Love lost, read and found
When I first wrote the piece titled ‘Losing Kath – the First Year’, I described at the beginning how it felt that the dust was starting to settle and how I hoped since Kath’s passing, I was doing a good job in raising our girls and how such compliments from family or friends or even passer-byes saying things like ‘Katherine would be proud of me’ felt like a pat on an open wound that ached but was strangely comforting at the same time.
I think it is fair to say that I needed to keep patting that wound and feel the throb of its ache as a way to remind me the loss was even real and by way of doing so, checking if my wound was still bleeding out or healing in scar tissue, but regardless, each tap on it continued to give me a measure of comfort.
I think right there is where my need to write and share sprung from and last February still in the vacuum of grief from losing Katherine from my side, I started a blog and supporting Facebook page and just started to write and to write.
I don’t know what I hoped to achieve if I am honest, knowing it would never bring her back but at least for a while I was able in print to keep her alive and that felt just as compelling.
I think most of everyone reading this now, have no doubt how hard it had been for me to face the fact that Katherine was gone from my life and left me to go on, on my own. That journey has proven to be hard to make without her beside me to help make the daily decisions that help show the way forward, but forward one step at a time, is what I just had to do and in doing so I can now look back from where I am and say with a measure of pride, the dust has truly settled and now our precious daughters are doing more than ok.
As the remaining members of our family, we were only a stone’s throw away from who we once were, but time somehow changed, and everything we once were became just out of reach, and all we could do was but wonder if we would ever be the same again.
Probably due to being so over-stretched in every department since losing Kath and having to fill all of her roles, I felt like everything in a way lost any meaning and that I could hardly connect the way I once could and even with my own family and brother and sisters, where once I felt I was almost at the heart of all things, I had now become a distant shadow of who I once was with them.
Back near the start of the year Imogen was still having occasional heart breaking outpourings and on one occasion she simply cried, ‘I want mummy, it’s been too long’, and if I felt it was the same it was of course truer for her. She is right, it has. It’s too long at that age to hope that mummy is coming back without realising and it is really heart breaking. But over time she has settled down more and now we are able to talk about her mummy in just about everything. I am torn up inside trying to keep Kath’s relevance and memory alive with a purpose for Imogen’s future self and her every day being. Katherine’s main fear that she would be forgotten has been a driving force in me that knows no end and I hate the thought that anything else would feel just the same as someone else saying, ‘just let them forget her’. Of course no one is saying such a thing but what Kath said and cared about or shared with me when she was alive still matters and I can’t just deny because she since died, that what she wanted is no longer relevant. But the love that Imogen has missed in her mummy she has continually searched for in the hand or arms of anyone willing to show her some time and some ugh needed tenderness. Where Aimée for most of the year, was the older sibling that Imogen at school could depend on, she has now started secondary school with her older sister Hannah, and so Imogen no longer has the company of a sibling at school to guide her. But Imogen has come a long way and although she still is so shy, she is not as emotionally fragile as she once was. But at the start of the year Imogen in being the youngest started to have moments all over again where she cried for her mother Katherine, when I thought those worst moments were all over? One night long ago, when I was still toying with the idea of getting an au pair to help out at home and with school runs etc I asked her how she would like to have someone come in at home and help us with the house and things, I said she will probably know how to do your hair much better than me, to which Imogen just broke down crying, ‘I just want mummy’! That put an immediate stop to that idea. From then on I knew I on my own, I just had to persevere.
Aimée is still at times very quiet but that is mostly her nature. I do know she took the loss of her Granddad the hardest of her siblings and so that grief was only further confounded by the loss of her mother. But she has flourished since joining secondary school and it has strengthened the bond with her older sister and that in turn has taken the silent weight off of me. I am always concerned with what burdens she is carrying inside so when I see her laughing and giggling or clowning around it feels like a plaster has been put over the cut of concern. She hasn’t been able to express it the same way or substitute her mother’s missing love quite as easily but I am so happy to see her on the mend and so much more like herself and I know in this how Katherine would be delighted.
