Friday, 26 May 2017

Dark Days....


I composed this post a week or so ago, and I've been undecided as to whether to publish it.  I've gone backwards and forwards in my head as to whether publishing it is the right thing to do, or whether the process of writing it has been cathartic enough for me and I should leave it on the computer, archive it, keep it to myself.  But... I feel I need to say it, to show it. I have the blessing of my family to publish it, which is important to me. I hope the post might help you to understand why things have been a little quiet on the Comfy Marmalade front recently. It might help concerned friends, family and supportive folk to understand where my head is at just now, and to know just how valued their support has been and continues to be.  It might help someone going through a similar experience, who knows? It helps me; I can't say why, it just does. Maybe that's reason enough.
Karen xx

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When I was a little girl, probably around 6 years old, my Dad and younger sister and I went for a day out in the countryside.  Mum had sadly passed away a couple of months earlier, and so it was just the three of us.  I remember it so clearly - we were about to head home and I got into a mock argument with Dad in the car park.  "I'll leave you here," he laughed, and he got into the car with my sister and drove out of the car park, over a humpback bridge and out of sight.  My six-year old self didn't see his rear brake lights come on as he stopped just beyond the bridge - it was a joke, of course - and I truly thought that he'd driven off without me. The feeling of absolute panic and fear that I felt for thirty long seconds all those years ago, until he returned for me and hugged me tight, has stayed with me ever since...

At the end of last month, our beloved Dad passed away.  It wasn't unexpected as he'd been unwell, but his illness suddenly escalated at a rate quicker than anyone thought it would, and we didn't get the precious days and weeks we thought we would have with him.

Three weeks on and we are still in shock, grieving.  Coping at best, consumed by sadness at worst.  Me, I feel orphaned, anchorless, abandoned, alone. At my very lowest point, that panic-stricken six-year old returns, only this time with the awful realisation that he really isn't coming back for me, and I find it almost impossible to breathe...  At the moment, I can't process this information any more than I can process the fact that the universe is infinite; it just seems unreal, impossible...

We've started the process of sorting out his affairs.  Dad was a pragmatic man and left instructions well before he became ill as to what we should do when the time came, who we should contact, in what order.  He made a Will, which has proved a godsend.  He was also a very organised man and his paperwork and filing system have given us the best chance of getting everything in order as easily and as painlessly as possible.  I've become so used to telling utilities companies, banks and others that he's no longer here that the words have become almost meaningless, monotonous, perfunctory...
    "I'm phoning in relation to my father, who passed away last week."
    "Oh I am sorry to hear that..."
    "Thank you."
And then I think about what I'm actually saying, what those words actually mean. I think about what we're doing which is, in essence, confining him to history and wiping out any trace of his life, and I just... I can't describe how utterly sad I feel.  We're struggling to face going through his house and rooting through his belongings.  How do you decide who has what, what you keep, what you get rid of?  How do you get rid of anything?

We held his funeral which was, it sounds odd to say, a strangely uplifting and positive occasion. Yes there were tears and sadness, but there were also hugs, smiles, reminiscing and even laughter. We were determined that it should be a celebration of his life and not a mourning of his death, and I think we achieved that. He would - we hope - have approved. A benefit of coming from a small town is that we knew literally everyone involved in the organisation of the day personally - the undertaker and florist were friends from school, the manager of the reception venue a friend of both my sister and I.  I know the minister and the company that printed our orders of service through past work.  My sister's sister-in-law made the cakes for the reception.  It gave a real personal touch to the proceedings, enveloped us in an emotional comfort blanket and helped to get us through the day.  The weather was beautiful, the church was full, and the minister gave us free reign to personalise the church service.  So we included contributions from his children and grandchildren, favourite pieces of music, and a eulogy which we wrote but didn't have the strength to read ourselves.  Dad had left instructions for his funeral - a simple church service then the crematorium, a choice or two of hymns, and detailed instructions for the scattering of his ashes, which we will get round to one sunny weekend this summer.

Yet even in the depths of my sadness, I have found such amazing, uplifting chinks of positivity. Our families, close and extended, and our friends, have shown concern, compassion and care in excess of that which I could ever have imagined.  We have received the most wonderful cards and letters containing memories and beautiful words about Dad - I couldn't face putting them up in the house but I treasure them nonetheless. My husband and my sister's partner have been incredible; they have mopped our tears, given us space, held us as we sobbed, cried with us.  Daily, even now, I receive texts, messages and emails from concerned folk checking I'm OK and asking if I need anything.  We've had flowers, cards, chocolate (my best friend knows me so well)... I never knew I had such support, such love.

My sister is drowning in sorrow, treading water each day just to keep going, and yet she still manages to ask me each day how I'm doing, as I do her.  We hug and we cry, but we also laugh and remember.  We fought as kids but found common ground and real closeness in adulthood, and I'm so very glad to have her shoulder, her support and her company on this awful journey; I could not be more proud of her, my amazing, wonderful little sister.

And unusually, each evening for two weeks after Dad passed away, almost without fail, we were treated to a beautiful sunset and often a beautiful day preceding it.  As Dad slipped away that Sunday evening at the end of April such a sunset was taking place, and for whatever reason, after he'd gone, I felt an urge to photograph it - to capture it and keep it.  I ran outside the hospice and, through flowing tears, took out my phone and snapped photo after grainy photo of the sun going down and the beautiful pinky purple sky.  I'm so glad I did; I will treasure them. I don't suggest that there is any other-worldly force involved - I just hugely appreciated Mother Nature at her very best that evening, and in the following days; it was stunningly beautiful and massively comforting.  Dad always found huge comfort and joy in nature and I've certainly inherited it...

I know we will get through this, and that the pain will subside in time. I know that I'll cease to be haunted by the music we played at his funeral.  I know that happy memories will eventually come to the fore and replace thoughts of those sad times at the end which I cannot currently shake from my mind.  And as things get better, and sorted, and settled, I will gradually return to my crafting and my blogging and my bargain hunting.  Just give me time.


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2 comments:

  1. Oh Karen, this is beautifully written. It is so hard - especially when you're fortunate enough to have had a lovely relationship with a parent. I can relate to all of these little details: the realisation that that person no longer exists as you look at their returned passport. The knowledge that life goes on in the places they used to go, and that they'll never walk along that particular street or sit out in the garden again.
    It does get easier in some ways but you don't ever forget. You still cry. And that's OK. Enjoy your photographs and family when you can. Take time for yourself. And if you need anything just shout. x

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    1. Thanks Sarah, I knew you would understand. I know where you are if I need you. Much love xxx

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