Losing Kath

Love lost, read and found

Two hundred days and reaching out.

For every post I get to write and then put out, there are three or four others that get away. Nearly every day I am swamped with thoughts I’d like to write about and as soon as I have the school rush out of the way, they start to bombard me. To tell the truth, this isn’t exactly the most convenient time as I am often driving on the way to work when I find my mind goes into overdrive and has me reaching for a pen and any thing I can find to scribe my thoughts to, be it a pad, an envelope, the back of a receipt or something similar. The dashboard has become a file of morning thoughts and minute keeper of my studied mind and any internal discussions it is having. But by the time I gather these scribbles together, it’s often late into the night and the moment, just as the mood, has passed me by. Other times and just as common though is that often in reading back my notes, I fail to remember exactly what my notes were supposed to remind me of and then they fail to inspire me any further. When and if this happens, which is most of the time, I still feel the need to write so I use a photo or a diary entry to guide me and whatever simultaneous mood that then finds me.

This strategy though doesn’t really suit that well as often I can’t remember if what I am saying is something I have said already or maybe even too many times before and if in its place, many of the things I had hoped to write and post by now, are still awaiting its time and my attention.

Two hundred days. Two hundred days from first the start was all Kath had left at home, hospital or hospice, though of course back in April we never knew that there was a countdown even in place. Perhaps in place of the ticking, we should have counted the days that she was pain free, or even better the days that the medication helped keep her pain free. That should have served in place of the ticking clock but then, even I never knew. Kath’s had been virtually in constant pain since she was first diagnosed right back at the start. The medication and treatments had only succeeded in keeping her pain free on so few occasions that the days could almost be counted on two hands. Out of two hundred days Kath might have been totally pain free for just ten.

It’s not to say that the medication did not work, it’s just that it never worked for very long and the cancer was of the very aggressive type and as soon as the medication levels had been adjusted just right, the cancer progressed even further. In Kath’s case, the medication just couldn’t keep up.

If I hadn’t been so closely involved I think I probably would have realised the constant advancement in pain was sign that the fuse paper had been lit and like a ticking bomb counting down, it was waiting to go off in our face.

You don’t feel that kind of constant pain so soon in your diagnosis without it being sign that already you are well down the line and closer to the end than the start. What you know, you recognised well when it’s right in your face, but as close as it was, we just didn’t see it.

But there were always two versions of me when dealing with double edged things and what one never saw coming, the other was always on guard for. When you are dealing with adverse family health, there are always many conflicting pieces of you, and you can’t always turn to your loved ones and reliable sound board for sound advice, when their voice is the one sound about to be snuffed out.

To compound the fact, I was never the ‘lend me your ears type’, or really one to seek out advice. In Kath I always had enough to persevere or to sound out things together and to know how to always move forward on things without the fear of ever getting stuck. Perhaps as a man my nature was not to dwell or to mull and ‘phone a friend’ was never a lifeline I ever reached for. Probably this was much of the pattern throughout all of Kath’s countdown and ticking demise.

But now in the two years since Kath’s death, I wonder just how much in me has changed, and I don’t think, very much at all!

Back then in the immediate aftermath of her passing, I was still in shock I know, my memory was scattered and I knew my heart and soul was battered to its core. I think I knew back then in my subconscious being, I would never be able to move on or ever going to survive this loss and come out whole, if I did not revisit the disaster in whole. Get to grips with all that had just happened, the whirlwind of the last few months, now that I was no longer caught up in it every day but just part of the debris it had dumped before it moved away. I needed it. I needed to talk it out, to analyse what had happened, the gravity of each ramification and the tragic heartbreak Kath and I felt along the way and every day. But I just did not have the tools to talk that way with anyone, and so I eventually decided it was best to write.

At first I bombarded Katherine’s Facebook and then any one individual who might read my tales, in the hope of connecting with someone who might in turn give me a bit more of Katherine back. But that only sustained me so far and the truth was I was never going to be able to find in anyone else, the answers to ever once again, feel complete. If I wanted that, I was going to have to revisit each tragic day, stare it in the face and in a way, become its owner.

But I was still in shellshock for long after, though I knew what I would like to do, I just couldn’t get myself or thoughts collected. I was still too raw last year on the anniversary of each event to be able to reflect on things when I was still very much in sorrow, drowning, and it was only February of this year when I really picked up everything Kath had left behind and saw it for what it was; some things no one was ever coming back for.