Hannah is far more open now than she was at the start of the year and we can talk far more honestly about losing her mother and on finding a way forward together. She recently turned 16 is just about the same age as when I first met and fell in love with her mother. She is just the image of her too and with that I have felt it so imperative that she should know and inherit all the history of who was her mother, not just the one she remembers and knew growing up, but the one from 16 that came to marry and then later bear her. Kath, as am I, would be proud of the young lady that Hannah is turning into. Just like her mother, Hannah is proud, headstrong and even stubborn, but in all of that, she is special and really so loving and giving. She has come through difficult times and I have been able to lean on her a lot and she has been able to deal with everything served on her plate whether she had the appetite for it or not.
Hannah and I first set up our Losing Kath Blog together and just yesterday we discussed her starting to write and posting entries as perhaps now she is ready. But at the very start back in February the saddest thing as Hannah and I were busy setting up the blog site and Losing Kath page we saw at last what Katherine had come to look like during her final days and though we had seen it many times being with her each day, it was like we were actually seeing it for the first time at last and we both couldn’t take it, 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 and I think it impacted on Hannah hard and her immediate intentions to add to the site took a knock back realising she was not ready. I don’t know how after all that time, but it cut us so deeply to have our eyes opened.
We remember what we want to remember but when we were actually there every day we didn’t notice the daily changes.
Poor Hannah is still so very young and yet has seen so much and had to deal with a lifetime of challenge. At just three years old her baby sister passed away and her parents to say the least, were distracted in grief for more than a while, though we always sought to protect her. But I shall never forget seeing Hannah become so overwhelmed looking at how Kath in just four short months had changed, because up until then she had managed so gallantly to keep on top of her emotions and in dealing with grief.
You see when dealing with grief, in silence it is easy to think we were all doing so well, but everyone was suffering in silence in order to protect someone else. Everyone being strong for the other. Another of the reasons why the decision to start posting and blogging and giving myself and emotional outlet was a way of protecting my girls from what otherwise might have been bottled up inside me and in the form of rage slowly brewing.
I hoped this blog and facebook page would prove to be healing but I did not realised how quickly it would have me addressing open wounds nor by doing so, how much each post,s pat on the wounds could prove to be so comforting, and so I launched myself into writing and posting without knowing for sure how much I could post and feel emotionally raw or if it was good for the soul or potentially harming. But since I started sharing my thoughts publicly, I have found it to be the most useful part of the grieving process. If that has meant it opening wounds perhaps it actually really heals them by opening them and cleaning them out first.
I hate having lost Kath from our lives but I can say that I am strengthened by my experience and am proud of how I think our girls are doing. In a way, I am blown away by them, believing they deserve recognition or even a medal for their bravery and the spirit they have shown in moving on with their lives, but in another way, I am so deeply saddened because I now often wonder if their resolve had been about them protecting me!
Before I started the posts and the blogs I had previously bombarded our facebook friends with posts about Kath and fundraising while at the same time I knowing it could not serve me with what I was hoping to get from it. I didn’t want to feel like I was obliging people to keep revisiting Katherine’s sad demise neither, but it was the only outlet I had had up until then, and I just wanted to put it out there, but not to anyone in specific. Now here I am writing and who would have thought that coming to a decision to make a blog would make source material for the blog itself?
I probably don’t know who exactly visits my blog it but it just helped to have a window out to the world and then take the time to look through it. Regardless of who ever visited, I know I did it for me, but the journey to that point in time has been far from easy.
I know we still have hurdles before us but as a family unit we really are tight and the trick has been to include the girls in every decision and to keep Katherine alive each step of the way so that they never felt betrayed or threatened but rather embraced what our future day to day would offer us. That said, there is still so much to do and things I haven’t accomplished, that by now I guess I might have expected. I find myself thinking about what lays ahead and about making decisions that once the thought of, would have haunted me but even now they aren’t very easy. Rather than let the moths make a home, I have to do something with Kath’s clothes but the thought of doing so still leaves my stomach in knots because it is so very sad to feel like I am wiping evidence of her existence away. But I know Kath’s memory does not reside in a wardrobe of clothes that no-one ever looks in.
