts and experiences, I am constantly reminded of what I felt back then when I guess I was in the thick of it.
I remember why it was that I was holding back walls long ago, and by doing so, why it was I kept people away. I felt like Samson and the lions and that only walls of my own making would keep the lions claws from unintentionally tearing me apart. Instinctively I knew I had to preserve us (my wife, myself and our daughters) intact before I let down my walls as it was not just the threat of my own, but other’s around us might not prove so well equipped to hold up their own walls and on top of everything we were facing daily, I always feared that others might let their own walls come down crushingly on me and those that I sought to protect from such tumblings.
I left the story last, on the way home on one of the darkest days of my life with Katherine sat beside me driving home from the consultant at the Royal Marsden and her ‘terminal’ torpedoing news on April 25th 2012. April had been a month of horrors and the walls were slowly closing in on us in all directions despite our determinedly out stretched arms and Samson like efforts to hold them back exposing our Samsonite guarded interiors we were keeping preserved.
As we received so much unwanted news about Kath’s health, I just found that I wanted April over and put this ‘mense horribilis’ behind us. We went home not knowing how we were going to be able to confront anyone and tell them such devastating news, that Kath was terminal and by that she was slowly dying, and we both knew we would not be able to tell it in full and so soon. When Katherine got home she started telling those that she could, that she had a five year prognosis of hope and to me the figures didn’t quite computebut I thought she had decided this would be her coping mechanism and her way of stopping others from letting their walls come down crumbling on her. Dutifully I played along but soon I realised that Kath actually had understood this to be a true reflection of her state of health and had not taken in the reality that she only had between 18 months to 2 years at the very best and as I came to this realisation of my wife’s misunderstanding, I knew that I would have to tread carefully around her knowing that slowly over time, I would have to take down her own and other people’s walls, one brick at a time. That would be the only way to keeps the walls from coming down crashing on and around me.
Katherine’s dad had died of cancer just 8 months earlier to Kath getting the news she was terminally ill and going to follow him and the next day after telling people she was ill we had to go to St Raphael’s Hospice for Kath to be put under their care, where it felt that we could still close our eyes and that her dad Ernest was still there! Eight months previous to this we could never have believed that so soon after, we would be here again and that this time his daughter would be facing a demise of her own. They talked Katherine through her medication and care plan and how the Palliative care team would help her at home in the months ahead.
Katherine’s mum was beside herself and could not understand, why Katherine had been referred to the hospice so soon and so soon. So soon after her diagnosis and in light of her having five years as Katherine had said, and so soon after losing her husband to the same place and disease.
These were some of the walls I was fighting hard to keep in their place.
During this time my parents had been on holiday and although they had frequently phoned I had always kept the conversation quite light. They knew Kath was not well but I had not told them much truth. I just wanted them to enjoy their holiday to the full, knowing there would be enough time for drama when they returned and in all the months that would follow. They returned finally on this same day, but both were oblivious to the news of how serious things really were or the fact that they had found Cancer and that it came with terminal news. When they returned and I was forced to tell them such news and my mother was destroyed by the blow and of course by the guilt that she had no right to feel, because it had all happened while she was away. If I had tried to hold up that wall, then she could see mine coming down, and she did not know what to do first. Whilst I was telling them the lighter five year outlook version of the truth, the district nurse arrived at home for the first of many home visits to come and the walls that I was struggling to keep up were looking wobbly from the very start.
Everything was happening all at the same time and our heads were in a spin. Katherine’s brother who had been over that week from Spain in support of his sister and mother through such terrible news, was going back home to Madrid. His mother was worried sick. Hannah was going away on a retreat with a group from Church in preparation for making her up-coming Confirmation and we had not said a word to our daughters at all about the looming predicament and threat to losing their mother. Kath and I went and waved off the coach and stood there achingly sad, not knowing what or when we would ever be able to tell her the news, and her waving goodbye felt like a glimpse of what was at some point ‘to come’!
Our cat Sulley was home more than usual and Kath suggested that perhaps he knew she was sick. At least his walls were no threat to my own and he needed no words or explanations he just miaowed and reassuringly rubbed his head on our legs and sat close to our feet. He became my silent companion in all things unshared and unknown and each time I stroked him it felt like I was stroking an ache in my soul.
In such a few days of April 2012 so many things were piled up thick and fast. On the Saturday 28th April the Hospice were having their Sunflower appeal, celebrated with an open air mass which was dedicated to those who had departed this life in the past year. In memory of my father-in-law Ernest, Kath and I attended of course with Aimée and Imogen, and with Kath’s mother and her other brother and his family. We were gathered there repecting the memory of Katherine’s dad; my lost departed friend who I had always found so supportive in holding up life’s walls. But as much as I tried thinking of him, I was more distracted with Kath, and wondered if she was thinking she was to be next, and that we would all be here gathered for her soon.
The next day my mother went to visit Kath’s mother to offer her some support, but her walls had already collapsed and she lashed out at my mum instead, taking out all of her anger on her well-wishing doorstep visitor, and with that loss of morale came the domino effect, and my mother’s walls started to crumble down too. She would have kept it a secret from me if she could have hid her distress from my dad, but we cannot hide such things from our loved ones whether we try to or not. He decided he must tell me right away and got on the phone, not sparing my efforts of keeping all walls around me, from tumbling down . I could hear my mum upset in the background and my dad upset at her state, and with Kath sat right beside me, I had to tell her it all. On another occasion I might have chosen to keep it from her but the very same day it was our niece’s birthday and we had all planned to gather at Kath’s mother’s house later for tea and cake, but I felt now in light of this latest development, that I could no longer go in light of what she had done. Later that day I was so pleased to have Hannah come back home from her trip but within a few short moments together Kath the girls went and had cake with their cousins.
I sat home alone! I wondered how people couldn’t hold things together despite such diluted news. What if they knew she would not last two years instead of the five they all believed, and I knew deep inside that I would be faced with holding up walls for a long time yet.
When May finally started, I was relieved to turn the calendar page and that chapter in a short story. The 1st of May started with another CT scan in the morning and an ultrasound at the Radiology department in the afternoon, and somewhere in between the school phoned and Hannah needed sending home, sick! The very next morning all three girls were sick.
I thought April was over but as I found out soon to come, it was a very dark month I wanted behind me, but I was turning my pages too gladly. In April’s storm clouds and showers, there was also sunshine blossom and flowers, and the new shoots and vibrant green leaves of that spring, would be the last our marriage would know. The pages of ‘horrible months’ kept turning and before the new leaves had finished falling that year, the Autumn would take her as well.
When it all came to eventually pass, neither the 5 years belief or the 18 months prediction were anywhere near. 7 months is all that there was from start to finish, but the walls that I had put up in that time, I kept reinforced and built them up high. Keeping everyone out on the outside and me wounded but mostly protected on the inside. It would take another 15 months on my own after my wife’s passing until I felt I could start contemplating to take down my walls and that’s when I started writing, blogging and posting and with each new entry I took down one brick at a time. Having decided at last that this was my way of coping, it’s hard now to stop until I feel the wall has come down all the way. I am no longer worried about preserving me or my girls or anything else that will be, but instead LosingKath is the way I build around and preserve all that was in our lives up to now.
Like Samson in ‘Samson and Delilah’ I experienced my world come crashing down around me but my strength was not to be found in my hair but in my words and love of my departed wife Katherine and in celebrating everything she built in my life and around me.