That’s when I started the Losing Kath Blog and Facebook pages and at first I thought I would connect and in doing so, I would find the missing answers to questions posed in deep adversity, bereavement and grief, the type of things you never think of or find in a book, but that my day to day was soon asking. But in a way, connecting with others was not the solution I thought I would find, instead I found that in my writing, my scrutiny of each felt emotion, helped me in a way I had not really anticipated.

As I write and post then the following day read back what I have written just the night before or even further back through my older posts, I am sometimes connected to a feeling, thought or memory I had already forgotten, or more surprisingly, I find it feels like I am almost reading it for the first time, sometimes even like I was some one else who is looking in, and then the reality of what has really happened sinks in. Of course I know my wife died and I was widowed and that our daughters lost their precious mother, but in a way the trauma of it all is just like something I had to watch happen, making me a witness to something tragic. But when I write and then re-read what I have written, I realise then, that all this, not only happened, but who it really happened to. I see what happened to me! I see what happened to Katherine and I am devastated to realise how devastated I actually am, and that if I feel this way by reading my own words, what must my girls be experiencing themselves. What must Kath have been going through in watching her role in our lives fall away and rapidly die?

I think as much as I am aware and in tune with what had happened, there is also an invisible protective layer shielding me from all that’s true. Its like you can see it, but you still can’t believe it. Even when I write about these things, I don’t always realise, this is actually about ‘me’! When I write I am often trying to discover how did I go through each day and not get damaged by the pummelling whilst my wife took all the fatal blows. It’s hard to think of all that happens sometimes in life, and one on top of one another, and then to decide, sometimes that’s just how life goes!

I try to post in a way to explore who I am or have become, but most of all, how did I get here and if in that journey, I can find a meaning. Perhaps it’s all a labyrinth and a place one could lose their soul, where I will find nothing of answers but only more aching questions. But I knew it was the only place I could revisit in every detail, and not get lost, because it was the place where I left Kath. The place I once called home.

Whilst we were there witnessing Kath’s demise, in a way we didn’t see much of what was happening, though we had the gruesome details every day. As much as you understand each and every thing, it still somehow never really sinks in.

When Hannah and I eventually discussed my idea to set up a blog and start to write, a full 16 months had passed since losing Kath and we were still hurting everyday, though myself by then, I thought had processed every thought. But when we started to look at photos we would use of Katherine in the blog, it hit us with a devastating blow we never thought of or could have seen it coming.

The photos of Kath in her final months where nothing like how we remembered her and we couldn’t believe that everyday, we had shared our lives with her and through her illness, we never realised what Katherine came to look like during her final days, so diminished by pain and illness and so emaciated and we had seen the photos many times, but all of a sudden it was like a veil had been lifted from our eyes and we actually saw it for the first time, the truth at last and the unveiling was more than could take.

In seeing her every day we couldn’t quite see the changes as fast as they were happening, we were too close to see. That photo shocked us right to our core like we had never seen this side of Katherine ourselves, but of course we had but were either blind or in some kind of strange denial. I don’t know how after all that time, but it cut me deeply to have my eyes so opened and even Hannah was so overwhelmed that for a moment we had to turn away from each other to hide our anguished tears, before I pulled her back into my arms to cry together.

Perhaps it is our body’s way of just surviving, protecting our mind as best as it knows how and we remember what we want to remember. But if this was the case with these few photos, it must have been the same way too for each and everything during Kath’s sad lonely battle.

That is why I choose to write and why I take myself back when I do. I want to know that I knew I never turned my back on her, to preserve myself or anything that we called home, before we ever choose to make another.

My daughters have been dealt a horrid blow by life and had to face so much, and I hoped this blog and facebook page, would by connecting, going to be a type of healing but I did not realised how quickly it would have me addressing open wounds I hadn’t realised still, how much were bleeding out and didn’t know it. That’s when I knew the connecting I needed was not with someone else, but with my raw alone and wounded self.

If I did not have the tools to open up and talk with anyone, writing and posting about it, is my way of talking about it publicly and is I guess, part of the grieving process. If it has meant the opening of wounds, perhaps that’s what it takes to clean them first, so under healing scars, nothing but love will ever fester.

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