Where once in my life I was absolutely certain that I had settled in my home and that it was here that I would live until I die, I am suddenly a little more uncertain. The girls seem excited about the idea about a future move and making a new home, but it would be a wrench in having to leave. I understand of course how hard it could be for another to come into our lives and have to then make her home where Kath once had lived but up until now I have never thought it would prove to be an issue as most of all, I just love my home and it’s a home my roots are deeply entrenched in. Children don’t realise when they are young, the meaning of deep roots, and uprooting things that go deep, first start with a whole load of die back. It is fair to say we have had that die back in our lives and now what if the new shallower rooted version of me, having endured winds that might have blown me over, are ready to fix and anchor back down. I need to decide where to let them grow deep so they can once again rest and spread out. I must let the new version of me, be the same solid person I’ve known myself to always be, so that time and by love I can continue to let myself be nurtured.
A fresh start is not the simple fix offered by many, like a miracle cure to a cold. But if a new start means a new home, as much as I love my own home and not because of Kath but because of me, I will still have to consider. Hannah might leave to university in the blink of an eye and later what then if she might not feel the same connections to home, if at this age we move to another house. My parents moved away from the home that I grew up in and now it’s just the house where they live, but it’s not really a piece of me or my memories. Of course there is the fear that Kath’s fading memories in Imogen and in Aimée, might be further erased from the mind and the heart, but if that were to prove so, I would just need to worker even harder. Whatever the future decides, I will ensure no matter what, one way or another they will always remember their mother.
I am asking myself questions every day, and as a parent it doesn’t ever stop or get any easier than just putting one foot in front of the other and getting through only that day.
I’d like to say that since the first year, I have managed to get my act together but it simply’s not true. I still struggle to get Imogen to school on time in the mornings. I know I should get up even earlier but I am always super tired and I know my writing late into the night doesn’t help that, but my writing has kept me sane and helped me process so much and without it o know there is no way I would be managing quite as well as I have.
I still do my best, or as close to it as I can and in the mornings I get the girls up and drive Hannah and Aimée to the bus stop to save them another 10-15 minutes of rushing and having to leave so very early and not just when it’s dark, rainy or cold. I want to be part of their morning routine and in this way I do what I can to fill in the role of their missing mum, but when I return the struggle then starts as its a mad rush to get myself and Imogen ready in time to get her to school and me after to work without forgetting many things along the way or in my stress, turning the air close to a child censored blue.
I no longer have the luxury of parking on yellow lines and watching as Aimée by the hand walks her sister into the school gates and the minutes in time that luxury once saved me, now taunt me instead. I am always super annoyed at myself when I get Imogen in late but this is now almost every day and I hate myself for this failing but I have now come to the point where I have stopped pretending to myself that this is just a blip today and that tomorrow will be any different!
A quick kiss and a wave at the school gates would be a welcome change but instead thanks to the locked inner gates that greet us each morning, through the office entrance I have to take Imogen each day and then as she makes her way into class, at the reception counter, I have to find another excuse to write into the ‘reasons for late book’. After many frustrating entries the rebel in me came to the surface and ever since I have written only things best labelled sarcastic or just unwilling. I have blamed snow on the runway, global warming, the school’s opening hours, the ash cloud, El Niño, and even the budget along with countless other entries as to why I was late, and then somehow in my first small measure of glee in the day, savouring like in kind of a victory over oppression, I drive myself hurriedly to work knowing that I too would not be anywhere close to being the first to arrive.
At work as I knuckle down with whatever workload I have set out for myself that day, it feels like I have barely drawn breath in hanging up my coat and getting my work focus on when moment-like hours later I can suddenly and abruptly think to myself, ‘what time can it be?’ and hating myself for having failed once again to put in suitable plans for Imogen’s school runs and in the realisation that time had got the better of me once again I immediately down tools and shout over to my colleagues ‘oh my God, I have to go’, and before they can even respond I am rushing away.
This 3pm car journey each day, I have labelled ‘my 15 minutes of flame’! It burns me in every conceivable way. I rush and can’t catch my breath, each minute ticking away is like a bomb in my chest and the heart of my rage. During its fire, I hate everything, and every option I have I hate even more. I want to be there for my girls, I must be! I demand it of myself! But it is taxing on my every thought and emotion, and the stress each day feels like it is sure to kill me. I think of those at my work and how my sudden disappearance each day must start to be something that’s wearing thin. I think of the volunteers that I lead and dread what impact my daily pattern must have on their resolve and commitment each day. I hate everything I encounter while driving along the way, berating myself under my breath for not having given myself five extra minutes each day, and spitting poison at the invisible morons who decided to place a zebra crossing right outside of the gates of one of the schools on my way, because at 3.10pm the hundreds of kids that leave walk straight out of the gates and straight on to the crossing without caring at all and until every last one of the thousands of them has exited without even a care for the road, the tail back of traffic goes on and on for miles. When I finally get to my turn at the crossing, I hate even more the oblivious school teachers on patrol at the gates, who never think to regulate the flow of kids crossing, like making some cross in groups and then stopping them to let a few cars go, but no! They are all oblivious to how their lack of considerate action impacts on everyone but in my 15 minutes of flame, me most of all. I have to think of leaving work even earlier to avoid this brewing my rage or to stop me shooting daggers at the poor innocent few kids that might dare to cross in front of my car and momentarily delay me even more.
But this is not me. I don’t recognise the man on fire nor who’s driving me.
Finally on reaching the school I park in a side street ignoring the disdain of local residents that have nothing better to do than complain about people like me parking on 20 empty spaces for all of 10 minutes during a time when no one is needing or wanting to park. I resent the petty few local residents who then moan at the school because parents park there momentarily at apparently such an inconvenient time of day, whilst they pop in and out of school to pick up their children. Please give me a break! I continue to defy them all and their stupid barriers to me just surviving, just trying to get by. Ever since my wife died it feels like in simple things I am drowning and no one ever lets me get my head up for air when I am obviously gasping.
Parent’s these days need to work, so it is not easy to find time to walk or park miles away to achieve the aims and objectives of others, and harder even still by parent’s labelled with an unwanted the tag; ‘Lone’.
Having parked I run as fast as I can against the flow of oncoming children who are leaving the school in the company of their leisurely mothers the type my own girls are no longer lucky to know and then in rushing past them comes the more than familiar and daily sinking feeling that once again I am late and no matter what I promised myself the day before, I had once again failed to change the rut and routine I have inherited. In more recent times I have got on top of the pick ups and thank God I am not often that late as I am in the mornings, but when I am late and arriving at the school, I hate even resent having to sign yet another school late form each day, for picking up my daughter even just 5 minutes late and with so much more pressing on my mind, I despise having to think of a valid lateness excuse to enter into a meaningless box that no-one reads or could ever care about.
But when I think about it all, the clincher makes me laugh at it all. Having rushed like a maniac to get to the school grounds, I shelve my thoughts of the accumulating unfinished work each day that I must put off until tomorrow, so that I can put on my galvanising smile as I walk in through the gates. Here, the consummate actor in me strides calmly about as if without a care in the world, well the world I create around me when I put up these walls. To the parents and teachers around me I present the serenest version of me, happy and on top of the world, but if They do buy it or even see me calm as a swan, I hope they never get to see, to stop myself from drowning, how fast I am paddling underneath.
Stress, Like an unwanted tenant is something I have just learned to live with.
Earlier in the year the weekend before doing a charity walk I was stressed! When am I not? I was running out of time and about to do the Marsden March and was trying to design posters to use as placards on our walk, in the hope of raising awareness and funds too. I asked Hannah to help on the computer with the designs as she is more adept at it than I. But the minutes were passing fast and I had to get it to the printers soon if I was going to have any chance of getting the placards printed that day. Needless to say, my stress led to agitation and I gave Hannah a hard time, pushing her to do it better and better and not to settle for less, but still to do it in time. She did a great job and it was printed in time but as I was mounting the posters onto the placards late into the night, a helping visiting friend told me that I was too hard on Hannah and she was only trying her best. I thought I had been fair but took it on board and went and apologised to Hannah. She said it was okay, and that she knew I was just stressed and not to worry. She forgave me just like that. Through the past year she has done this many a time, always making concessions for me. Often since losing Kath, in my efforts to carry all my daughters and keep their mother’s memory alive, I sense it is she who is silently trying to carry me in my daily struggle to carry them all.
Losing a wife or a husband after so long is just like losing your way even though you can still see where you are going. For much of that time in the past two years I don’t know if I knew what I was even doing anymore. Well, I did of course, but I didn’t if you know what I mean. I just got so fatigued and confused with it all and I didn’t get to choose this scenario for me. But that is where I found myself on a not so merry-go-round that wouldn’t let me escape whatever i tried. It felt surrounded by this one way conveyor belt that no matter how fast I would run, like a treadmill it would always out run me, pulling me back to its middle. There, more often than not, is where I end up, tired and drained and just having to watch it all go round and around again.
When the first year was over, I seemed to be talking to you more than ever, more than when you were even ever here and it was always a difficult conversation. I wanted to be able to talk with you, not just about you, but the need and desire was a feeling so strange. Maybe you were hearing everything I’d say, and reading everything I write. Maybe even, you hear every thought and every prayer, but to me as much as I’ve tried, it still feels too much, like you’re not there.
I wanted to talk to you and to let you know I hadn’t forgotten. But I couldn’t hear your reply, nor see you react, or give me that smile, and everything I say, misses your eyes and the sound of your voice in reply.
Right from when my wife died and I laid her in the ground, I felt no longer complete and like I was constantly being tugged from the grave. The passing of time had me feeling like a shadow of me but I have always still felt like we are just a stone’s throw away from who we once were!
People will think I have to move on and I know in my heart of course this is true. I guess my life since you passed away, has been about keeping your memory alive in our girls and been lived in tribute to you. Perhaps my Losing Kath page is a future gift to our daughters and one long last love letter to you.
Knowing no other way than to stand up and survive, I found my own way of dealing with grief and honouring Kath’s memory. Since she first passed away, I have given endless hours long into each night writing about losing Kath and the girls’ mother.
Bringing up girls on my own was never what I had in my mind when as a 16 year old boy when I dreamed of Katherine, but I got them through the first year and then through the second one too and I can say holding my head up high, how very proud of my efforts I am in having done so.
We look forward now as a family and to the new year and building a lasting relationship all together. I still want to take the girls back to the Chapel in St Raphael’s Hospice where Kath and her father died and I think that we will go early in January as I want us to revisit the remembrance book there and reflect on what we wrote there in her memory the day just after Kath died, it is still one journey more I feel we must make.
But who could have thought how far we could come in just a long but very short year?
Thank you God for the fact that we are looking forward to what ‘The Third Year’ might offer.
Happy new year to you all and God bless.
Note: When I first wrote Losing Kath the First Year I did so in aid of raising much needed money for the hospice and by way of thanks for how they as the last lighted inn, took in and gave rest and lasting sleep to our loved ones.
Hannah and I set a target of raising £5000 for the hospice and we have raised 76% of it already. But I f you have followed our journey here and would like to donate to our cause and help us on the way to our target, you can most gratefully do so by clicking one of the links below. One takes you to the just giving website and the other for those of you who might want to read it, is the link to ‘Losing Kath – The first year. Thank you for your support and sharing our journey.
https://losingkath.com/2014/02/18/charity/ losing Kath the first year